15th Parliament · 1st Session
The House ofRepresentatives on the 16th June, 1939, adjourned until a day and hour to be fixed by Mr. Speaker, and notified by him to each honorable member. The House met pursuant to such notification.
Mr. Speaker (Hon.G. J. Bell) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Commonwealth Proclamation: Citizen Forces : War Service- Ministerial Statement:White Paper.
(Hon. G. J. Bell). I have to announce the receipt of the following message from His Excellency the Governor-General:
By proclamation dated 2nd September, 1939, issued in pursuance of section 40 of the Defence Act 1903-1939, I have, with the advice of the Federal Executive Council, called out the citizen forces for war service, and pursuant to that section I communicate to the House of Representatives that the reason for calling out the citizen forces was the existence of danger of war.
Governor-General, 6th September, 1939.
by leave - On Sunday last the 3rd September, shortly after 8p.m. in Australian time, the Prime Minister of Great Britain announced that the time limited by a notification to the German Government had expired and that Great Britain was at war with Germany. An hour or two later, a proclamation was issued in the Commonwealth of Australia, declaring the existence of a state of war in Australia. In order that honorable members may have before them, and in order that we may have on record, some accurate statement of the affairs leading up to this tragic consequence, I am to-day laying on the table a White Paper, which contains the relevant documents exchanged between the Governments, together with such explanatory matter as may serve to connect one document with another. Nobody can foretell the course of events. Nobody can foretell howthis war is going to be fought, what special dangers Australia may encounter, or what are the best services which we can render to Great Britain and the Empire; but we do know that we are together in this struggle, and we are confident that our unity and determination, being based upon justice, arc bound to succeed.
Hear, hear !
– Before referring to the documents which are contained in the White Paper, I should like, with the permission of the House, to make reference to a few preliminary matters which, although preliminary in point of recitation, are in fact, of tremendous importance.
In the first place, I should like very briefly to remind honorable members of the extraordinary succession of promises, and of broken promises, with which we have been confronted in recent years, because, until one understands those, one is at some loss to understand the mentality of any ruler of a great country who could plunge the world into war as Herr Hitler, I venture to say, has plunged the world into war. We are all, of course, possessed of a lively recollection of the fact that in the last few years, during the Hitler régime, we have seen the downfall of Austria as an independent State; we have seen the downfall of Czechoslovakia as an independent State; and we are to-day witnessing an attempt by arms to destroy the independence of the Polish State.
Each of those matters, each of those excursions on the part of Germany, has been preceded by promises of so categorical a kind that the grossest breach of each of them had to be committed before the subsequent move could take place. On the 30th January, 1934, Herr Hitler, speaking in the Reichstag, said this about Austria -
I must in the most formal manner reject the further assertion of the Austrian Government that any attack against the Austrian State will be undertaken or is even planned by Germany.
In May of 1935, speaking in the same place, he said -
Germany neither intends nor wishes to interfere in the domestic affairs of Austria, to annex Austria, or to attach that country to her.
At the same time, and in the same speech, he said that the German Government would scrupulously maintain every treaty voluntarily signed, even though it was concluded before the accession of that Government to power and office; in particular, they would uphold and fulfil all obligations arising out of the Locarno Treaty. I refer to that speech, because, as honorable members know, notwithstanding those quite categorical statements, Germany in March of last year marched into Austria, absorbed that territory, and brought to an end the independent existence of Austria; and notwithstanding the statement made about the Locarno Pact, Germany, subsequent to that statement, remilitarised the Rhine, the demilitarisation of which was not only provided for by the Treaty of Versailles, but was also specifically reaffirmed by the three contracting parties, including Germany, in the Pact of Locarno. On the 7th March, 1936, speaking again in theReichstag, Hitler said - and I draw attention to these words -
I feel that after three years I can now regard the struggle for German equality as concluded to-day. Therefore, I think that the principal cause of our withdrawal from Europe’s collective co-operation has ceased to exist. . . . We have no territorial demands to make in Europe.
Subsequent to that, demands were made upon the Czechoslovak State in relation to those Germans who were living in the Sudeten country on the fringes of Old Bohemia. In relation to that matter Hitler again made a speech on the 26th September of last year, two days before the day of crisis that we all remember. He then said this -
And now the last problem confronts us, which must be solved and which will be solved. It is the last territorial claim which I have to make in Europe, but it is a claim from which I do not recede and which I will fulfil, God willing.
A strange blasphemy, I venture to say, for, in four days’ time, he was to stand at Munich to make a joint announcement to the world with the Prime Minister of Great Britain that the methods of peace were thenceforward to be resorted to and none other, and within a few months he was to go beyond the limits of the settlement arrived at at Munich and complete the total destruction of the independence of the whole of the Czechoslovak State!
So we have, as clearly as anybody could have it, a series of statements made by the leader of the German people, from time to time, in relation to various problems, all of which have been dishonoured.
The inference to be drawn from all this is, of course, and has been throughout the last few weeks, of a most grievous kind. The only inference which people of intelligence could draw from this extraordinary history has been that, although the word may have been given, there would undoubtedly, so long as force or the threat of force could prevail, be a succession of attacks on independent States in Europe and, by steady degrees of expansion, an overlordship of Europe by Germany to the destruction of independent communities and, what is much more serious, the destruction of liberal principles of government.
Now I turn to the immediate issue. I have referred to those other matters because they throw a lurid light on the mentality of the man with whom we have been dealing. I say “ the man “ because, even now that we are in the shadow of this war, I venture to say that there must be many millions of people in Germany who have liberal minds and who have no desire whatever for war. So I speak of their ruler - the man who has been able to plunge them into war, and the man who, undoubtedly, could have kept them at peace had he desired peace.
The problem of Danzig and the Corridor has of course been an almost constant source of irritation. We all know that from the very time that the Polish Corridor came into existence there have been debates about it among the German people. It is interesting to recall that the driving of the Corridor through to the sea, in order to give Poland access to the sea, which was necessary to complete Poland’s real independence, was one of the fourteen points of President Wilson upon which the peace negotiations proceeded at the end of the last war. But there have always been irritation and differences of opinion about it.
In 1934, Germany and Poland entered into a pact of non-aggression. They agreed mutually to renounce all force, and they also agreed to the free negotiation of any contentious questions affecting their mutual relations. That pact was designed and expressed to last for a period of ten years. On the 20th February, 1938, Herr Hitler said in the Reichstag -
The Polish State respects the national conditions in Danzig -
That is the free city of Danzig under the League of Nations -
and Germany respects Polish rights. It has thus been possible to clear the way for the understanding of this problem of German and Polish relations and to enter into sincere and friendly collaboration.
In September of the same year, Herr Hitler made the speech to which I have already referred in which he said that he had no further territorial claims to make in Europe. On the 31st March of this year, Czechoslovakia having been absorbed and the agreement at Munich having been dishonoured, the Government of the United Kingdom, in an earnest desire to bring this process to an end, and to provide some means of security and peace for Europe, and, through Europe, for the world, gave a guarantee to Poland and mutual undertakings were exchanged with the Government of Poland. The result of that was that, on the 28th April last, Germany denounced the 1934 pact with Poland, which, as honorable members will recall, was a pact of non-aggression, on the ground that it was invalidated by the AngloPolish agreement. I have found, in reading these documents, and honorable members will find in reading them, how extraordinarily difficult it is to get into the mind of the other man; but I find it impossible to get inside the mind of a government that can say, “ Our pact of non-aggression is invalidated because you have entered into a pact against aggression “. Yet that was the position. Because Poland received from Great Britain a guarantee that its integrity would be respected, Germany withdrew its guarantee that Polish integrity would be respected - one of the strangest incidents, I would have thought, in modern European history.
On the 10th July, the Prime Minister of Great Britain, Mr. Chamberlain, said, in the House of Commons -
We have guaranteed to give our assistance to Poland in the case of a clear threat to her independence which she considers it vital to resist with her national force, and we are firmly resolved to carry out this undertaking.
From that time, events have moved rapidly - not always with clear certainty, but always with great speed. So we come to the events chronicled in the White Paper which is in the hands of honorable members. It will be found that the first document on page 1 of that White Paper is a letter written on the 22nd August 1939, by Mr. Chamberlain to Herr Hitler. I commend this letter to honorable members because while it was courteously phrased - and it is some satisfaction to realize that throughout the whole of this correspondence there has been a courteous and moderate expression of views by Great Britain, however clearly those expressions have been set forth - it also made it abundantly and properly clear that Great Britain did not intend to depart from its obligations to Poland and that Germany should not make any rash or unwise assumption that it could once more destroy the independence of a state without provoking war. I direct attention to the following paragraph in that letter : -
It would be a dangerous illusion to think that, if war once started, it will come to an early end, even if a success in any one of the several fronts on which it will be engaged should have been secured.
From the second document, a letter from Herr Hitler dated the 23rd August, I read paragraph 1 as numbered in that letter. It is as follows : -
Germany has never sought conflict with England and has never interfered in English interests. On the contrary, she has for years endeavoured, although unfortunately in vain, to win England’s friendship. On this account she voluntarily assumed in a wide area of Europe limitations on her own interests which from a national political point of view it would have otherwise been very difficult to tolerate.
I direct honorable members’ attention to that. On the 23rd August, Herr Hitler is saying in this highly unreal fashion that Germany had voluntarily limited itself in Europe and ought to be given gome credit for it. I content myself by pointing out that on that very date Germany’s territory and population were both greater than they were before 1914. This limitation of which he speaks was a strange sort of limitation since it had brought him Austria, Czechoslovakia, the remilitarization of the Rhine and a rearmed Germany. A strange limitation indeed, that left him with vastly greater territory and vastly greater population and vastly greater military resources! Then Herr Hitler goes on in the letter to set out what must be now distressingly familiar to all of us after some months of reading of them - allegations about appalling terrorism and atrocities of which, mark you, the German people have invariably been the “victims at the hands of small neighbouring states.” He ends up by saying -
I have all my life fought for Anglo-German friendship. The attitude adopted by British diplomacy at any rate up to the present has however, convinced me of the futility of such an attempt.
Then those letters, not very promising if honorable members read them, not containing very much hope of settlement in their terms, were followed by a conversation between Sir Nevile Henderson, the British Ambassador at Berlin, and Herr Hitler. In the course of that conversation, Herr Hitler gave Sir Nevile Henderson a message to the British Government, a message which was so substantially better in point of tone that when we read of it here we had great hopes that reason might at last be prevailing on these matters. Honorable members will read it and they will see underneath all the veneer of boast and self-satisfaction that one perhaps could be led to expect some possibility of peaceful settlement not only in Danzig and the Corridor but also in Europe itself. The British Ambassador took that message to London. He flew to London on the morning of Saturday, the 26th August, which was after all, only a week before war occurred, and he gave a full account of it to the Government of the United Kingdom, which considered it on the Sunday, when it had, no doubt, the benefit of the views of all of the dominion governments. At any rate I can say for myself that I took the opportunity on that Sunday to convey to the British Government what I thought were the views not only of the Government of Australia but also of the great majority of the people of Australia. What I said to Mr. Chamberlain I repeated in substance on subsequent occasions in relation to the circumstances as they developed. I suggested that he and the British Government should make it clear to Herr Hitler that we regarded the merits of Danzig and the Corridor as quite open to argument and that we should use our influence with Poland to procure some form of arbitrament or adjustment, so long as Germany was prepared to play its part, but we felt that the time was opportune for a general European settlement which would recognize Germany’s obligations to Italy and ours to France. That had been mentioned in the German despatch. And we welcomed references to possible future limitation of armaments, because we felt that the present state of affairs must lead to a serious economic breakdown, in which Germany would suffer as much as any country. I went further and suggested that it should be emphasized that there was amongst all the British peoples a genuine desire for good relations with Germany, but this desire was not inconsistent with the determination to fight Germany in what seemed a just cause, yet it would be a tragedy if we should fight, each believing his cause to be just when unprejudiced discussion and desire to understand each other’s point of view might have avoided it; and that, from that point of view, a clear statement by Herr Hitler of his aims and desires should if possible be obtained. I went on to say that I would not dismiss proposals made by Herr Hitler simply because they were vague or occasionally meaningless, but that it was essential our approach to the whole problem should be liberal and generous so long as generosity was at our own expense and not at the expense of others. I said that we must not connive at a Polish settlement which would leave Poland at such a disadvantage in the negotiations as would render it probable that its future history would resemble that of Czechoslovakia.
Hear, hear !
That, sir, is the full substance of the point of view which was developed by the Australian Government in relation to this matter, and I venture to believe - I dare to believe - that that represents the general view of the great majority of the Australian people. Well, the British Government had that advice, that point of view, before it. It had its own point of view. It considered this matter with great care on the Sunday. It completed its reply to Hitler on the Monday morning, and that reply, which will be found in Document 4, was taken back to Berlin. I think that it will be agreed by those who read it that the reply does express a liberal and generous approach to this problem. It was not a truculent document. It was a document which exhibited a really earnest desire to arrive at a settlement. It indicated that any settlement arrived at must be guaranteed by other Powers, and it emphasized the view that if there is to be any proper settlement of the Polish problems there must be direct discussions between the German Government and the Polish Government on a basis that would include the safeguarding of Polish essential interests - a settlement procured by international guarantee.
The reply to that document, which was handed over late in the evening of the 28th August, was delivered by Herr Hitler to Sir Nevile Henderson at 7.15 p.m. on Tuesday, the 29th August. These dates I suggest are of great importance. At 7.15 p.m. on the 29th August, Herr Hitler handed his reply to Sir Nevile Henderson in Berlin. That reply is set out in Document 5. I do not propose to read it. It is rich in reference to the national dignity and honour of the German people. It is rich in reference to barbaric occasions of maltreatment which cry to high heaven, but it does ultimately go down into something specific, because it says this, as honorable members will see on page 12 -
Though sceptical as to the prospects of a successful outcome, they are nevertheless prepared to accept the English proposal and to enter direct discussions.
This is on the evening of the 29th August. Later on this passage occurs -
The German Government desire in this way to give to the British Government and to the British nation a proof of the sincerity of Germany’s intentions to enter into a lasting friendship with Great Britain. The Government of the Reich feel, however, bound to point out to the British Government that in the event of a territorial re-arrangement in Poland they would no longer be able to bind themselves to give guarantees or to participate in guarantees without the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics being associated therewith.
Then this is said in conclusion -
The German Government accordingly in these circumstances agree to accept the British Government’s offer of their good offices in securing the despatch to Berlin of a Polish emissary with full powers. . . .
Honorable members will notice that, on the evening of the 29th, this document is given to the British Ambassador at Berlin. It has to be sent by him to the British Government in London. It must be considered by that government, which must then communicate, if it so desires, with the Polish Government, which must itself have some opportunity to consider the proposal. Although that is the position, the note goes on -
They count on the arrival of the emissary on Wednesday, the 30th August, 1939. . .
That is the very next day, although the note is handed over to the British Ambassador on the night of the 29th. The note continues -
The German Government will immediately draw up proposals for a solution acceptable to themselves and will if possible place these at the disposal of the British Government before the arrival of the Polish negotiator.
That is another point which I emphasize. At the time this note was handed over, the German proposals, on which so much play was made afterwards, had not been drafted, and therefore no representative of the Polish Government could possibly know what they were. Notwithstanding this, the Polish negotiator was to arrive in Berlin the next day with authority to commit his government, although he had no knowledge of the proposals, and had no instructions from his government regarding them! As a method of negotiation, I cannot imagine anything more absurd. When the note was handed over to Sir Nevile Henderson, he pointed out that as it required the Polish representative to attend in Berlin the next day, it was demanding what was not possible. The reply of Herr Von Ribbentrop was that this provision was intended only to stress the urgency of the matter in view of the fact that the two armies were standing face to face. The British Ambassador transmitted this note to the British Government and, on the next day, the British Foreign Minister sent a telegram to Sir Nevile Henderson. This telegram, which is published as document 6, is as follows : -
We shall give careful consideration to German Government reply, but it is of course unreasonable to expect that we can produce a Polish representative in Berlin to-day, and German Government must not expect this. It might be well for you at once to let this be known in the proper quarters through appropriate channels. We hope you may receive our reply this afternoon.
On the same day, the 30th August, at 2.45 p.m., the Prime Minister, Mr. Chamberlain, sent a message to Hitler, through the British Ambassador at Berlin. This message, document 7, is as follows: -
We are considering the German Note with all urgency and shall send an official reply later in the afternoon. We are representing at Warsaw how vital it is to reinforce all instructions for avoiding frontier incidents and I would beg you to confirm similar instructions on the German side. I welcome the evidence in the exchanges of views which are taking place of the desire for Anglo-German understanding of which I spoke yesterday in Parliament.
That was at a quarter to three on the 30th August. At 5.30 p.m. on the same day, the Foreign Minister instructed the Ambassador in Berlin as follows: -
In informing the German Government of the renewed representations which have been made in Warsaw, please make it clear that the Polish Government can only be expected to maintain an attitude of complete restraint if the German Government reciprocate on their side of the frontier and if no provocation is offered by members of the German minority in Poland. Reports are current that Germans have committed acts of sabotage which would justify the sternest measures.
That instruction appears in document 8. On the same day, at ten minutes to seven - honorable members will note how constantly the British Government applied itself to this problem - the Foreign Minister instructed the Ambassador in Berlin to stress the unreasonableness of the German request for the attendance of a Polish plenipotentiary, and suggested that the ordinary diplomatic procedure should he followed of inviting the Polish Ambassador to call, and of handing over to him the German Government’s proposal. That was a good suggestion, since peace was surely worth a few hours of discussion. Peace was surely worth conducting the discussion in such circumstances as would enable the matter to be fairly considered as between countries negotiating as equals. On the same day, the 30th August, the British Government replied to the German Note. That reply is contained in document 10, and I direct special attention to it. When we realize that it was delivered within 36 hours of the outbreak of war, this document, becomes the most positive evidence of the willingness of Great Britain to further the ends of peace, and of its unwillingness to see war result. The Note acknowledges the friendly references in the German Note. It notes that the German Government accepts the British proposal, and is prepared to enter into direct negotiation with the Polish Government. It then goes on to say -
His Majesty's Government . . . understand . . . that the German Government are drawing up proposals for a solution. No doubt they will be fully examined during the discussion. It can then be determined how far they are compatible with the essential conditions which His Majesty's Government have stated and which in principle the German Government have expressed their willingness to accept.
His Majesty’s Government are at once informing the Polish Government of the German Government’s reply. The method of contact and arrangements for discussions must obviously be agreed with all urgency between the German and Polish Governments, but in His Majesty’s Government’s view, it would be impracticable to establish contact so early as to-day.
His Majesty’s Government, fully recognizing the need for speed in the initiation of discussions, share the apprehension of the Chancellor arising from the proximity of the two mobilized armies standing face to face. They would accordingly most strongly urge that both parties should give assurances that during negotiations no aggressive military movements will take place.
The Polish Government was informed of that, and agreed with the suggestion regarding the frontier. When Sir Nevile Henderson presented the reply to Von Ribbentrop at midnight, on the 30th August, he suggested that Von Ribbentrop should invite the Polish Ambassador to Berlin to call, and that he should then be given the German proposals for transmission to his Government with a view to immediate negotiation. Honorable members would be surprised to find that it was an unusual suggestion that a foreign minister should send for the ambassador of a foreign country stationed for that purpose in his city and say to him: “Here are the proposals of the German Government for the settlement of our troubles. Will you convey them to your government and obtain a reply?” But Von Ribbentrop’s only reply to that was what we now know as the sixteen proposals. He read them out very rapidly in German. He refused to hand over a copy, and he said that it was too late to give them to the British Ambassador since the Polish representative had not reached Berlin at midnight. He refused to invite the Polish Ambassador to see him, but he hinted that the matter might be different if the Polish Ambassador asked for an interview. That was at midnight on the 30th August. When the reply of the Polish Government to the British Ambassador at Warsaw was handed over on the afternoon of the 31st August, the Polish Foreign Minister said “ Contact with the German Government would be established by the Polish Ambassador at Berlin.” The Polish reply contained a guarantee by the Polish Government that there would be no violation of the German frontier during the negotiations provided that, the German Government gave a similar guarantee. On the same day, the 31st August, the British Foreign Minister instructed the Ambassador at 11 o’clock at night to inform the German Government that the Polish Government was taking steps to establish contact through the Polish Ambassador in Berlin with the German Government. That evening, the evening of the 31st August, a little before that communication had been made, the Polish Ambassador at Berlin obtained an interview with Von Ribbentrop regarding the British suggestion that direct discussions between the German Government and the Polish Government should be initiated. During that interview - that is, the interview on the evening of the 31st August - no German proposals were communicated to the Polish Ambassador.
After the interview, the Polish Ambassador was unable to report to his Government the result of his conversation with Von Ribbentrop because he found that the German Government had terminated communication between Germany and Poland. So that, on the night of the 31st August, while you have the Polish Ambassador in direct contact with the German Foreign Minister, there was no communication of the proposals to him; he was not even able to tell his Government about the unsatisfactory result of his discussion, because by the time the conversation finished, communication was cut off. And communication with Poland having been cut off, what came next? What came next was that the detailed German proposals for the settlement of the Polish-German differences were broadcast from a German wireless station. I may tell honorable members that all of these documents that preceded this were secret documents exchanged through diplomatic channels and not offered to the public. They were on the face of them designed to produce peace or a settlement of the differences. But these events having occurred, the German Government went on the air and then broadcast to the world proposals, a copy of which it had refused to give to the British Ambassador when he saw Herr von Ribbentrop at midnight on the 30th August. Simultaneously with the broadcast, the German State Secretary handed to the British Ambassador at Berlin a document setting out the detailed text of the German proposals. That document honorable members will find in the White Paper as Document 13. I am not going to read it for one moment though it would repay study; but I do want to draw attention to a passage early on page 17, remembering, as honorable members will, that these proposals were broadcast to the world about 9 p.m. on the 31st August. The document contains this statement -
In making these proposals, the Reich Government are, therefore, actuated by the idea of finding a lasting solution which will remove the impossible situation created by frontier delineation.
This is put forward late in the evening of the 31st August as a statement at that time of the German desire to procure a settlement. This document then handed to the British Ambassador has to be conveyed to London. The utterly fraudulent character of that statement can best be understood when we remember that it was only a few hours later that the German army invaded Poland. Literally a few hours, four, five or six hours, before that invasion occurs, we find the German Government solemnly saying in a diplomatic communication to the British Government handed to the British Ambassador in Berlin : “ The Reich Government are, therefore, actuated by the idea of finding a lasting solution, and these are the terms on which we think it could be found “. At the time when the proposals were broadcast, no copy of them had been communicated to the Polish Government at all, and no copy was in the possession of the British Government.
Would it be correct to say that there had never been any communication of those proposals?
There had never been any communication of those proposals to the Polish Government until they were actually broadcast, after which the German Government wasted no further time, as it would say, in its determination to march in. So far as Great Britain was concerned, the communication, if one could call it such, had been a very hurried reading in German to the British Ambassador, who speaks German, but who, like those who have some acquaintance of a foreign language, could not be expected to follow a document read at high speed in a foreign language. Apart from that, there was no communication to the British Government until the broadcast. The handing of the document to the British Ambassador took place at a time when circumstances rendered it physically impossible for that document to go to London to be considered by the British Cabinet, and for any action to be taken in relation to it. In the early morning of the 1st September following the broadcast late in the previous evening, Herr Hitler issued a proclamation to the German army stating that Poland had refused a peaceful settlement, and had appealed to arms. He had therefore decided to meet force with force. On the same morning, German troops crossed the Polish frontier at a number of points, and commenced general military operations against Poland. Thereafter, as document No.14 shows, the British Government gave notice that unless there was a withdrawal of troops on the part of Germany, Britain’s obligation and undertaking to Poland would come into force, and would be honoured. The result of this I mentioned at the beginning of my statement.
To honorable members and to the people of Australia I just make one general comment on these documents. It is, I believe, abundantly clear to anybody who reads this history, that, had Germany not desired war, there would not be a war to-day in Europe.
Hear, hear !
That, putting on one side all the fine points, all the argument to and fro which may be built up on these documents, is a clear-cut condemnation of Germany in relation to the present tragic condition of Europe and the world.
Blame Hitler, not the German people.
I agree with the honorable member entirely. As I said at the outset, I cannot believe that what we may term Hitlerism, as exhibited in these negotiations, can possibly represent the free will and free decision of any civilized community. In conclusion, all I want to say is this: I unhesitatingly ask for the support of this House, both Government and Opposition, in the carrying on of our responsibilities in relation to this war.
Hear, hear !
I believe that support will be forthcoming because we are all Australians here, and we are all British citizens.
Hear, hear !
However long this conflict may last, I do not seek a muzzled Opposition. Our institutions of parliament, and of liberal thought, free speech, and free criticism, must go on. It would be a tragedy if we found that we had fought for freedom and fair play and the value of the individual human soul, and won the war only to lose the things we were fighting for. Consequently I shall welcome criticism, but I do want to emphasize that our great task, however long this struggle may endure, is in common. If we remember that, all criticism will find its right place and its true perspective.
As the honorable member opposite has suggested, we have no bitterness against the plain and private citizens of Germany and I hope we will not feel called upon, at any stage, to disfigure what I believe to be a noble cause by any hymns of hate. We are in this war to win it and as quickly as possible. My prayer is that it may be won so quickly as to permit a just peace, a peace that will really end war and not a peace which will sow the dragon’s teeth of bitterness and hatred and distrust. I lay on the table the following paper: -
Text of Documents exchanged between the United Kingdom and German Governments from 22nd August, 1939, to the outbreak of war, 3rd September, 1939,
and move -
That the paper be printed.
That Standing Order 119 be suspended to enable the debate to proceed without interruption.
– I am a little surprised by the fact that the statement by the right honorable the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) was confined entirely to an examination of the events which led to the creation of a state of war between Great Britain - which includes Australia in this connexion - and Germany. I had expected that the Government would have seized this first opportunity of meeting the Parliament to outline, at least broadly, the intentions of the Government in respect of the defence of this Commonwealth, and of the general principles upon which it proposed to be influenced in framing its programme. I take it, however, that the right honorable gentleman will seize another opportunity to do that.
– That is so.
– For my own part, I am not obliged to examine the events which led to this most dreadful calamity. I. think I can say that the outlook is so dreadful that, if one looks at it at all deeply, one must reel back appalled at the prospect which confronts this civilization. We can be a saddened but determined people in this crisis. We are not a militarily-minded people. We hate and abhor war, and we had hoped that the memories of the previous war would have been sufficiently vivid everywhere throughout the whole civilized world as to have impelled even the most ruthless of rulers to recourse to negotiation to the very limit in order to carry out, if he could, whatever were the national aims of the country. That has not been the case in this connexion, and I think that it did not require the White Paper to convince the people of Australia that the basic reason why the United Kingdom and the British Commonwealth of Nations are at war with Germany, is because Germany invaded Poland. That invasion followed a recourse to armed force and a refusal to allow whatever were the issues between Germany and the Polish State to be examined in the light of a free and reasonable discussion. Discussion and negotiations were thrust aside and there was no alternative but for this dreadful infliction to come to mankind.
The Australian Labour party is concerned primarily for the defence and safety of the people of this Commonwealth who are involved in this war, and if is also concerned for the safety and integrity of the British Commonwealth of Nations of which Australia is a part. We know that it is idle to argue in respect of what might be some of the features of the Treaty of Versailles. There is no point now in endeavouring to hark back to lost opportunities when, perhaps, other courses might have produced a different development in Germany. We are faced with the facts as they now exist. So that there can be no misunderstanding as to where the Opposition is in this situation, I propose to read to the House a declaration which was drawn up by the party at its first meeting after the declaration of a state of war. The statement is us follows: -
The Australian Labour party affirms its traditional horror of war, and its belief that international disputes should be settled by arbitration.
It deplores the fact that force, instead of negotiation and discussion, has plunged the peoples into war. It believes that resistance to force and armed aggression is inevitable if attacks on free and independent peoples are to be averted.
In this crisis, facing the reality of war, the Labour party stands for its platform. That platform is clear.
We stand for the maintenance of Australia as an integral part of the British Commonwealth of Nations. Therefore, the party will do all that is possible to safeguard Australia and, at the same time, having regard to its platform, will do its utmost to maintain the integrity of the British Commonwealth.
As to the conduct of An tralian affairs during this unhappy period, the Australian Labour party will preserve its separate entity. It will give support to measures having for their object the welfare and safety of the Australian people and the British Commonwealth of Nations.
We take the view that these measures should include the immediate control by the Commonwealth Government of all essential raw materials, and the resumption by the Government of the factories associated with, the production of munitions and war equipment-
There must be rigid control of commodity prices and house rents, so that war profiteering will become impossible. Interest rates must be kept within bounds, and the monetary system readjusted so that the National Debt be kept as low as possible.
The democratic rights of the people must be safeguarded to the maximum. The very minimum of interference with the civic liberties of the people should be the objective of the Government in carrying through its measures for national security.
To ensure that this be done, it is essential that the Parliament of the Commonwealth should remain in session.
That is an unanimous declaration, made at the very opening stages of this war.
Let me now say that I recognize, and . that the Opposition recognizes - as the first paragraph of that declaration says - that the efforts for negotiation were checked by the fact that Germany would not withdraw its troops from Poland and that therefore the situation in. which Great Britain found itself, having regard to its undertaking to guarantee the integrity of Poland. led to what I. shall describe as the fact of war. Germany knew that, if it did not withdraw its troops from Poland, war with Great Britain was certain. I think I can say that the German proposals - in part and in principle they were proposals capable of unprejudiced consideration - wei e apparently never genuinely intended for reasonable consideration or negotiation. I feel that we cannot blind ourselves to the certainty that this method of putting forward proposals for consideration was merely a repetition of the technique which was followed in regard to Austria and Czechoslovakia, and that the policy of Germany has involved very much more than a rectification of the injustices - to use the proper term - of the Versailles Treaty. Germany apparently has in mind very much more than the pruning down of what can be regarded as features of the treaty which were unjust. Its programme appeared to have been enlarged into one of complete domination - such domination of Europe as armed forces would procure. Even if we believe that Poland’s cause is not entirely a right one, we cannot dismiss the fact that it would next be the turn of Roumania, Yugoslavia, Hungary and Bulgaria, and that Great Britain, France and the United States of America alone would stand in the path of totalitarian government marching throughout the civilized world. That being the case, and the fact of the war being about us, we have to consider the position of Australia. I say here that it is no contribution to the peace of the world, and it is no contribution even to the security of the British Commonwealth of Nations, for this country to attempt to do things that we would like to do, without first having made it as clear as human foresight can make it that we have completely discharged our responsibility to our own people. The safety of this Commonwealth must be the paramount consideration influencing every feature of Government “policy. What the right honorable gentleman has said is true, namely, that we are a democracy. It is as a democracy that we have to face this problem, because it is our desire to remain a democracy when the problem has ceased to exist. Therefore the Australian Labour party’s platform, as the declaration states, has laid it down how best we can preserve democracy in the Commonwealth of Australia. I say quite frankly that it is but natural that we should be concerned for the fellow members of the family of nations of which we are an integral part. There is a great deal- that Australia can do in order to help the whole of the British Commonwealth. Our platform declares that nothing shall be left undone to ensure the greatest effectiveness among out people to hold this country for the citizens of the Commonwealth. In giving effect to that policy, as I see it, there ought not to be, but there may be, two major points of difference between the Government and ourselves. One is conscription, to which we are opposed. The other does not arise, in view of last night’? pronouncement by the Government that it does not contemplate expeditionary forces. Those two issues are, as the Government knows and as the country knows, issues upon which the Opposition is pledged, and we are determined to maintain the views and the principles for which we have stood and fought while we have been a party.
Outside those two considerations, there appears to me to be no reason whatever why the Opposition cannot fully reciprocate the hope which the Prime Minister expressed in his statement this afternoon. It is true, that there may be points of difference between us in regard to the degree to which policy can be carried out in the various measures which the Government will introduce from time to time.
The suggestion that there should be a government composed of all parties in this Parliament appears to me to be one which, if carried out, would not be in the best interests of either the Parliament, the Government, or the people of Australia. This Parliament must not be a mere governmental echo during this crisis. The right honorable gentleman has said that he does not desire to have a muzzled Opposition. I think he will agree, and I think that those who examine the situation fairly will agree, that it would be a bad thing for the conduct of this war for the Government not to have to confront an Opposition, to face up to the examination which an Opposition can best give to government proposals. Tha!: ought not to mean unnecessary or undue delay in carrying out government policy. Such legislation as is required can be introduced, explained and examined. The Opposition can state its views concerning it, make suggestions as to what ought to be done, and indicate what objections, if any, it has to either a part or. the whole oi it; and the Government, being anxious to have - as I am sure it will be anxious to have - a united Australian people, ought to take into account the views which the Opposition will express in this House. For let it be remembered that, lit the lowest ebb of our political fortunes, this Opposition has always spoken for nearly one-half of the people of Australia; and, normally speaking, it may be’ said that we just as much represent the people of Australia as does the Government, because, by and large, the distribution of a few votes in a few electorates’ is alone what decides which party in this House will have control of the Government. I say to the right honor- :i bie gentleman that I see no reason myself why his Government, so long as it conforms to the general principles according to which Australia, no doubt, would approve of the war being fought, should not discharge its responsibility of administering the affairs of this country. We have no desire to enter into this Government, and our service to the Australian people is not conditioned by anl invitation to serve in the Government. I -ay quite frankly that we shall be able to Jo our duty fearlessly, and, I believe, usefully, by playing the part of watchdogs over the public . interest, and by maintaining the free institutions of this country during the twilight through which, inevitably, we have to pass before the dawn can come.
In the declaration I have drawn attention to two things - profiteering and, possibly, curtailment of the democratic rights of the people. I sincerely hope that the Government will not wait until profiteering has commenced in order to establish the requisite machinery to deal with it. That machinery should be set going immediately, so that at the very onset we can prevent the development of abuses, which are exceedingly difficult to check once they have become prevalent. Then I say that it is of very great importance to the maintenance of national unity, and of concord among the people, that the few who would take advantage of this dreadful calamity to exploit their fellow citizens shall not be given the opportunity to do so. A great deal of what may subsequently be described as subversive propaganda, will have its roots in the honest indignation with which the people will endeavour to combat unfair and unjust practices. Therefore, it is as necessary for the peace and unity of the Australian people internally to establish this machinery at the very onset of this situation as it is for the Minister for Defence to organize the military, naval and air forces of the nation. Then I say that there ought to be assured to the people liberty of speech ; there ought not to be the inroads, in respect of rights of public meetings, and the expression of the views of the people, which were a feature of the last war. .1 know that the censorship and other activities were engaged in because it was said that there were influences at work in Australia which were anxious to serve th”. enemy. With respect to those agencies in Australia which are concerned with serving the enemy, there is no course which the Government would take to suppress them which this party would not support. We will not support treason, sabotage, insurrection, or activities which will be helpful to the enemy. But there is a radical distinction between helping the enemy and the exercise of the normal right of the Australian people to be free citizens in a country which is fighting for the preservation of freedom. I hope that a conference will be held with newspaper editors at an early date so that principles may be formulated, as I am sure they can be, to prevent a great deal of the folly which characterized the actions of the censorship in the last war. I welcome, as I am sure the country will approve, the declaration of the Prime Minister that he will not only seek to preserve democratic institutions when the war is over, but will also strive to maintain them while it is being fought.
It is a dreadful pass to which tho British Commonwealth of Nations has come. This is a grievous day in the history of Australia. The Opposition, like the Government, regards itself as the servant of the people of this country. We are as loyal to this soil, and to the institutions of this country, as any other political party in public life. We shall do our utmost to preserve and defend Australia against aggression, and we shall also make the best contribution we can make to ensure that aggression will ultimately no longer be relied upon by any other country. I conclude with the hope, however little there may be to justify it, that somehow, as early as possible, there will intrude itself into the councils of the countries at war, those influences which will persuade them to call a truce from warfare, so that they may, even now, while the guns are blaring, sit down to discover whether, after all, right cannot triumph without being backed by might.
– I wish, first, to express my very great pleasure, which I am sure is shared by
every honorable member on this side of the chamber, and, in fact, in the Parliament,
at the pronouncement, by the Leader of the Opposition
I feel swayed by emotions which make it difficult for me to give expression to my thoughts. Twenty-five years have rolled away since I stood in this Parliament holding the office which I now hold, confronting a situation identical for all practical purposes with that which faces us to-day. The memories of the years, dark and terrible, that followed will never fade. Now, once more Germany has plunged the world into war. Perhaps I may be permitted to read a brief extract from a speech which I made when we were in the early stages of the Great War, into which she had then plunged the world. I then said -
I quite agree that we have no quarrel with the masses of the German Nation; but we have a quarrel, and a quarrel to the death, with that intolerable Prussian military autocracy which, by this war, and by deliberate preparation during the last twenty years, has hoped to dominate the world and trample under foot liberty and democratic government. In order to meet the machinations of (this blood’ and iron policy, the power given in this paragraph is obviously necessary. We are face to face with the most terrible realities. It is for us a struggle of life and death. We must not forget this fact. Sentiment is idle; mere talk will not avail.
Twenty-five years have passed away. The nations fought in a war to end war, and for a season it seemed as though their sacrifices had not been in vain. Now, all the hopes of a world from which war had been forever banished, which we conjured up in our minds, are shattered; all the sacrifices of magnificent soldiers have gone for nothing. While our. streets are still crowded with men who fought and suffered in the last war, and while the treasuries of this country are still pouring our millions of pounds annually in order to make good in some fashion at least, the losses and sufferings of those who took part in that war, war has again come upon us.
The Leader of the Opposition has indicated what he conceives to be the line of policy the Government should pursue. He said, and I agree with him, that the first duty of this Government is to provide for the defence of Australia. We are very proud of being citizens of the British Commonwealth of Nations; but our first duty as Australians is to Australia, and the people of this country will expect us, in the dark days that may be ahead of us to take every means at our disposal to ensure the safety of Australia. This is our first, our paramount duty. Let me direct the attention of honorable members, for a few minutes, to the position which faces Australia to-day. At present, Australia is far from the vortex of the conflict. We are like men in a ship in mid-ocean. Wireless communications tell us of fierce cyclonic storms raging outside the radius of our movements. We note the fall in the barometer, the heavy oppressive air, but round about us is perfect calm. That is our position to-day. War is raging, but it is far off ; for a time at least we are outside its range. We arc, for a. season, removed. As we turn our eyes to the East, where a little while ago we looked with apprehension at the blood - red clouds gathered on the sky, we see that the horizon is lighter. The last fortnight has witnessed dramatic changes. The Russo-German Pact has completely altered, for the time being, the position in the Far East. For the moment, then, we are far removed from the war that is raging in Europe, and in the Far East there is a promise of brighter prospects. That is the position, to-day. What it will be to-morrow, or next week, or next month, no man can say. But this is clear : the international situation is violently unstable; no mau can say what a day may bring forth. The position of any nation that depends upon the assurances of other nations, is in the last degree, precarious. But yesterday we contemplated an alliance with Russia: to-day Russia has aligned itself with that nation which now threatens the very foundations of our national and imperial being. There is no safety for us, or for the British Empire; nor is there any possibility of lasting peace to be found, except in our own courage and our preparedness to resist aggression. I shall not speak of what the future holds in store. No man can say how long the war will last or what nations will be involved. Of one thing only we are certain, and that is, that the. possibilities of the struggle are incalculable. Herr Hitler, by his resolve to gratify his insatiable ambitions, has condemned millions of men, women and children, not only of other nations, but also of his own nation, to death in its most horrid shape.
No one can say what effect the war will have upon Australia, but we must rid our minds of any illusions that the war will pass us by, and that we shall continue to be marooned upon this isle of the blest. To-day, the position of the people of Australia may be. regarded as fortunate compared with that of the people of England, France or any other nation in Europe. We are far removed from the possibility of mass attack from the air. That is the position to-day. What it will be within a few weeks, a few months, no man can say. All I have to say to the people of Australia is this : It is well for us that we have made the preparations that we have done. Australia is to-day far better fitted to defend itself against aggression than she was twelve months ago. Her young nien have flocked to the standard in overwhelming numbers, and I have no doubt at all that if more were wanted they would be available. On land, on sea and in the air, we have done and are doing what we can to ensure the safety of the Commonwealth. But because - for the moment - the Avar is far off, there is some danger that the people of this country may not realize that this is a struggle to the death, that there are involved issues which may shake to the very foundations of the structure of our national and economic life. To-day we walk proudly in this wide and fertile country and acknowledge none as our master. But there are other citizens of other democracies not less proud of their inheritance and jealous of their rights than we who have fallen. We see what has happened to the people of Czechoslovakia. We see what is happening to-day to the people of Poland. In the world as it is to-day, no nation is secure; all are menaced. There is, and can be no assurance of safety for the people of Australia, except that which is firmly based on the courage and preparedness of the Australian people.
The Leader of the Opposition spoke of other steps that ought to he taken to protect this community. With others he spoke about the steps that ought to be taken to deal Avith profiteering and inflation of prices. About this I am not in a position to speak with authority, but I point to what was done in the last Avar, and I am of the opinion that that which the Leader of the Opposition has asked for should be done. The people of this country expect that while they are called upon to make sacrifices, those sacrifices should be made not by a section, by a class, but by all. None should make profit out of this war. About that I think we are all agreed and legislation designed to effect that purpose will, I am very sure, receive the wholehearted support of my friends mi the other side of the House. The time has gone by when we can talk about the merits of the issues on which war is raging. The people of this country want justice, not only to the Poles, but also to the Germans. But issues far greater than the status of Danzig and re-alignment of the Corridor are now involved. This war will decide whether right ‘or might shall rule in the world. That is the issue, and upon victory for right depends the existence of civilization. Our own hands are clean; and once again Britain has given a lead to the world. We can congratulate ourselves upon the attitude of Britain. She has done everything humanly possible to effect a peaceful solution; and but for Germany, she would have succeeded. There never has been in history a more shameful exhibition of Machiavelian tactics than those resorted to by the German Government as displayed in this White Paper. But as I have said, the time has gone when we can discuss the merits of the issues upon which this war is raging. We must face the situation as it presents itself to us. That is abundantly clear. We must defend ourselves. We are to do everything humanly possible to ensure the safety of Australia. With what we are to do with’ regard to the Empire at large, we shall deal as circumstances from time to time indicate. But for the time being we are confronting a situation which was none of our making. We cannot contemplate defeat. We must, go on to victory.
– If ever a race of people entered unwillingly and with a clear conscience upon war, it is the British people who do so now. What the outcome will be, we cannot tell, but 1 do not think there has ever been such unanimity among all sections as there is to-day on the inevitable course we must follow. All differences disappear in the face of the disaster that the ruler of the German people has brought upon the world. I join with the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) in his pledge of our full support for Britain and the rest of the Empire in meeting this dread challenge. I was pleased also to hear the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) join with the Prime Minister. But I cannot help feeling that the Empire is entering upon the climax of the greatest battle in it? history - the battle for peace. It is worth while at the beginning of this war to recount the efforts for peace which Great Britain and the British Empire have been making since the conclusion of the last great war. When the history of this period is written, the record of British policy in the last twenty years …. stand out in letters of gold as the epic of a race which strove with its utmost might to abolish the spectre of war from the earth. The greatness of the greatest empire the world has known is not in the proud story of its growth so much as in its attainment to the position where even its enemies concede it to be the strongest influence for peace. I!ts commanding sense of right and wrong and its love an fi devotion to that, Emerson says, is the Imperial trait which arms the Anglo-Saxon people with the sceptre of the globe. Only such an empire could have risked it? prestige as this Empire has in recent years in the cause of peace.
Before the happenings at Munich., which must surely rank as- the sincerest gesture any nation has made for. humanity, we were frequently on the brink of war, confronted with issues which in other times would have made war inevitable. When the Italians were invading Abyssinia in 1935 in defiance of the Covenant of the League of Nations and of the opinion of 52 member nations, a situation developed in the Mediterranean which taxed British patience to the limit .
The German military occupation of the demilitarized zone of the Rhineland in 193fi has already been referred to by the Prime Minister. In the same year the incidents of the Spanish Civil War offered intense provocation. The incident of the Leipzig battleship in the following year was an impudent challenge from a power determined to embark upon a career of unparalleled aggression. As the then Prime Minister of the United Kingdom,
Mr. Baldwin, remarked after the occupation of the Rhineland, the British Government - made every attempt, whatever people might say, and however much they might talk about loss of prestige, to keep our people away from the horrors of modern war in Europe.
It is true that the Treaty of Versailles was an imperfect instrument. But Britain was not the only party to it, and with the heroic vision of the League of N ations its signature to the Covenant was no mere formality. The League was the creation of the English-speaking peoples. It was Britain’s hope that the Covenant would end the era of isolationist policies and secret diplomacy, and. bring enduring peace and understanding to war-shattered Europe by free discussion. Britain also joined readily in the Washington Conference for the limitation of naval tonnages - the first occasion upon which world powers reached agreement upon a reduction of armaments. Britain’s participation in this conference was all the more exemplary since, while it could no longer claim to rule the waves with the same assurance, it was still the strongest naval power in the world. In its fulfilment of the terms of the Versailles Treaty, the magnanimity of Britain was at times such us to be resented in no small degree by its great ally, France. The encouragement of separatist movements in the Rhineland, for example, was discountenanced by Britain, and the Olive report was its direct contribution to the cessation of interference in the domestic concerns of the new German Republic. It was in direct contrast to the later attitude of the machinations of the Third Reich in the Saar, Austria, and the Sudetenland. It was Britain which took the lead in early post-war years in efforts to enable Germany to recover its economic prosperity, and its motive was none the less worthy because it saw this as a factor in the stabilization of Europe. It lent money to all of the ex-enemy powers in an effort to restore their economic systems and permit them to engage again in international trade. The occupation of the Ruhr in 1923 was undertaken against Britain’s advice and without its co-operation. Tn the Lausanne Treaty, Britain’s friendly attitude towards Turkey laid the foundations of a lasting understanding which has had such a fortunate outcome in thb grave emergency of to-day. Under the Locarno Pact Britain was prepared to guarantee the frontiers that were given to Germany. But the greatest effort towards peace was Britain’s lead in the race for disarmament. Unfortunately thai particular effort of sacrifice in order to help the prosperity of the world has probably contributed to the crisis to-day. In the last three or four years Britain found its efforts to bring about peace were not going to be attended with success. Because Britain could not secure the active co-operation of the other powers, and because one man had set himself out to trample on every decent principle of international law and justice, Britain, since 1936, has been compelled to re-arm in order to resist the aggression that every one felt must come. Any one who reads the history of the last three or four years cannot avoid the feeling that, ever since 1936, Hitler has been engaged upon an undeclared war against the British Empire, in the course of which he has employed the blackest deception, and sold the honour of the German people. The Prime Minister has touched upon the record of the leader of Germany in this regard, pointing out how he has broken his promises and completely reversed his declared policy. In September, last, Hitler said -
Sudetenland is the last territorial claim I have to make in Europe.
Yet this September he is at war in an endeavour to enforce further territorial claims against a country which he attacked without first notifying the government of that country of the conditions which he desired it to fulfil. We in Australia, therefore, have no alternative but to join with the other parts of the Empire, for the sake of our honour, and, indeed, of our very existence, in the prosecution of this war. We are waging this war, not against the hapless German people - because they are the victims of this man’s lust for power almost as much as we are - but against another of its maniacal leaders. The world will know no peace until Hitlerism is destroyed. There are two reasons why Australia should not isolate itself from this conflict. The first and higher reason is that it is our duty to fight for the preservation of world freedom, and for what real democracy stands for. The second is a more selfish reason, but a very important one, namely, our own preservation. This is a fundamental quarrel between the elements of right and wrong, between the law of force and the law of reason, between might and right. Just as our ancestors fought for their liberties, and for the right to worship in the way they wished, so we must fight now for freedom of thought and action, and for the right of small nations to exist free from the threat of aggression. Nobody has expressed the matter better than did His Majesty the King in his speech the other night, when he said -
We have been forced, into a conflict . . to meet the challenge of a principle which, if it were to prevail, would be fatal to any civilized order in the world. It is a principle which permits a State, in selfish pursuit of power, to disregard its treaties and its solemn pledges; which sanctions use of force or the threat of force against the sovereignty and independence of other States.
Such a principle, stripped of all disguise, iS surely the mere primitive doctrine thaimight is right; and if this principle were established throughout the world, the freedom of nations would bc in danger. But far more than this - the peoples of the world would be kept in the bandage of fear and all hopes of settled peace, of security, of justice, and of liberty among the nations would be ended.
As I have said, even putting the matter on the lowest plane, Australia cannot afford to isolate itself at this time. The history of the last few years, indeed, of the last century, has made it clear that isolated weak nations fall an easy prey to those more powerful and less scrupulous. In the last analysis, we must depend on our own strength, and on the strength of the British Empire. Fortunately, the strength and courage of the Empire have been tested again and again. I remember reading an address by Emerson, the Great American essayist, delivered at Manchester about a hundred years ago, at a time when Britain was facing difficult times. In the course of this address he paid the following tribute to Britain -
I see her, not dispirited, not weak, but well remembering that she had Keen dark days before; indeed, with a kind of instinct that she sees the better on a cloudy day, and that in a storm of battle and calamity, she has a secret vigour and a pulse like a cannon.
I believe that that will be true of the British and Australian people in this crisis. We have a huge Empire, and the magnitude of its resources gives it strength yet makes it vulnerable at many points. We should resolve that Australia shall be not the Achilles heel of the Empire, but a bulwark for its protection. To this end, we must employ all our strength, and marshal all our resources. It is possible that the only immediate advantage which wo may derive from the war is that it will induce us to see how best we can employ our resources for the purpose of securing the national safety.
Be the war long or short, it is our first duty to keep the people of Australia united as they are now. In my view, there is only one way of doing that, namely, to make all sections feel that they are getting an absolutely fair deal under war conditions. If there are sacrifices to be made, let them be made equally by all. We should, therefore, make certain at the beginning - because we have the lessons of the lust war to guide us in this regard - that wages do not have to chase prices all the time ; that real wages are maintained, and that every one is given substantial justice. When I looked up the figures, I found that, during the last war, the position in regard to prices and wages was as follows: -
We should take steps now to prevent a similar lag occurring at this time. We must prevent profiteering from the very outset in regard to all undertakings, and not merely in regard to the making of munitions. Government establishments cannot supply all our requirements in thi.s regard. They can do much, but we must have the whole-hearted assistance of private enterprise. There is no reason why private enterprise should not receive a fair return for the labour and capital employed in the making of munitions. but there should be no profiteering. Wages should always have a. reasonable purchasing power. Interest rates should be kept down because interest is a big item in the cost of production, as well as in the national budget.
Arrangements should also be made for thu sale of export surpluses at fair prices. Commodities should be, as far as possible, processed in Australia in order to provide a maximum of employment in this country. Before I left the Government, arrangements were being made for the purchase of our surplus products by the British Government in case of emergency. I urge, however, chat, when contracts for the sale of surplus product* are made, they should be subject to constant review. The term of the contract should not be for the duration of the war, which might last for years. They should be for no longer than a year, perhaps less. For instance, it would be wrong to sell the wheat crop of Australia ahead for four or five years at the present low prices, when conditions might change^ world prices in a very short time. The Government should keep this point in mind when negotiating with the British Government. It should also be provided that, if this exportable surplus is purchased by the British Government, and subsequently sold by it at a profit to other governments, the Au tral ian producers should participate in the profit. There should also he producer representation on the boards or authorities engaged in thu disposal of commodities. Ultimately, something in. the nature of pools will have to be established, in order to make arrangements for receiving the products, and for transporting, selling, and shipping them overseas. Already there is evidence that bags for grain are becoming rapidly dearer, and producers might find themselves faced with considerable losses unless something is done to keep prices a t a reasonable level. It will also be necessary to take measures in regard to insurance. There is always a sharp rise of insurance rates during war time, and in order to ensure that the right thing will be done, there should be consultation between the Government of Australia and the Government of the United Kingdom. We are already noticing the value of the statutory organizations which have been created during the last twenty years for the handling of produce. They constitute a sound basis on which to build.
We should endeavour to achieve stability of government in Australia, and the widest possible representation. I disagree with the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) on his attitude regarding the formation of a National Government. As he said, the Opposition represents nearly half of the total number of voters, and it would be a good thing, if we are to make a whole-hearted war effort, to have all sections of the community represented in the Government. There would be plenty of criticism forthcoming if the actions of such a Government were not well directed.
I also appeal for the smooth working of Federal and State governmental machinery. During the last war the States were cut off from some of the ordinary methods by which they financed themselves, and they had to abandon many of their activities as a result. I hope that the National Council, which was brought into being some months ago, will be made a live and active body with a permanent secretariat, so that it will be able to deal in the most effective way with the problems that will arise at this time of crisis.
The Australian Country party has already intimated to the Government that it is willing to support it, to the utmost to make sure that Australia is able at the earliest possible moment to pull its full weight in respect of its efforts in this war. We shall offer constructive criticism, and we shall insist on a fair deal to all so far as it can be obtained under the difficult conditions that war imposes. We recognize that, during a war period, much must be done by executive act and by regulation, but we believe that Parliament should be consulted as frequently as possible in order that members may discuss and supervise the making of regulations. Under these conditions we are prepared to offer the greatest, help to the Government.
I believe thai when the task of get! ing this country into a state of preparedness has been completed, Australia wall acquit itself as worthily as it did in the last war in which it gained imperishable renown. Herr Hitler’s threats have in the past been pronounced and continuous. It is. in a sense fortunate that none of us has been under any illusion as to the. intentions of the German Dictator, who has deceived not only Britain but even his partners in the socalled anti-Comintern pact. He has opposed us with might; but on our side we have both might and right and, in the words of His Majesty the King, “With God’s help, we shall prevail.” The time will come for us to consider how, in our relations with the rest of the world, we can make our contribution to the solution of the- difficulties of international relationships. There can never be a lengthy international peace or universal harmony until the peoples of the world consume as. much of one another’s goods as possible and trade freely with one another. When the war is over, I hope that it will be disposed of with the least possible bitterness. We recognize that we must devote ourselves wholly to the single task of finishing this war which we strove so hard to avert. Good faith and decency must he re-established amongst the nations of the world. We are fighting for every ideal we have cherished, and if it calls for the last ounce of our strength, the sacrifice is one which every one of us would prefer to the prospect of submission to the evil force that holds so much of Europe in thrall and is now directed at the Empire, the one great obstacle to its subjection of the earth’s peoples.
.- lt is a sad day for the human race to think that,’ after the experience the world gained a quarter of a century ago, in our own lifetime we should witness the entry into another world war. Honorable members to-day listened with very great attention to the right honorable the Prime Minister’s (Mr. Menzies’) elaboration or explanation of the document that has been circulated. It establishes for the people of this country and the members of this Parliament the background of this dispute; but it was really not necessary except for its useful information. One only wants to know one thing, that the German forces invaded Poland. That makes a war inevitable.. The documents tabled to-day, are a damning indictment, exposing a lack of faith and of honesty . One feels,, however much one abhors war - and I am sure we all do - that that cannot be allowed to continue. Again,, it is a struggle to determine whether democracy is to be declared decadent and totalitarianism triumphant. If this were permitted to go on, and one more small nation after another crushed out of existence, the triumphal, march of the dictatorships could not be stopped and democracy would go out of existnce.
The right honorable member for Cowper
I hope that this war will be conducted all through, so far as our friend’s and allies can control it, in a humane way. I cannot help feeling, that the human instincts of the peoples of the world, whether of British, German or any other race, must be appalled at the prospects of another war. After all, what are our human instincts? They are to save life, and not to take it. Every time you learn of a disaster you read of the heroic efforts by men and women to rush to the aid of their fellow men and women. That is the human instinct.
– -Without respect to nationality.
– That is so. When I read the other day that a ship without auxiliaries and without any military attachment to it, in which innocent men, women and children were traversing the seas to or from their home land, had been ruthlessly attacked and’ torpedoed in the open sea, I contrasted that with an incident which I witnessed myself in the Indian Ocean when a British ship on which I was travelling stopped in its course, turned about, and went 100 miles back on its course to respond to an SOS from a Dutch ship that a woman on board was likely to die unless a doctor came to her aid and that the ship carried no doctor. Every passenger on the ship on which I travelled, most of them Australians and New Zealanders, were thrilled by the thought that the ship would be put back to save a human life. That life was saved, and the passengers on the succouring ship subscribed to a fund to enable the woman to return to her home. That woman was a German. I contrast that human instinct of the human race to render help irrespective of nationality or of race with the deadly things that are done during a time of war. No wonder Ave abhor war. Our hope is that this war will have a speedy end, that right will prevail, and that the forces of democracy will triumph over the dictatorships. If we fail there will be no end to these horrors and the repetition of them. I join with my leader in offering suggestions and advice to the Government. We do not say offhand that it will fail to do certain things; but we have our obligations to our people and we must be sure that we have learned the lessons from the last war and that we do not allow some to make sacrifices and others to make profits. During the last war there was great suffering in Australia, among men, women and children through the greed and selfishness of people in our midst who took advantage of the national crisis.
– They are still here.
– I am afraid they are. By the united force of this Parliament we must see that that is not repeated during the present struggle, and that when men are asked to go into camp, to suffer privations and leave lucrative positions in order to prepare for the defence of their country, we shall not hand out to those who risk nothing double rates of interest for the money they may lend, as was done on a previous occasion. We have learned our lessons and I hope we have taken them to heart.
I have very little more to say. We are part of the British Commonwealth of Nations. I believe it is in the interests of Australia that we should remain a part of that great Commonwealth; and we have our re sponsibilities to it. As my leader has said, we shall make our contribution to the defence of this country and to the maintenance of the integrity of the British Commonwealth of Nations in a way in which we can best give that assistance. We have not a surplus of man-power in Australia but, unfortunately, a shortage; we have, however, a surplus of foodstuffs and raw materials. I am not as concerned as is the right honorable member for Cowper as to the markets we may get for our raw materials as the result of this war. I am, of course, always anxious that the men on the land shall be assisted, but as a nation I say that we should not hesitate to give to feed the people of Britain, France or other countries in the world if they were threatened with starvation. I believe that the Government will best contribute to the cause by conserving our man-power and by contributing from our abundance of foodstuffs and raw materials. I hope that this Avar will soon be ended. I pray that right and justice will prevail and that the suffering* of human beings will not be of long duration.
.- The documents contained in the White Paper read by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) are of historic value,’ and it is well that we should put them aside noN and look at them again after the battle has ebbed and flowed. Already the enemy is disseminating propaganda of an entirely different kind. It is grand to know that we are entering into this appalling Avar united as a people and understanding’ the motives that actuated us in defending Poland. The violence displayed by the German leader shocked the democracies. For too long the economics of the world have been disturbed. Science seems to have been degraded to invent machines for slaughter. This war. disastrous as it is. had to come, and now that it has commenced Ave have to see it through to a successful conclusion. It is well, for us to consider how it arose, because it seems an extraordinary thing for the human mind to conceive that one man could become the master of more than 80,000,000 people, and lead them on in an emotional way with his fanatical idealism to obey his behests in every way.
To understand this one has to read his own story, his own revealment in his Mein Kampf, to see that he has told the world for years what he intended to do. He tells us that he learned his methods from the Viennese socialists and says -
They would select the adversary whom they thought most formidable, and on a signal given would bombard him with a regular drumfire of lies and calumnies. They kept it up, till the nerves of the other side broke down, and to regain some peace they sacrificed the victim of the odium.
Repeat the same performance over and over again; and dread of the mad dogs exercises through suggestion the effect of paralysis.
When the Prime Minister traversed the events we saw how that was done
first in internal politics to the indivduals and then in the international field.
Dollfuss was assassinated hy the Nazis in Austria, and immediately Germany entered
Vienna, a statue was erected to the man who assassinated him. Schusnigg when his
proposals for a plebiscite were overruled was submitted to mental torture by the Germans
when they invaded Austria; to-day he is a mental wreck.
It is just as well we should know this and what a formidable war machine is opposed to us. All that I have said in introduction we well know by means of newspaper reports and radio broadcasts, and it has not been supplemented by this White Paper which has been tabled. It is 1914 all over again. We must be prepared for a prolonged struggle unless there is some disruption among the German people, and if is hard to say whether or not that is likely. I saw no evidence of it while I was in Germany last year. If it is there, it is well concealed. The spirit of deference displayed by huge crowds in the stadiums - crowds of 200,000 attending football matches - shows that among German individuals there is a sort of reverence even for most junior ministers - a custom that does not prevail in the democracies. Unless there is some disruption within Germany, it is evident that we must embark upon a long and terrible struggle. In these, the early, stages of the conflict, the battle is far from us, but unless our forces overseas are successful, how long will it be before war comes much nearer to our shores? The question I ask is “What can Australia do in this matter?” The events leading up to the war have been given to us to-day as a background only in the White Paper. The Leader of the -Country party (Sir Earle Page) has stressed the importance of supplies. No doubt, it is a very important matter. Australia, with its great capacity for supplying the foodstuffs of the world, could be of immense help to the British and French forces at this juncture, and that help will be given. Already it has been announced that the surpluses of certain primary products in Australia will be purchased by the British Government, and that, no doubt, will be of great benefit to Australia, but the Government must see that there is no profiteering not only in the manufacturing of war supplies, but also in primary production. If Australian primary producers are to sell foodstuffs to fighting forces, then there must be a minimum of profit, if any at all.
Because I believe that at a time such as this our duty is to be helpful and critical, I throw out a suggestion which is one of three proposals I shall put forward. We speak frequently of our relations with our Pacific neighbours in the East, but how often do we look westward? The Indian Ocean is almost without exception bordered by British and French territory. Taking Perth or Colombo as its centre, there are South Africa, East Africa, Arabia, India and Australia, and just the interspersion of the Dutch possessions, through which runs our line of communication. The Indian Ocean countries are almost entirely British or French. A new line of communication was recently pioneered by the historic flight of the Quia, piloted by Captain P. G. Taylor, who, I believe, is now in Canberra. That good work must be continued. Let us examine for a moment, the products of those countries bordering the Indian Ocean. It will be seen that of the 35 raw materials that are essential to industry and to the progress of mankind Germany has only five. It is now endeavouring to make synthetic wool and synthetic rubber, and in order to guard against emergency has found it necessary to conserve huge quantities of oil in such places as disused mine-shafts. The position has, of course, been alleviated by the signing of the Russo-German Pact, which provides for the export of certain essential commodities from Russia to Germany during the next seven years. By means of this treaty Germany will have ample supplies of oil, fats., timber, wool, and several other raw materials to which previously it had not access. Germany lias also given Russia seven years’ credit for the purchase of supplies in exchange for raw materials. The friendly countries bordering the Indian Ocean can export all of these essential commodities, and I suggest that Australia, might take the initiative and invite all of these countries to form a union of supply. Such a union would avoid the duplication of shipping and would be of benefit in many other ways. There is as yet no indication of the duration of the war, or what nations will be finally involved, and the formation of a confederation of” friendly nations, dominions and colonies pooling their resources of primary products would ensure that Britain could not be starved. Our first responsibility is to see that the country which is bearing the brunt of the fighting for the Empire shall be adequately supplied with those fundamental supplies necessary to carry on. I submit that suggestion to the Commonwealth Government in the hope that it will be given full consideration, and that an endeavour will be made to see whether or not the countries I have mentioned cannot be brought together in some federation of supply with head-quarters at, say, Colombo or Perth in order that their activities may be organized or coordinated. The war as yet is but a matter of a few battles, but in the future it can be something that will sap the stability and resources of most countries of the world.
Leaving for the moment the matter of supplies, are we satisfied that that is all that Australia can do ? Do we think that by just being the suppliers of foodstuffs we are playing our part, knowing as we do that should Britain be defeated it would be the end of Australia as a British community? We heard from the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) that no expeditionary force was to be sent from Australia to the theatre of war. That, I am sure, is news to everybody on this side of the House. It is too soon yet to tell what the alignment of nations is going to be. It is quite possible that other countries will come into the war, and make things uncomfortable for Australia but at present, it looks as if certain nations who were expected to support the Berlin-Rome Axis have abandoned their affiliations in that direction, and for that reason, Australia may be reasonably safe at present to send away supplies. If we cannot send supplies, we cannot send troops. A fine example to the countries of the Empire has been set by Great Britain. First it set an example in the introduction of disarmament. It has now been industriously training its manpower, producing munitions as fast as possible, and building up armaments in record time. Australia should also make its contribution to Empire security. During the last war Australia sent its quota of troops to the arenas of conflict, and in my opinion if any men feel now that they want to go to the assistance of the Old Country, they should be permitted to do so. But unless something is done in this matter there will be a considerable drain from Australia in an unorganized way of our man-power, because there are many men, not only Britishers living in Australia, but also Australians who would like to go overseas and, as so many speakers have said to-day, “ do the utmost “ to assist Great Britain in the present struggle. Therefore, I think that the Government should give some consideration to the question of whether or not it should ask the United Kingdom at this juncture, “ Can we support you in man-power? Is it your desire that contingents be raised throughout Australia to assist wherever they may be wanted ? “ Such an offer would be of immense moral support at this time. The immensity of the power which we are opposing in this conflict is well known; but, as has been adequately pointed out, it is not the citizens of Germany with whom we are waging war; it is the megalomaniacal leader whom we must see removed before We can have any peace. My second proposal is therefore, that the Commonwealth Government should at this early juncture ascertain from the United Kingdom whether or not an expeditionary force is needed. There are at present in the capital cities of the Commonwealth many hundreds of men who desire to join up, but they do not know whether or not their services will be required.
– Why not give thom a job?
– I agree with the honorable member who has just interjected, and while I was Minister for Trade and Customs, I assisted in giving jobs to many men. If the honorable member refers to youth employment, I consider that much more should be done with vocational, technical and farm, training. I agree also with the right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) that home defence is of great importance. We must see that should the necessity arise, we. would be able to hold this country. Our territorial responsibility is greater than that of any other country in the world. The population of Australia represents only two to a square mile, whereas in Belgium it is over 700 and in Great Britain it is 500.
Our geographical position has resulted in the isolation of this continent from many of the troubles of (lie world, but these troubles are no longer other people’s troubles; they art also ours. Aviation can now bring war to every home and every citizen. We must, therefore do our part if the Empire is to come through this conflict with greater honour than before, as we all know that it will. What can we in Australia do to be of assistance? I think honorable members will agree that we must do our utmost to get the best results in this country. We must see that there is equality of sacrifice and that each man will do his share. We can forget for the moment that controversial question of universal service of which I have always been in favour, and about which there i? so much difference of opinion. But wc have on our statute-book the Defence Act. under section 59 of which the Militia Forces are now being called up. Section 59 states -
All male inhabitants of Australia, excepting those who are exempt from service in the Defence Force, who have resided therein for six months and are British subjects and aru between the ages of 18 and CO years shall in time of war be liable to serve in the Citizen Forces.
Sub-section 3 of section 60 of - the’ aci enumerates the various classes and under section 3a (5) these classes may be subdivided, so that any class or division mav be called up. Any such division has to have the proclamation approved by Parliament within ten days, which is a reason why Parliament should not have only a short session. The Commonwealth Government should take action at once under this sub-section because we do not know what the future of the conflict may demand. Certain citizen forces are being called up, and many men have splendidly come forward and offered their services. Some of them are of middle age and hold key positions. They are to be sent into camp for sixteen days or more and while they patriotically are doing their best in the interests of their country others, perhaps in the same factory, or office, will go on their way untroubled by this- disaster that has fallen upon the world. I think all honorable members will agree that that will not give equality of sacrifice. How then can that equality be assured? Simply by dealing with that section I have quoted by calling up a pertain quota of a given age. They may be eighteen years old or nineteen years old or any age that may be chosen. The Commonwealth has the statistics, and can readily ascertain how many are available. These men could go into camp for one month or two months, and learn the rudiments of military operations. We cannot be sure of victory. We may yet have to defend this country. The Commonwealth Year-Booh shows that there are some 100,000 or 150,000 young men who have turned the age of 21 years since 1929, yet who have done no military training. The Government should implement section 59 of the Defence Act forthwith, which is my third proposal. That is the way that men may be placed in camp without dislocation of industry, It would be an offence if an employer were to impede the military training of such young men in his employ. This would spread the sacrifice among all classes, and would be democratic. It. would not be that system to which some honorable, members are opposed,, namely universal training. Provision for it has been on the statutes-book since the inception of federation; it was. enacted in the original Defence Act. This I submit, should be considered by the Government immediately,, so that the maximum of man-power may be trained without dislocation of industry. There should be no weakening in any way.
We have gone into this war with our eyes open. We have known of the menace with which we have been confronted for years by reason of the policy of the totalitarian governments. We have been tolerant. Some have been too tolerant. They have made excuses for Germany and have said that, it has had reason to oppose the Versailles Treaty. These forget that the Treaty of Versailles had in it the framework of the League of Nations, and that the League of Nations, after years of warfare which involved the lives of 10,000,000 soldiers, apart from private citizens, was a sincere and an earnest world attempt to see that the rule of law, and not the rule of force, should actuate the nations of the world. We have been able to deal with many industrial disputes, by means of arbitration and with our civil disputes in the law courts. Only in the process of evolution shall’ we ultimately be able to deal with national and international disputes by conciliation and arbitration. The President of that great nation, the United States of America, was the sponsor of the League of Nations, but his Parliament rejected his idea and would not co-operate at the inception of the League. That was a severe blow to this idealistic conception. Later Japan, after the intrusion into Manchukuo, withdrew from the League of Nations. Great Britain and other nations protested, but to no avail. Italy defied the League, and although sanctions were applied to it under the Covenant of the League they were not complete, and it was evident that the power of the League was weakened. That which was to have been a grandiose parliament of the world is an empty tenement. The rule of law has not prevailed among the nations, but eventually it will do so; we shall have to return to it. The totalitarian regime, and these difficulties which now confront us, represent only one day in our evolution. Man cannot of himself make a new system. Hitler, by the process of race consciousness which he applied to his people, has done some good within his own country;, there are evidences of it. Had he confined himself to the betterment of his own people, had his policy not impinged upon neighbouring nations, he would have been a great man. In Germany, the people can go to the opera, indulge in sport, and travel for a matter of pence. I believe that our own people are entitled te similar privileges. That has been done by rather clever legislation within the country itself. But I see no good in the system. I have mentioned in- this. House the . evidence of terror and tension in Germany; it oan be sensed there. Hitler has now threatened Europe and the world with domination; under the belief that he really is, as he has been moved to believe that he is, above ordinary humanity. Throughout Germany, in every workshop’, there is a huge picture of him surrounded with laurel leaves.. There- are busts of him in. every hotel. When telephoning, one has. to say “Heil, Hitler” before commencing a conversation.. The officials prefer this condition to that liberty which- we sometimes despise and sometimes do not understand. The democracies are now definitely on- the defensive, and we are not yet sure where the balance lies. In the immediate future, Germany may have some successes because it has a well-organized, welltrained and well-equipped war machine. I have been through its aircraft factories and know what a preponderance of aircraft it has had. Great Britain is now fast overtaking Germany in this respect, and eventually will win out. When all this misery is over, we shall inevitably return to the rule of law and reason between the nations. We have to take a wider view than the present horizon, and realize that we must revert to the ideal of the League of Nations if peace, justice and liberty are not to perish.
.- I do not intend to canvass the position as it has been explained to the House
by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) in
relation to the attitude of the party to which I belong ; that has been too ably clone
to need amplification by me. I rise on this, the first day on which the Parliament has
met, because so many honorable gentlemen have expressed their willingness to see that
the people of this country are not exploited by soulless profiteers, as they were in
the last war. This House should demand from the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) - and I wheel it right up to him, not in
any critical sense - an immediate statement as to what the Government intends to do
with a view to preventing the exploitation of the people of Australia in the present
time of war. To me, a man who will make use of wartime in order to exploit his
fellowmen is very little better than the enemy whom one is fighting. I say that
emphatically. The Government should treat him nearly as badly as it would treat the
enemy. If we are to have a united front in. this country, if we are to mobilize the
man-power and strengthen the morale of this nation - which will have to be done -
there will be weak links if some persons become wealthy at the expense of the miseries
of the general mass of the people. The experience of the last war is clear. What steps
does the Government propose to take with a view to the prevention of profiteering? The
Leader of the Opposition has said that in particular it should take over all things
necessary for the manufacture of muni tions and equipment for war purposes. There is a
great combine and monopoly in this country. The Broken Hill Proprietary Company
Limited, which will provide all the raw materials and the basic materials needed for
the production of munitions and equipment, the other day made to its shareholders a
free issue of shares to the value of £4,500,000. Is the Government willing to
allow that company to make additional profits on that paper issue of shares valued at
£4,500,000? The issue was made on the eve of war - almost on the declaration of
war. The company got in early, as it always does, and as is the practice of the
Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited. I am not accusing the Government of an
intention to allow it to make additional profits by this paper issue. But I assure the
Government that if this Parliament is kept open it will have to answer frequently to
honorable members should such a contingency arise. We i a ve had the spectacle of the
woollen manufacturing industry - an industry established only because of war, to
manufacture jumpers and other woollen goods - making a profit of £2,000,000 over
and above its capital outlay in the years 1915 and 1916. The patriotic Sydney
I approve of the sentiments expressed this afternoon by the Leader of the Opposition. The Labour party is prepared to stand behind the Government from to-day onwards, but we make it very clear that we consider that it will be to die everlasting disgrace of every member of this Parliament who permits, by his inaction, any instrumentality or company to make profits out of war equipment. We should do our utmost to see that as nearly as possible everybody makes; the same sacrifices.
– As one of the few independent members of this Parliament I intimate my
wholehearted support of the Prime Minister
This is an emergency in which we must submit to leadership. I have full confidence in our national leader, however much I may differ from him on minor Australian issues. I reserve my right to criticize when my judgment tells me I should criticize, and the right honorable gentleman has invited us to criticize, though naturally he desires constructive and not destructive criticism. One of the strong points in a democracy is that it achieves its leaders over long periods of trial and error. When crises come men are available for leadership who have fitted themselves for the office. Instinctively they are ready and fit to become national heroes. The man who became a national hero during the last war was, in the few days before the war broke out, one of the last men who would have been selected by the House for its leader. Yet we know that he proved a God-sent inspiration. His influence has not yet waned. His name is still a talisman to every man who served in the Australian Imperial Force. We all still term him, with great affection, “ The Little Digger “. I refer, of course, to that Nestor nf this Parliament, the Right Honorable W. M. Hughes. However,, with youth, eloquence, restraint, and ability on his side, Mr. Menzies may, I believe, be followed with equal confidence.
I wish also to say that it has been inspiring to observe the manner in which Mr. Chamberlain, the British Prime Minister, has conducted himself. We now know, as a fact of history, that he trusted an international bully too much.
Yet we must admire Mr. Chamberlain for expressing, as he has done, the British outlook of decency and its sense of the fitness of things.
Then we can turn to Mr. MacKenzie Kang, the Prime Minister of Canada, who has proved himself one of the shrewdest judges of world opinion.
Although I cannot cry, as Hitler did in the Reichstag, “ Heil Victory I can and do cry, “ Hail Justice “ - justice for the frightened millions of Europe who live under the fear of this bully of Berlin, who is determined to win his objectives even over the corpses of women and children. We are fighting for justice. The democratic peoples of the earth are fighting for that peace and freedom which we have enjoyed in the last few weeks under the unsullied moonlight of our Australian cities.
I hope that, in this crisis, the Government will see the wisdom of establishing a national planning authority or an economic advisory council, call it what you will. I was glad to note that the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) this afternoon sponsored the setting up of a body of this description to act in an advisory capacity to suggest to Parliament a well-rounded developmental programme.
I echo the sentiment that has been voiced in this House to-day that fair treatment should be ensured to all the Australian people, particularly by those engaged in the manufacture of munitions. I hope that those people will emphasize the word “should” and learn the meaning of equity. We are fighting to safeguard our political philosophy and to preserve our sense of the fitness of things. We shall fight until our democratic outlook has been fully translated into actuality. The Australian people are imbued with the knowledge that, in a democracy, men and women are not turned out in the one mould. It has been well said that nature makes a man and then breaks the mould. Because I believe in our individuality, I will support the Australian Government and the Empireuntil the last shot has been fired. So will every other Australian who is worthy of the name.
.- The disaster that has befallen us has- been impending ever since the failure of the attempt to prevent war by economic boycott. That attempt was made during the Abyssinian war by the peaceloving nations of the world. Since its failure it has become inevitable that, sooner o’r later, the world would he engaged in a struggle of this kind. We have been like the Greek ruler who feasted always beneath a sword which hung upon a single hair. At last the sword has fallen, and the people of Australia, as part of the British Commonwealth of Nations, must be prepared for war. I emphasize our membership of the British Commonwealth of Nations. I believe that membership in that commonwealth is an excellent thing for Australia. I hope and believe that our membership in that commonwealth will be perpetual. Even on the ground of self interest I would say this, for I believe that the day of the small nation is past. The small nations of the world to-day owe their very existence to the protection, or goodwill, or indifference, of the larger nations. The larger nations may, at any moment they like, destroy the small nations of the world. I cannot imagine that Australia would be better off if it were in a position like Poland, or Latvia, or Estonia. The bonds that tie us to the British Commonwealth of Nations are not the much-belauded bonds of community of race. They are the bonds of community of institutions and democratic traditions and of a common belief in the possibility of settled differences by the peacefully expressed decision of the peoples. It is these bonds which bind together the Frenchmen of Quebec, the Dutchmen of Orangia, and the people of British and other races who inhabit Australia and other British dominions to the countries in which they live. This membership of the British Commonwealth of Nations creates not only advantages but also responsibilities and liabilities for the members of the partnership. When the predominant partner in that commonwealth are at war the minor members of the partnership are exposed to attack. No one of us in Australia can ignore this war, and say that we need not prepare for war. It cannot be said that other nations hostile to this Commonwealth would leave us alone if we stood out of the war. If Australia wished to declare its desire to remain out of the war it should have done so before the war started and not after. I cannot conceive of any nation enjoying the advantages of membership of the British Commonwealth of Nations and reserving, at the same time, the right to declare its neutrality; and I cannot see how we could expect Britain’s enemies to respect such a belated declaration of neutrality. Consequently, whatever we may think about the merits of this conflict, we, in Australia, mus prepare for our own defence, and for the defence of our institutions. Looking al the merits of this struggle it is indicated, so far as we can see, that only in the greatest stress and urgency has the British Government gone to war. Whatever we may think of Mr. Chamberlain and his policy it is perfectly clear that he did every thing possible to avert a collision with the German Government and the German Chancellor. He has been reproached for that, but whether it i= merit, or demerit, it is a fact that he did everything possible to put off the ultimate inevitable collision. Now our primary responsibility is to Australia. That has been stressed by everybody, and the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) himself well stressed it. We have to defend Australia and we hope that there will be no question of our doing anything’ else.
The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) spoke about the desirability of sending an expeditionary force and said that if we did not the men would go of their own accord. There is no objection to men going of their own accord, but there is great objection to the organization of an expeditionary force. The experience of the last war proves that after the first sprightly running of recruits to the forces enlistment slows down. Attempts are then made with all forms of pressure to induce men to go to the war, and when the various forms of military and economic pressure have lost their force there is an attempt to resort to legal compulsion. I believe firmly that voluntary recruiting for overseas service on the lines of the recruiting in the last war leads inevitably to a demand for conscription from) the parents, wives, and dependants of those who have already gone. Consequently, I oppose voluntary recruiting as being the first step towards compulsion. Naturally I oppose compulsion for overseas service. If the Prime Minister who has made a wise, magnanimous and statesmanlike speech to-day, preserves the spirit which animated that speech, he will not resort to anything that will create divisions in the people of Australia which will long survive this struggle.
The Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition
A Minister may give directions prohibiting the holding of any meeting as to which he is satisfied that the holding thereof would be likely to cause a disturbance of public order or to promote disaffection.
It seems to be entirely dangerous that the rights of the people to meet and discuss things should be determined on the will of a minister or his delegate. The Government says, “ We are not content with the power to punish you for disloyal utterances by bringing you before the court. We shall decide beforehand that you will not hold this meeting “. It is dangerous and it is not in consonance with the declaration made by the Prime Minister to this House.
At the start of this trouble, just a.3 at the start of the struggle of 1914-18, there is a popular attempt to distinguish between German people and the German Government. It was said that the Great War was a war against the German Government and not against the German people; but when in the course of that war it was found that the people of Germany were behind the Government of Germany ‘ strongly and determinedly, people of German extraction in this, country had visited upon them the wrath of all ranks of the Australian community. I am perfectly satisfied from my reading and study that the active section of the German people is behind the German Chancellor. I think that the people of this country will be disappointed if they hope for any early breakdown of the German system, or any breakdown at all. There is iu the German people a feeling that they lost the last war largely because their morale was broken by appeals made to them by the allied statesmen and leaders that the German people would be treated liberally and magnanimously by the Allies if they revolted against the Kaiser. I do not believe that the German people will abandon their Chancellor. They believe that he is carrying out the policy essential to Germany. That being so, in my small capacity, I warn Australians against being provoked into any discrimination against the vast number of people of German extraction in this country. Those people have helped to develop this country. Great numbers of them came here to escape religious and political persecution and they have made a vast contribution to this country. Many of them hold important positions in the community. Many of them are men and women of value in all ranks of life, and I hope that this country will not blindly inflict its wrath upon them. This community will protect itself against seditious acts of aliens. It is entitled to do that and itis making provision for that. But it must avoid doing what it did in the last war - punishing the Australian-born German people. At the beginning of that war a vast number of German people in this country believed that the best thing that could happen would be the downfall of the then rulers of Germany, so that a social democratic system would follow its fall. But when there was an indiscriminate attack upon the Australianborn Germans in this country, vast numbers who started out thoroughly loyal and earnest were converted into being either lukewarm Australians or out-and-out sympathisers with the German Government. I do hope that our people will avoid that. I appreciate the fine spirit that animated the speech made by the
Prime Minister, but we have in front of us days, weeks, months of events that will try the people’s nerves and I hope that the excellent spirit in which this struggle has commenced will not fade away. I hope that we shall not attack the liberty of the citizen or discriminate against those people who are descendants of strangers who came within our gates and have lived and been treated as our own.
.- The White Paper before us plainly indicates that Great Britain enters this conflict with a clear conscience. Our one purpose is victory over the forces of aggression which face the democratic countries to-day. Just as Britain is calm, united, dogged and resolute in this crisis, so we in Australia, whose existence and freedom depend on the success of the British Empire, must be united and fully organized. In this connexion, I wish to refer briefly to the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin), who says that he does not think it essential to-day that we should have a national government. I disagree. The Leader of the Opposition has clearly indicated that the Labour party represents a very large proportion of the people; and that being so, the Labour party should be represented along with the Country party, in a national government to face the present crisis.
– How many members of the Labour party would be in such a ministry?
– It is generally the opinion of the people that there should be one united government representative of all parties to face the present situation. Fortunately we are far removed from the centre of activities but we must be prepared for any emergency at any time. All Australians undoubtedly will unite in making common cause and in giving all possible service in this conflict. The same I should say applies to all peoples of the British Commonwealth of Nations.
The question of profiteering has been referred to. No doubt the proposals which the Government will bring down will effectively check this evil, and I am one with those members of this House who would deal in no uncertain way with would-be profiteers. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has indicated that we must keep the wheels of industry moving. I believe many supplies will be cut off from this country, and I, therefore, suggest that there are many industries in Australia to-day which will expand in such a way that there will be full employment for many sections of the community. The Government, therefore, should take full cognisance of the need in calling up the Militia to ensure that those men who hold key positions, unless emergency otherwise demands it, will be retained, if possible, in those positions in a systematic way so that they may keep full employment and maintain essential services. I believe that the whole of the people of Australia are behind the Government in its policy in this crisis.
Sitting suspended from 6.13 to 8 p.m.
.- The document which the Prime Minister
The Prime Minister stated that responsibility for the present situation should not be placed entirely upon the German people. He suggested that we should be considerate in our judgment of them, and should rather place the responsibility upon their leader. It is reasonable, therefore, that we should ask ourselves why a government that according to the White Paper is capable of doing such ‘things as the German Government has done should receive the support of the German people, who a re no less intelligent, and no less cultured than the peoples of other parts of the world. Their capacity for intellectual and industrial activity is well known.
It has been said over and over again”, and it is fitting to repeat it, that this war is the outcome of the last war. It has been suggested to us in this debate that it is not desirable at this stage to make a close l’ X alI]ination of the effects of the Versailles Treaty, but I believe that it is our duty to consider that treaty in relation to the events that are now taking place iti Europe. It is clear that the Versailles Treaty imposed on the German people a set of conditions which they undoubtedly resented. In fact, the sufferings which fell upon the German people as the result of that treaty were directly responsible for the rise of the very man against whom we are struggling now. It would be well for us to keep that thought in our minds. [ visited Germany in 1926, and made as close a study as I could of the people, and of the conditions prevailing throughout the country. I visited Krupps’ factory at Essen, and noted that this huge concern, which had formerly been engaged in the production of armaments, was now manufacturing agricultral implements. It was pleasant to reflect that the people working there were now engaged- upon the production of implements for the benefit of mankind, instead of upon implements destined for their destruction.
The yards were full of agricultural machinery, and the mau who was
showing me over the factory said how anxious they were to find a market for those
products. When I was travelling through the German countryside I noticed that the people
were still using the old methods of agriculture. They were still cutting the wheat with
scythes, and raking it into bundles as they had done in olden times. I remarked on this,
and pointed out to my guide that there seemed to be a great market in their own country
for the agricultural machinery which they were manufacturing. His reply was that the
people did not have the money to buy the machinery. As the result of the reparation
payments imposed upon Germany by the Versailles Treaty, and subsequent reparative
agreements, and of the currency inflation which had followed - whether of set purpose or
not - the entire savings of the people had vanished overnight. It was pointed out to me
that the employees at Krupps’ establishment had, over a long period, built up a
large benevolent fund for the support of aged workers, and those injured in the course
of their employment. This fund, too, had vanished overnight as the result of inflation,
and those who had depended upon it were left without means of support. I saw very few
young people. They were scattered far and wide over the countryside looking for work.
When I saw the hardships which the people were suffering due to the economic conditions
which had been imposed upon them, and remembered that the country had been refused
admittance to the League of Nations, it crossed my mind that the average citizen of
Germany, and particularly members of the rising generation, must feel a deep resentment
against those whom they regarded as responsible for their sufferings. As time went on
they would inevitably condemn the existing regime in their country for not trying to
free them from such conditions, and any one who rose up among them with a promise of
better things, no matter whence he came, would be likely to win their support. That is
why I am convinced that the conditions for which the Versailles Treaty was largely
responsible contributed to the rise of the present leadership in Germany which now
menaces the world. On looking back over the last few years it seems a sorry state of
affairs. It is worth mentioning now so that we may see things as they are to-day in
their proper perspective. When a war between two great nations is over, it is difficult
to say who was the successful party to it. Somehow, I feel that no one can really claim
to be successful ; every one seems to suffer almost equally. We must remember that the
German people, like ourselves, have traditions and ideals, and that they love their
homes and their country. We cannot crush a whole people like this out of existence, and
therefore, the Prime Minister’s reference to the German people as such is worthy of
particular notice. We must be tolerant in our approach to these problems if we are to
avoid creating a worse evil than that which we set ourselves out to destroy in the first
place. Therefore, it is not inappropriate at this time to consider the Versailles Treaty
and its effects. The Attorney-General (Mr. Hughes)
could no doubt recall some very interesting incidents in connexion with the final
parcelling out of Europe after the last war, perhaps even in regard to the Polish
Corridor, and the drawing of boundary lines between countries which cut off large
numbers of people from their former associations. It appears to me to be an
extraordinary thing to separate a large group of the people of a particular nationality
from the country with which they were for long closely associated. It has been said here
to-day that the problem of the Polish Corridor was a source of constant irritation to
the countries concerned. Most of the Powers have felt that, at some time or another, an
adjustment would have to be made, and no doubt the British Government was hoping that a
peaceful solution of the problem could eventually be reached. The unfortunate condition
of suffering and anxiety that has arisen from the last war is still fresh in our
memories. As the right honorable member for Yarra
I believe, however, that the only basis upon which a peaceful solution of these difficulties can rest and. one likely to bring about real peace in the world is the betterment of these deep-rooted economic conditions, upon which the safety and security of mankind depend. Whether we are Germans, Britons. Italians or nationals of any other country, the one thing paramount in our minds is to provide for ourselves and those who depend upon us. In the minds of all people, irrespective of colour or race, that is instinctively their purpose in life; it is the real Christian and civilized spirit which is the guiding force in all our. deliberations. If we find in one country oppression based on low standards of living, economic insecurity which makes people doubt where the next meal is to come from, and no provision for old age and so on, the struggle to survive must present grave peril to the nation. I think that it is those internal conditions in Germany which brought about the rise of Hitler to power. So great were the difficulties confronting the German people that the people were willing to listen to anybody who claimed that he could free them from those difficulties and provide some form of security. In 1926, 1 did not think that the German people would ever lend themselves to the establishment of a dictatorship. I thought that their outlook was more determined and fixed in their existing form of government, that they were not fickle in these matters, and that, they would be very slow to change the methods that had existed so long. I am, therefore, firmly convinced that economic conditions in Germany have forced the people of that country to the change which has since taken place. These unfortunate conditions applied not only to the masses but also to the middle classes, people who had accumulated savings and parents who over the years had made provision for their children to secure a better standard of living and a better start in life- than, they themselves enjoyed. The middle classes had lost everything due to the collapse of the currency. That alone would be sufficient to give rise to a feeling that anything was better than their existing conditions. Therefore, they apparently proclaimed that they would follow anybody who could wreak vengeance on those whom they believed had been responsible for the unfortunate conditions under which they were living, and thus followed, may I repeat, the rise of Hitler to power.
– Who brought them upon the German people ?
– I would have to go right back in history prior to the last war to answer that question. It is argued on our side that they must be attributed to the Kaiser, of whom so much was said during that war, and who, it was said, should be hanged, but still lives on; but I do not think any honorable member will deny that they were brought about by the struggle for trade, the struggle to control markets which other countries occupied, the clash between vested interests in the different countries and to one set of capitalist interests striving to outdo another in order that, markets might be established or raw materials might be more easily procured. I believe that one of the finest speeches ever delivered by a British statesman was delivered by Sir John Simon before the League of Nations Assembly a couple of years ago during a discussion on the Italo-Abyssinian dispute. He said that the supply of raw materials was the burning question in which most countries in the world were interested and that it was desirable that the League of Nations should evolve some formula whereby all countries would have access to the raw materials they needed for their normal internal development.
– The League of Nations passed resolutions on that subject.
– Sir John Simon went on to say that if such a policy could be evolved it would go a. long way towards preventing the cornering of raw materials by one country to the disadvantage of others. That was a remarkable contribution by a British statesman to a subject upon which many had given much thought but may not have had the courage to express their views lest other nations might be led to say that the British Empire had access to certain raw materials denied to other nations and that the other nations should be placed on an equal footing with Great Britain. I think that point is worthy of mention. In the struggle which has developed, all these elements have been involved.
In considering this matter, I have been influenced by the conditions which I saw in Germany subsequent to the war and by developments which have since taken place. Also we should not fail to keep before our minds the conditions that have prevailed in our own countries since the war. I believe that we in this Parliament cannot divorce ourselves entirely from accepting our responsibility for the economic conditions which exist in the world to-day. We talk about our democracy and the struggle we have had to maintain it. I put it to honorable members that this country, and others which claim to be democratic, have not by any means all the elements of democracy that they should have in order that their people may live, develop and prosper as they ought to do. Conditions in Australia in recent years, and in Great Britain too, have been such that many have suffered great privation through long periods of unemployment. If the financial systems of the democracies are such as to bring about unemployment, the question must surely arise in all democratic countries as to whether the form of government, they now support, the democracy of which they speak so much, is really a democracy, and whether some radical changes should not be made in order to prevent the continuance of this state of affairs. I am reminded very forcibly of the position even in New Zealand in this connexion. When the New Zealand Government recently went on the London market to raise money to meet loans falling due in Great Britain, contracted not by the present Government but by its predecessors, it was told by the London financiers that if it did not modify its social security programme it would not get the funds it needed, and, in effect, that funds required to provide adequate defence for the Dominion would not be forthcoming. That was a very serious matter and makes one wonder if, while such conditions prevail, we have a democracy. If the financiers of London are to say whether or not the people’s will in New Zealand is to prevail, there is no freedom.
I wish honorable members to keep in mind the point that I have been attempting to make throughout my observations, that the whole problem of peace depends upon the maintenance of economic security for the people of all countries. I have said often that the real test of the question of the peace of the world must be settled in the homes of the people. In our civilization it works right back to that starting point. The home is the cornerstone of the nation. All that the people ask is that they have the right to live decently and to make provision for those who depend upon them. If we can establish peace and security in the homes of the people I am sure that upon that foundation will rest the peace and security of the world. Failure to provide peace and security in the homes of the people must give rise to dissatisfaction, which in turn seeks to overthrow the form of government that brings it about. This has happened in Germany, and will happen elsewhere. Peace in the home is the whole basic structure of peace in the world. It has been said that Hitler’s rise was due to the efforts of the younger generation who felt that nothing was before them and that they had, as it were, no place to rest their heads. It is claimed that these young people gave to Hitler the incentive to go on. As the rise of Nazi-ism could start in Germany in that way, it could start elsewhere.
Therefore, to that extent the peace of the world finally rests on the forms of government in various countries and the kinds of men who happen to control those governments. In these circumstances we have a man at the head of the German people determined to take the course of war who so far has had the backing of sufficient numbers to put his programme into operation.
I put it to honorable members that circumstances following the last war have left conditions in our own country of which none of us can be proud. Debts have been piling up; interest payments have had to be met; and increased taxation has had to be imposed. In the process of imposing this additional taxation industrial development has been curtailed, living standards have been reduced, the cost of living has been increased, and more scientific methods have had to be introduced to meet the problem. With the introduction of more scientific methods in industry less labour is engaged, and so this internal struggle is going on, resulting in great misery and suffering among our people. The debates in this Parliament since the war, and particularly during the last nine or ten years, have drawn attention to this unsatisfactory state of affairs. Therefore, if that which we were forced to face in the past must again be encountered, it is difficult to say what the position of the democracies will be when the present conflict terminates. When we ask the Government to provide money to help those in industrial difticulties we are told that it is impossible to obtain it. Regardless of the urgency of certain public works and the pressing needs of suffering humanity, we are told that funds are not available, but when war occurs there is no limit to the financial resources of the nation. Although I have expressed briefly these thoughts which have been expressed before, it is fitting that they should again be brought under the notice of those vitally concerned. I do not absolve myself from a small share of the responsibility which must fall upon me in these matters. It is a responsibility which we all must face. We are all anxious that many of the traditions we have built up in this country under our form of government - many of which we hold near and dear to us - will be retained. I would be loth to see the freedom which we exercise in the matters of religious liberties, speech and association, and many other rights we possess to be impaired in any way. We cannot allow circumstances such as have been experienced during the last nine or ten years to continue indefinitely.
Finally, we are in this struggle, and being in it we must endeavour to bring it to a successful conclusion. The Leader of the Opposition has stated clearly the policy of the Labour party, and he has said all that we feel is necessary. We are anxious to defend those privileges which I need not elaborate, but which are clearly in our minds. We know that the, man who commenced this struggle has now thrown practically everything aside with one objective in view. We have seen him change his opinions almost overnight, entering into a pact with a nation that he has scorned and repudiated, and, strange as it may seem, it was the policy of that nation which enabled him to rise to power in his own country. He is as changeable as the wind. What we have seen is simply a foretaste of what we may see later. We shall assist in the defence of this country and endeavour to marshal all its resources. Our manpower will be required for the defence of our own country, but we shall make foodstuffs and other requirements available when needed, and steadfastly stand by the policy of the Labour party which has been in operation for many years and played such an important part in the defence of this country. We are all anxious that the struggle will be of very short duration. I hope that the German people may be assisted to remove that form of government which now exercises so much power, authority and influence over them, and that in the final settlement the suffering of humanity will be reduced to a minimum and economic security will be provided for the peoples of all countries of the world.
– I should not have intervened in this debate but for the ministerial office which I hold. Extraordinary unanimity has characterized the very notable series of speeches initiated by the right honorable the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) this afternoon. Nothing could be more satisfactory - if anything associated with this tragic hour can be satisfactory - than to find that honorable members on both sides of the House agree that our entry into the war was completely unavoidable and completely justified. I propose to deal with only one or two aspects of the subject, and to endeavour to show that the people of the British Empire are fighting, not only for a great abstract principle - for the use of negotiation as against force in the settlement of international disputes - but” also for their lives and the lands which they occupy. Before entering upon that phase of the question, I wish to refer to a few points that have been made by previous speakers, and particularly to one remark made by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin). My colleagues and I were surprised to hear the honorable gentleman say that the Government had indicated - I think in some statement made last night - that during this war, no expeditionary force would be sent overseas. I know of no such statement having been made by any member of the Government,, or of any indication that such a statement would be made. The Government has not yet seriously discussed the question of an overseas expeditionary force. As we see the position, our first duty to ourselves and to the Empire is to ensure, so far as lies within our power, the safety of Australia. When Australia is considered to be adequately protected we shall be in a better position than we are at present to assess the strength of our enemy, and the nature of the conflict before us. As the position becomes more clearly denned the Government will, guided by circumstances, evolve and announce its proposals with respect to Australia’s further participation in the war. Further than that, it is not the intention of the Government to express any opinion with respect to the future. We are dealing first with the safety of Australia. We shall then observe how the war develops, evolve our programme and submit it to the people of the Commonwealth.
– I said that that question which would be a major controversial one as between the Government and the Opposition does not arise now.
– I am sorry i hat the Leader of the Opposition was misunderstood, not only by me but also by my colleagues. I am glad to have the honorable gentleman’s correction. We understood him to say that it is not the policy of the Government to send troops overseas.
– The announcement last night justified me in saying that the Government did not contemplate organizing an expeditionary force.
– I shall leave it at that.
– As it is not an issue, 1 did not desire to make it one.
– I am sorry if the Leader of the Opposition created a wrong impression.
A number of honorable members have referred to profiteering. Honorable members on this side of the House are as strongly opposed to profiteering as are honorable members opposite. We have been asked by interjection why we do not deal with profiteers, but I would remind honorable members that this conflict has been in progress only two or three days, and already the steps which will be necessary to control profiteering within Australia during the period of the war are being considered.
The honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) spoke of the treatment of Germans in this country during the Great War, and of the treatment they arc likely to receive during the present conflict. If during the progress of the war German nationals in Australia, Germans who are Australians by birth or by naturalization, carry on as normally good citizens, I am confident that they will not be interfered with in any way by this Government, and I doubt very much whether they will be interfered with by Australian citizens. But if they engage in any kind of activities or propaganda detrimental to the safety and interests of Australia, they must take the consequences.
The honorable member for West Sydney
– The committee passed very stringent resolutions in regard to the matter.
– That may be so, but Germany did not even make its voice heard before that committee.
I should like to emphasize not only to the members of this House, but also to the whole of the people of Australia, that in this war we are fighting for our own homes and lives, and, indeed, for the preservation of our own nationhood. In a speech which I delivered in this chamber some months ago, I ventured the opinion that if Germany were allowed by force to transgress eastwards into or through Poland into the Ukraine and also further, into south-eastern Europe, there would sooner or later come a time when, with greatly increased strength, it inevitably would turn westward to the imminent danger of France, Holland, Denmark and the whole of the western seaboard of middle Europe.
I should like to explore further my earlier remarks on this phase of the probable international developments. In 1934 Germany had a population of 66,000,000 and was regarded as one of the greatest industrial countries of the world. Since then it has acquired, by brute force, Austria with its 6,000,000 people and Czechoslovakia with a population of 13,000,000, bringing the total population of what is now regarded as Greater Germany from 66,000,000 less than two years ago to upwards of 85,000,000. If Germany had succeeded in its campaign against Poland - but for the intervention of Great Britain and France it must have succeeded at a very early date - and if Poland had remained in permanent possession of that country, Germany’s population would have increased by a further 32,000,000 to a total of 118,000,000. Without the intervention of Great Britain and France in the present conflict, Poland would certainly have been overrun just as Czechoslovakia and Austria were overrun, and then nothing could have saved Roumania, Hungary, Yugoslavia and Bulgaria. Indeed, the whole of south-eastern Europe would have come under German domination. The addition of 9,000,000 people from Hungary, 19,000,000 from Ronmania, 6,000,000 from Bulgaria and 15,000,000 from Yugoslavia would, following the success of the Polish campaign had Great Britain and France not intervened, have increased the population of Greater Germany to about 170,000,000. So much for potential man-power.
I am not for a moment suggesting that all of these people, many of them completely foreign or even of alien race to the Germans, would have made cheerful and willing soldiers in the German Army. I point out, however, that man-power does not consist solely of men of fighting age. There are among that number many men who, although not of fighting age, would, in the Greater Germany which I have envisaged, have been valuable employees in some of the great services of war. But apart from man-power, either for the fighting forces or for employment behind the lines in the thousand and one works indispensable to a great army, there is the great industrial might of the territory which Germany has already acquired and other lands which, no doubt, would have been absorbed following a successful Polish campaign. For example there is the great Skoda armament factory in Czechoslovakia, one of the first arsenals in the world and to-day one of the greatest armament-producing centres. The Germans incorporated these great works and many other important war industries as a gift without the loss of a single life.
Should the German campaign in Poland succeed - and 1 repeat that but for the intervention of Britain and France it would undoubtedly have succeeded - the Greater Reich would absorb a further 32,000,000 of man-power for various uses as well as great industrial reinforcements to that already vast industrial might. It would then be not difficult to continue the expansion eastward to the oil-fields and great granaries of Roumania, and on to the south-eastern countries of Europe.
I am not now conjuring up something fanciful; I am speaking of something which must have become a reality unless we, the British Empire with our grand French allies, had engaged by one means or another, however great the cost, to halt this march of armed forces across the face of Europe. What would have been the. next phase in this great campaign of Hitlerism? I myself have no doubt on the point. The particular objective of Germany under Hitler is, as was the objective of Germany under the Kaiser in 1914, the British Empire. One day, sooner or later, with greatly increased mobilized forces, Germany would have turned westward. And it would have turned westward with a force which, splendid as is the fighting strength of France, and mighty as is the fighting defensive capacity and the industrial and financial power of Great Britain, must have imperilled the security of both countries.
I can see no alternative to the outcome of Nazi aggressiveness but to fight it to-day, and fight to a finish. It requires very little imagination to realize that if Great Britain were to fall into danger the position of Australia must become perilous. We have grown to nationhood by the grace of the British Navy. The safety of this country - and this will remain true for many years to come as Asia develops - depends on Great Britain. Australia is not to-day able to defend itself and will not be in a position to do so until it has a population of something like 20,000,000 or more.
The honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) spoke very wisely to-day when he said that the day of the little nations had passed. Unhappily it is true that the little nations are no longer safe. Australia would not, and could not, be safe alone in this world. Were Hitler to succeed in Europe, the future of this country would be very dark indeed. I approach this subject particularly from this aspect because I think it is highly desirable that the people of Australia should not fall into the error of believing that we are on the outskirts of the conflict and that the war will affect only the peoples of Europe. I should like the
Australian people to believe that this war is one which concerns us as vitally as it concerns the people of Great Britain. I should like them to face the truth, and the truth of the present situation is that should Britain and France fail in this war and go down, we shall go down with them. In other words, our commitment in regard to this war is a very far reaching and grave one.
I should like to believe that we could play our part in this conflict merely by mobilizing a certain army strength adequate to make Australia safe against aggression, and by entering into an agreement, as we hope to do, to sell our surplus primary production to Great Britain, not oven at current prices, but as the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) suggests, at rising prices. I should like to think that that is all this country will have to do in this war. In my opinion we shall be a thousand times fortunate if wc come through this conflict with no more sacrifices than are indicated in that suggestion.
.- I strongly support what has been said by honorable members on this side of the House, and particularly am I in accord with the remarks of the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini). Recently I have been living at a rather expensive hotel, and I have discussed with a great number of people the question of Australia’s part in this war. In my conversations I have asked these people whether or not they considered that a man’s life was worth £1 a day. Without a single exception these people - liberals, conservatives, and radicals - have said that they thought that it was worth more than that. If we want volunteers, let us pay them at least £1 a day which, in my opinion, is no more than a fair return for the risks which they would be called upon to take. I, and many other honorable members on this side, have frequently had brought under our notice distressing cases of returned soldiers who have been unable to receive compensation for disabilities on the ground that they were not due to war service. What an absurdity! These mcn were examined by the highest qualified medical men in Melbourne. They were in no way to blame if they were passed as fit. They willingly offered their lives for their country, and they should not now be penalized when their health has been shattered owing to war service. We are not justified in saying to them that their complaints have not been due to waT. I challenge any medical man to say definitely that a man could not be affected by such a terrible ordeal as the last war. Mr. Page, one of the greatest surgeons employed by the Great Western Railway in Great Britain, once said, “If you find symptoms for which you cannot account, go into your patient’s history and ask him if he has ever been in a railway accident. If he has, you can put his complaint down to the effects of that accident whether it happened 20 or 30 years before.” With how much greater justification, therefore, can we not conclude that a man’s health would be seriously injured over the years as the result of war service? Any man who is accepted for active service should be accepted as healthy, and the Government should always be prepared to do its duty by him should his health deteriorate in later years. That is the law in the United States of America, in which respect that country offers an excellent example to the whole of the world.
I claim a fairly extensive knowledge of the German people who reside in Melbourne. For close on 30 years I was a member of the Deutstcher Turn- Verein in that city. I sympathize greatly with the German people. When he was Minister for Defence Sir George Pearce very cowardly, in my opinion, closed that society’s gymnasium and refused to allow those people to hold their Christmas treat in it. At that time the Christmas celebrations were the only thing which corresponded to a great joyous festival in Melbourne. It was the custom of this club, each Christmas, to erect a giant Christmas tree reaching almost to the roof of the gymnasium, and to laden the tree with presents from which every child received a gift. It was customary to donate the proceeds from these functions to the hospitals, but at this time, these people offered to devote all of the proceeds to the Red Cross. The members of this club included many sons of German fathers who had volunteered for active service in the Australian forces. What more could they do to help this country? However, the Government closed down that club which has never since been, re-opened because a later government took over the building at its own price. It seized this property and offered to pay £7,000, n paltry sum barely sufficient to meet the mortgage on the building. At that time, a representative of one of the strongest religious denominations in Australia was prepared to offer £10,000 for the building but the Government refused to allow the sale to take place. Eventually, the Government advanced £8,500 for the property. It robbed that club to which, I may say in passing, I owe in some measure my long life.
Tha heart of Germany was broken in the fast war by the entry of the United States of America into the conflict. Two million men were landed from the United States of America at the scene of battle with the loss of only 200: If Germany had been backed up by Russia, as I am afraid it will be on this occasion, it would have beaten us. Those young GermanAustralians who fought voluntarily for ns= in. the last war fought well for this country. I believe that to-day the German Government has every German in Australia earmarked. Consequently for any German who should now volunteer to fight in the service of this country and be taken prisoner, it would be a case, of the Lord help him. A true democracy exists among the German residents in Australia. To-day the Central Executive of the Social-Democratic party of Germany is carrying, on in Paris. Reports which I have received from that quarter reveal that the majority of Germans are very dissatisfied with the rule of Hitler. Just as the slave in ancient days was kept at work by the whip of cruelty, io to-day many Germans are being subjugated by the whip of pain and penalty. If it *he true, as was reported the other day, that placards, “ Down with Hitler “, were posted up in Berlin I admire the courage of the people who were responsible for such action. I hope that the report i* true, and, furthermore, that none responsible for it will be apprehended. Democracy will rise again in Germany. 1 believe that the majority of the German people are earnestly hoping for the re-birth of democracy in their country. The formation of an army composed of men who have been driven from Germany would be more than justified. In that way we could secure thousands of trained men at no expense whatever. All we should need to do would be to offer them a home. In this connexion I refer particularly to those of the great Jewish race, the race which gave us Christ, who to-day are suffering persecution. However, we do not consider it fit to offer them a home, although so many of our acres are unoccupied. Australia has always been looked upon with envy by land-hungry . nations. Despite this fact we have been foolish enough to take over control of a section of the Antarctic, an area one-third the size of Australia. That area to-day is certainly covered with ice and snow, but should minerals be found there it will prove a most valuable prize. Already it is the home of valuable whale fisheries. When I opposed1 in this chamber the proposal that Australia take over control of those regions, I was asked what I should do if I had my way in the matter, and I replied that I should ask the League of Nations to hold that territory for the benefit of the world. and thus give every country a chance in those regions. However, legally we acquired it, and thus gave another argument to the land-hungry nations against Australia. The- vast Northern Territory is practically unoccupied. Sir George Grey surveyed the north-west of Australia and spoke of it favorably. With so much of our country unoccupied, we should not hesitate to attract persecuted Jews to settle here. They have done marvellous work in cultivating large tracts in Palestine. Furthermore, such settlers would provide an army sufficient to prevent any invader from landing on our shores. These people would be only too willing to enter into a bond with Australia in return for such a home, as did the Spanish and Portuguese Jews when they sought refuge in England under Cromwell. Cromwell, however, imposed very strict conditions upon them. No race has suffered so much persecution as the Jews. They have fought for their rights, as every race has done. In Czarist Russia, no Jewish girl could study at the universities unless she received special permission, which was signified by the wearing of a yellow badge. That was only a trifle compared with the other indignities inflicted upon the Jews. To-day, under the- Soviet Government, Jews have formed the small republic of Biro-Bidjan, which has a population of 60,000, where they can observe their own laws and customs in peace. There, also, they have proved themselves to be excellent agriculturists.
In the present war, we must take every precaution to prevent exploitation on the
part of profiteers whom the honorable member for Werriwa
Does any man outside a lunatic asylum believe that the debts of poor old England will ever be paid? At the present time it is paying neither principal nor interest to the United States of America on the amount that it has borrowed from that country, yet it compels Australia to pay interest on the amount which the Commonwealth has borrowed. In reply to one question which I asked on the floor of this House, I was informed that in respect of every £100 of interest that Australia sent to the United States of America it was fined £69, as the result of the cursed system of exchange which operated between England and Australia and England and the United States of America at that particular time. That may be finance, but some people would describe it as robbery. Such a thing would not happen if I had the power to prevent it.
The whip of pain drove the slaves to do their work under the old regime. The whip of pain and punishment is at present keeping Germany under control. But Hitler will pass, his lieutenants will pass, and the German race will remain. I hope that the old Prussian spirit will be crushed, and that the real spirit of democracy will again be triumphant throughout the length and breadth of that wonderful country.
The idea has been expounded that we should purchase battleships which we cannot afford and which are. almost useless. One of the greatest admirals in the last war, Admiral “ Jackie “ Fisher, said that any sailorman who would attack a land fortress from a ship at sea was a fool. 1 believe e described such a person in even stronger terms. A wonderful Australian journalist, Mr. Samuel Rosa, has written a book on the defence of Australia, in which, among other great authorities, he quotes “ Jackie “ Fisher. A retired admiral once wrote me from Western Australia a long letter which I had inserted in Hansard because of the weighty matter that it contained.
On the 6th October, 1938, I asked certain questions upon notice with a view to ascertaining the cost of aeroplanes and submersibles, and I learned that the cost of one ironclad - upwards of £10,000,000 of our money - would then have provided us with a certain number of submersibles and aeroplanes. The questions that I asked were as follows (Hansard, vol. 157, page 516) : -
Answer. - (a) Costs vary from £230,000 to £500,000 (sterling) according to class and tonnage; (b) no figures are available.
Answer. - The approximate average costs (landed in Australia and in Australian currency) of representative types of modern aircraft in use in the Royal Air Force are - Primary trainer type, £2,000; fighter type, £9,000; bombers, from £9,000 to £40,000 per aircraft, according to type; flying boats, £60,000.
We can obtain those from America. The cost of one ironclad would ring Australia with aeroplanes round the whole of its coast line, and they would be far more effective than a battleship. I do not think that any admiral would care to approach the coast of Australia if he knew that there was a fleet of 500 of those aeroplanes able to meet him, or if there were submersibles to defend our shores against invasion. The same “ Jackie “ Fisher whom I have already mentioned - God rest him, he has passed along - stated that a land defended by submersibles was impregnable. I do not know that we want a better authority.
I should like to see the interest on loans limited to 6 per cent. Every honorable member of this House knows that during the last war the Commonwealth Bank did not charge more than 6 per cent., and so prevented the private banks from raising their rates of interest. In every country during war-time the banks pile up interest. That was prevented in the last war by the action of the Commonwealth Bank. That institution is not now so useful as a people’s bank as it was then, because unfortunately its policy has been changed and been made less democratic. But this Government could say that interest is obtainable at the Commonwealth Bank at a rate not higher than 6 per cent., and that would prevent its being raised, because no bank if it were to raise” its rates could compete against the Commonwealth Bank. Mortgagees also should be protected. Take, for example, a mortgage on a property valued by good valuers at, say, £3,000, on which £2,000 is advanced; and remember that the lender of the money can demand two or three valuations of the property. If, unfortunately, the present war should go against us and our credit should go down, the value of that property would decrease, and upon ultimate sale it might realize only £2,000. The lender could keep the whole of that sum. Even if it did not realize the full amount of the mortgage, he could follow the mortgagor up. Victoria, I believe, has prevented that. Why not allow that £2,000 to be reduced proportionately? If the property realized only £1,500, the lender would have to be satisfied with £1,000, whilst the owner would receive £500 to enable him to make a fresh start. Something should be done to ensure that there is fair play; the mortgagee or lender should suffer as well as the mortgagor, or borrower; the loss should not fall solely on the borrower.I urge the Government to bring in some measure to make provision along those lines.
I hope that I may live to see the end of this war, and that we shall be the victors. On this occasion, for goodness sake let it be made plain that we do not want to injure the people themselves! Let’ us follow the splendid example that was followed in South Africa, when the Boers were beaten to their knees and were hopeless and helpless, and we gave them back their freedom and their voting power. If we conquer this German nation, let us show them that they are still children of the same great human family, fashioned, so we are told, in God’s likeness.
Why do we make life a curse simply on account of the cursed interest? Had I the power, I would induce the Government to do away with all interest during the war. Let the Government incur any expense it likes, because it will never pay back what it borrows. It has been estimated that the gold raised in Australia since it was first discovered would be worth, at the present value of gold, over £1,200,000,000; yet, with the exception of a few paltry millions, it is all gone, and we now have a debt of £1,200,000,000. I know that I shall not live to see that debt repaid, and I doubt whether any other honorable member will, even if his life should extend beyond mine. I feel on my shoulders the shadow of this terrible thing that has happened, and I cannot help wondering why God in his kindness does not imbue men with more humanity towards one another. Even some churches have been foolish enough to advocate war. I can only pray that God will give them sense, and that at the end their wisdom will be greater than it is now. Any one who studies the question cannot help feeling that no humanity is being shown towards certain races in Europe to-day, including the Germans who, under the lash of pain and punishment, are held in control by that beast Hitler.
.- I had not intended to say much, but I have been moved to do so by some of the
observations that have been made during the course of this debate. I should first like
to add my support to that of others who have spoken, of the attitude of the
Government, and of the Prime Minister
Central Europe, the 90,000,000 people of Germany, are also marching shoulder to shoulder, in the belief that they have truth on their side, and ideals worth defending. Between the clash of these two ideologies it is apparent that we are confronted by a dreadful war of long duration, the outcome of which nobody can foresee.
As speakers on both sides of the House have declared it is our manifest duty to maintain the security of Australia, and thus assist in the general defence of the British Commonwealth of Nations, I submit that the defence of Australia involves something more than passing resolutions in Parliament or providing tho necessary funds for armaments and munitions. I believe that in the course of this war, with the constant variation of successes and failures on both sides, and the attitude of certain nations still undefined, Australians may be called upon to defend their own shores. We should not lose sight of that possibility, and we should leave nothing to chance. We should bc prepared for any eventuality and any sacrifice. It will be necessary for us to have sufficient man-power ready to repel any attack upon this country. I have heard various speakers in this Parliament say that, if Australia were attacked, they would be willing to assist in defending it ; but I contend that we should prepare to defend our hearths and homes before the necessity is upon us. We are confronted by a combination of nations that have been preparing for years to meet the present emergency. Mem, Kampf, which is the German bible of to-day, shows that Hitler realized that it was a mistake for Germans to imagine that the British had no fighting spirit. On page 131 of his book he said -
What an astounding error it was to believe that England would not have the courage to give its own flesh and blood for the purposes of its own economic expansion. The fact that England did not possess a national army proved nothing, for it is not the actual military structure of the moment that matters but rather the will and determination to use whatever military strength is available. England has always had the armament which she needed. She always fought with those weapons which were necessary for success. She sent mercenary troops to fight as long as mercenaries sufficed; but she never hesitated to draw heavily and deeply from the best blood of the whole nation when victory could be obtained only by such a sacrifice.
The will to win and the readiness for sacrifice are predominant qualities throughout the Empire, and iu Australia no less than in Great Britain itself. I have heard it suggested to-day that Australia should, take no military part in this war, that it could not afford to send men overseas, and that it would he against our interests to do so. The course of events may prove that statement to be true, but at this juncture it is too early to determine what our course of action should be. Although we may be kept busy in our own country, if we are in a position to render more service to Britain than Argentina and Mexico, which are equally willing to sell foodstuffs to Britain, we should be prepared to do more than those neutral countries. Many young Australian airmen would, no doubt, be ready to give effective help to the British Government, and that would not necessitate the despatch of huge numbers of troops overseas. No doubt the Government has already taken this matter into consideration.
For many years the leaders of thought in Germany have heaped contempt upon the parliamentary system of government. This is what Hitler thinks of parliamentary government :
Of course it could not be expected that a parliamentary majority of feckless and stupid people would be capable of deciding upon such a resolute policy for the absolute subordination of all other national interests to the one sole task of preparing for a conflict of arms which would result in establishing the security of the State.
I have no doubt that the people of Australia are determined to show that in this matter Hitler has missed the mark.
In view of the understanding arrived at between Russia and Germany, the following remarks by Hitler in Mein Kampf are prophetic in some respects :
Therefore, the fact of forming an alliance with Russia would be the signal for a new war, and the result of that would be the end of Germany. To these considerations the following must be added: - Those who are in power in Russia to-day have no idea of forming an honourable alliance, or remaining true to it if they did.
I trust that those words will prove as true as Hitler’s remarks concerning the fighting power and determination of Britain.
Certain statements have been made in this House regarding the Versailles
Treaty which tend to put the British Empire in the wrong. I think that Germany got a better deal than those countries which were ravaged during the last war. Hardly a home in Germany was destroyed, and scarcely a monument or building was interfered with, but in Prance, Belgium and Poland 1,500,000 homes were destroyed. Germany was said to hav« been harshly treated, although its reckless ambition cost the world about 6,000,000 human lives. The economic problems of Germany in 1930 or 1932 were not materially greater than those of Great Britain. There wore then 3,000,000 or 4,000,000 unemployed in Great Britain, and there wore 6,000,000 or. 8,000,000 in Germany; but Germany has enjoyed a fair share of the world’s trade during the last few years. It stood third on the list in 1936, following the United States of America, with internal and external trade valued at £674,000,000, compared with France’s total of £478,000,000. During the last three or four years Germany has boasted that there have been no unemployed in that country. It is true that certain reparations were exacted from Germany, but, when it was found to be unable to pay the sums demanded under the Dawes and Young plans, a moratorium was granted, and nothing has been paid by Germany since about 19.30. We have no occasion to apologize for the Versailles Treaty. The Allies concluded a peace on terms more generous than would, have been accorded to us if we had been in the same position as Germany. Therefore, if the will of this country i.= to be organized to the utmost, we must have a. profound conviction not only in the 2-ighteousness of our cause but also in our ability to see the war through. We have a very long struggle ahead. I ato convinced that there will be no profiteers at the end of this war, because every man who now has any substantial possessions will find that he will have to give almost the lot to the State for the prosecution of the war. To begin seriously considering at this stage what should be done with profiteers is, I think, a little premature. 1 have no doubt some individuals will try to take advantage of this situation. . That always happens in a time of war. But T am quite satisfied that the needs of our community awd of the- whole nation will be. such as to demand, before this conflict is ended, the surrender of practically all out wealth. Tha t is my conviction.
Wc are clashing with 90,000,000 people who are just as determined as the 90,000,000 people on our side. Any one who imagines tha t the people of Germany are disaffected against the present Nazi regime cannot have studied tha progress of events during the last two or three years. It is all very well’ to say that we are fighting one man. Actually we are fighting from 60,000,000 to 30,000,00*) people imbued with the Nazi spirit. Even in this country there are Germans who are Nazi to the backbone, yet they have accepted the protection of the British flag. It is ridiculous. to suggest that we are fighting only a few men such as Hitler, Goering and Goebel’s. Hitler has shown himself to be the arch demagogue of the agc and one of the greatest organizers of the century. He has been able to swing the German people behind him in a way that no other leader has been able to swing his people behind him.
I sincerely hope that we inlay not find our task too great for us, but short of a surrender by one side or the other I can. *ee- nothing except a long conflict ahead. T am- quite convinced that the democracies of Great Britain and Franco, and, of course, of this country, will make great sacrifices rather than surrender the institutions which they have enjoyed for so long. If the same determination exists on the other side a prolonged struggle is certain. Therefore we shall have to call upon every nerve centre, use every bit of organizing skill that we possess, and give every minute of our time in preparation for war and in actual war if we aTe to win through. it lias been suggested, and logically, that for the time being our policy should be “Business as usual”. If any other policy were adopted at the moment it would lead to the disorganization of business and a great deal of unemployment, and would confront the Government with grave problems. I remind honorable members, however, that the slogan in Great Britain at the commencement of the last war was “ Business as usual “. Unfortunately it had the effect of causing Great Britain to lose about twelve months in preparing for the war because people thought that the struggle would not last long. That was a very serious loss, and the British people greatly regretted, after a year or two, that they had adopted that slogan. Nevertheless, we must carry on our affairs in a normal way until wo can adjust ourselves to our changed conditions.
I sincerely trust that this Parliament will not be called together more often than is necessary. It must be recognized that if ministers are to prosecute their jobs as thoroughly as they should do they must give the great bulk of their time to administrative work. Like other honorable members, I appreciate the privilege of being able to express my views in this House but I am of the opinion that, when all is said and done, the serious work of waging this war will fall upon the shoulders of those entrusted with ministerial responsibility. Therefore, except for the occasions when it is imperative that Parliament should meet, ministers should be permitted to give as much of their time as possible to their administrative work. They should not he required to attend here merely to answer questions and listen to debates. Undoubtedly Parliament will have to assemble at reasonably frequent intervals. It is of the essence, of democracy that the representatives of the people shall be informed from time to time of what is going on, and shall be afforded an opportunity to express their views *, but to keep Parliament in practically continuous session, as has been suggested, would be detrimental to our efficiency in waging this war.
All sections of the people of this country will, I am certain, feel gratified that, now that the test has come, no member of this Parliament has voiced serious dissent from the course of action that has1 been taken. “ It must follow, therefore, that if Parliament is satisfied - and it has shown itself to he almost unanimously satisfied - with the justice of our cause, we should be ready to do our utmost to assist the Government to prosecute the war to a successful issue. The waging of a war depends on something more than pious resolutions. It depends upon the Government receiving full assistance in all matters of detail. It may be that at a later stage we shall need to discuss the Government’s actions in detail and there may be some difference of opinion; but I appeal to honorable members of the Opposition and, in fact, to all honorable members, not to hold fast to preconceived ideas which may need to be set aside when the position can be examined in the light of the circumstances of this emergency. The time has passed for the present, even though it may return later, for us to adhere too closely to party shibboleths and slogans.
I conclude by repeating words of Hitler in relation to Great Britain -
She never hesitated to draw heavily and deeply from the best blood of the whole nation when victory could be obtained only by such sacrifices. … No sacrifice can be too great when there is a question of securing the political freedom of a nation.
Hitler has shown that he intends to use brutal force in the conduct of the war. War can be waged only in one way, and that is a warlike way. There can be no apologies in war, and we must wage the war with all the determination that we possess.
.- I am in agreement with every member of the Opposition in expressing abhorrence of the attack on Poland which has been launched by the German troops. It is in consequence of that attack that Great Britain has declared war on Germany and that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) lias declared, on behalf of Australia, that a state of war exists. We have to face the facts. An obligation rests on every citizen of Australia to see that the shores of this country arc adequately defended. But I think I shall be correct in saying that, despite the jingoistic speech just delivered by the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony), the motives that actuate various members in opposing Hitler vary greatly. I shall not be led away by the speeches of honorable members on the Government benches. We have been told that the sole motive of this war against Hitler is to defend democratic institutions and the freedom and liberty of the people. As a matter of fact the more cunning and experienced members of the Government, in their very cleverly worded speeches, might have led us into forming that opinion. But now that we have heard the speeches of the Minister for External Affairs (Sir Henry Gullett) and the honorable member for Richmond, we can see that the motives of different honorable members should be examined more closely. The honorable member for Richmond cited numerous passages from a work by Herr Hitler, but I remind him that a great deal of the responsibility for the strength of Hitler to-day rests with British imperialists. After the last war a socialist government was set up in Germany, but it did not receive any help in its work of reconstruction from the British financiers. Nor when that government was overthrown and Herr Hitler came into power in Germany were any protests made by British imperialists, or by the alleged freedom-loving members of the Government of this country, against the attacks launched by Herr Hitler upon the free institutions of Germany and its trade union movement. There were not concerned one bit about these attacks. The honorable member for Richmond referred to the violation of the Treaty of Versailles. Did not Britain itself connive at the violation of that treaty when it entered into a naval agreement with Germany in conflict with the terms of the treaty, and when it assisted in the remilitarization of the Rhineland and the re-arming of Germany? According to the Minister for External Aff airs, so long as the Germans were prepared to move east, with the probability that they would eventually come into conflict with the Soviet Republic, there was no need to be concerned. The honorable gentleman said that what the Government was afraid of was that Germany, or Herr Hitler, would not be satisfied with that, but would follow conquest with conquest until such time as the integrity of the British Empire was in danger. The Minister indicated quite clearly that the object of this war was not solely to preserve the independence of Poland or to protect the free institutions of various countries.
I do not agree with the honorable member for Richmond that we are fighting 90,000,000 enemies in Germany. Many of the unfortunate people of Germany, who have had their civil liberties destroyed, have been dragooned into going to war because they have not the power to resist. According to the honorable member, we must regard every one of those Germans as enemies. Evidently that view is not generally shared by those in authority in Great Britain, because if we can believe the reports published in the press from day to day - and I must say here that we have need to examine such reports very closely indeed, in order to ascertain which are true and which are merely propaganda - the purpose behind the dropping of millions of pamphlets from British planes flying over Germany is to explain to the German populace the reason why we are at war, and thereby encourage them to resist the war plans of Hitler. Evidently Great Britain has more faith in the German people than the honorable member for Richmond has. I sincerely hope that Hitler will be defeated, but not for the reasons advanced by honorable members opposite. I regard Hitler as a man who has used his power to take away the freedom of hia own people and to endanger the freedom of peoples in other countries. The Prime Minister said that he would welcome suggestions from the Opposition. His Government, which has never been before the people, has not an absolute majority in this chamber. At each a. time as this we should have in control of the Commonwealth a government which the majority of the people trust, but that is not the case at present, as anti-Labour governments have an unsavoury record for attacks upon civil liberties in the times of peace, and the opportunities for such attacks are immeasurably greater in time of war. The honorable member for Richmond quoted at some length from Hitler’s Mein Kampf, but he did not make any references to attacks upon the workers of Germany. He may bc able to tell us whether there is any great difference between what has happened to the workers of Germany under Hitler, and what has taken place in connexion with certain sections of Australian workers.
– I shall be pleased to do so.
– I object to Hitler’s policy, and would resist it with all the power at my disposal, because, among other things, it is a policy for the regimentation of labour and the compelling of men to carry out the will of the State under threats of severe penalties. But what is the position of men on the Australian waterfront to-day? Is it not a fact that before they can earn a livelihood they must obtain a licence to work? And if they do not carry out the will of their masters, the Transport Workers Act will be invoked to starve them into submission. The Labour party will join with the Government in doing everything possible to defend this country, and to bring the present conflict to a successful conclusion ; but I know that the Government is not imbued with any feeling of goodwill towards the workers. A question that, no doubt, will arise in the near future will be one as to whether Australia should send an expeditionary force overseas. Australia, with its huge territory and sparse population, cannot afford to send men out of this country to take part in the conflict overseas. They will be required here to defend Australia. But the Minister for External Affairs and the honorable member for Richmond say that “ If circumstances require it, we are prepared to send men overseas “. They have not said yet that they will send them, but they are prepared to do -so.
– This afternoon the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) advocated that men be sent abroad.
– He said that Australia might send one division as a gesture to Great Britain. If we sent one division, before long there would be a cry for a second division. There would at least be calls for reinforcements in order to keep the original division at full strength. I am not prepared to support such a policy, for I believe that if we defend Australia, we shall do all that can reasonably be expected of us. The honorable member for Richmond also said that on this occasion no one bad described the present conflict as a trade war. The Minister for External Affairs said that the situation to-day was similar to that in 1914 when the then Kaiser was at the helm in Germany. I have a clear recollection of what the then AttorneyGeneral said about that conflict being a trade war, and I also remember the statement of Archbishop Mannix “ Stop profits, and you stop the war “. Evidently, there are many men in this Parliament, as well as in Britain, who want to defeat Hitler, not because of his policy, but because Germany is a strong rival of Britain in the commercial field.
The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) has placed before us certain proposals, one of which is that this Parliament should be kept continuously in session for the duration of the war. I have already said that the present Government has not the confidence of the majority of the people of Australia. We all know that, in times of war, governments are prone to seize powers on the plea that they are necessary for the defence of the country. Should this Parliament be closed, and government be carried on by regulation, there will be no opportunity to protect such a right as freedom of speech. Honorable members have been supplied with copies of regulations giving to, the Government powers which it says are necessary for the defence of Australia. Among those regulations is one which reads : -
If this Parliament were not in session, and the Government proposed to do something affecting the civil liberties of the people, there would be no opportunity for any member of either House to object, unless he was prepared to take the risk of acting contrary to the law. For that reason alone, there is need for this Parliament to be kept open. The honorable member for Richmond does not agree with that view, although he said that we must defend our democratic institutions against Hitlerism. Apparently, he is of the opinion that the best way to defend those institutions is to close them altogether !
– That is not what I said.
– Now let us deal with some of the other propositions put forward by the Leader
of the Opposition. He said that the Government must take action for the limitation
of profits. Government members say that they approve of that principle, but that is
as far as they go. We recently had before this chamber certain measures which
proposed, so it was stated by the Government spokesman, the necessary provision for
the defence of this country, and in the consideration of that legislation
unsuccessful endeavours were made to obtain from the Government some adequate
machinery for the limitation of profits. Members of the Opposition support the
absolute elimination of profits from the production of war equipment, but. we knew
that we could not get the Government to approve of that, and so we asked that it be prepared to enforce some reasonable
limitation of profits. But what happened? The Government has done absolutely nothing
in that direction. The Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, which was mentioned
by the honorable member for Werriwa
The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) stated that Great Britain would purchase, for use abroad, all of our wool surplus, and all of our surplus production from certain other primary industries. I want to know from the Prime Minister whether in any of the schemes that the Government is approving for the sale of primary products, plans have been incorporated for the protection of the consumer in this country. Those are amongst the things which it is necessary for Parliament to examine.
Possibly, the best contribution that the Prime Minister could make at this juncture would be to have a general election.
This Government has never faced an election, in order to learn the opinion of the electors. In my opinion the people would be prepared to return a Labour government, simply because they could trust Labour, whereas they cannot trust those who now occupy the treasury bench. Another matter of moment is the control of prices. Honorable members opposite are always ready when they want Labour support to pretend that they are willing to ensure that there shall be no exploitation or undue profit-making, but if we examine the past actions of the Government, wo see that it has no desire to prevent either. All that it desires is to close down Parliament as soon as possible, and then by means of regulations do anything that it believes necessary in the interest of those who support it. The Government hopes by such means to be able to stifle the voices of the Opposition.
No honorable member opposite has made any definite statement in regard to sending troops abroad. All that the Prime Minister said was that at the moment the Government was not prepared to raise an expeditionary force. At the moment! We want a more definite assurance in regard to this most import ant matter. I believe that I am expressing the opinion of the majority of the people when I say that they are prepared to make the maximum effort to defend t his country, but are opposed to any man being called upon to take up arms and leave this country for foreign battlefields.
– If that be so, they have degenerated very badly since 1914.
– I understand that the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin) has not made any contribution to this debate, but his
interjection shows that he can be listed among the jingoists. He is another
honorable gentleman who believes that the best way to serve Australia is to see that
every able-bodied man is sent out of Australia to risk his life on foreign fields. I
take the opposite view. I believe that we require our men to defend our own shores.
I say this to the honorable gentleman: many of the workers who took part in the last
conflict have been treated very shabbily, despite the promises that were made to
them. The sanatoriums are full of returned soldiers who cannot get justice from this
Government; they cannot get pensions. It is the same with our asylums. This
Government, through the agency of the Repatriation Department, avails itself of
every technicality to prevent these men from getting what was promised to them in
return for their services. I say to the honorable gentleman and to the workers of
Britain as well, that if we are to be asked to sacrifice the lives of our people in
defeating Hitlerism, the sacrifice must not be for the maintenance of the conditions
which exist at the moment, because they are very unsatisfactory. In spite of the
loss of 60,000 Australian men in the last war, the conditions in this country have
not improved for the citizens at large, but they haveimproved for a minute section
of the community which is supporting this Government. Because of that the Labour
movement should face the facts. We want Hitler defeated because he is a menace to
the workers throughout the world. I do not share the belief of the honorable member
for Bendigo that the present Prime Minister and the Prime Minister of Great Britain
want the defeat of Hitler only because of his attack on the free institutions of his
own country, and the fact that he might menace similar institutions in this country.
I join with the honorable member for West Sydney
– That is a deliberate lie.
– These are the facte of the situation. What I want honorable members of the Opposition to do is not to be too ready to say, “ We entirely trust the Prime Minister and the Government to deal with this situation “. I. am prepared to judge the Government on results. We should be alert in view of what has been occurring in the past, and we should examine very closely every one of the Government’s actions. We should demand that this Parliament be continuously in session so that there shall be no direct, attack on the civil liberties of the people. We should not say to the Prime Minister, “ We believe that you have handled the situation very ably “. After all, what has the Prime Minister done? He has only re-echoed the policy of the Chamberlain Government. He has only followed step by step what the British Government was doing.
– Is that wrong?
– I believe that if this is a free, democratic country the right place in which to make a decision binding the country is in our own Parliament.
– That has been done.
– It is not a matter of examining this particular decision. As 1 have said, I believe that it is necessary to oppose the spread of Hitlerism, but for reasons different from those held by honorable members opposite. I also believe, however, that whatever decisions are made involving this country in war should be the decisions of this Parliament, and not those of the parliament or government of any other country. We are the ones to make decisions which affect the lives of the Australian people.
I conclude by informing the Government that it can expect to receive the support of the Opposition when it puts forward proposals which we believe are necessary for the defence of the country, and we shall be the judges of whether or not they are necessary defence measures. That is why we want Parliament kept continuously in session. Moreover, the Government may expect the maximum opposition from the Labour party if, under the pretext of defending the country, it attempts to suppress the liberties of the people. In that event we shall oppose the Government by every means in our power, no matter what risks we may incur in this Parliament or outside it. That is my -final word to the Government. I am not prepared to give to the Government an open invitation. to do what it likes. We want to see the country defended ; we want to see the war brought to an early and successful conclusion, and we shall judge the Government on its deeds, rather than on its words.
.- I am sure that all sane and right-thinking people will deplore the calamity that has overtaken the world ; this outbreak of hostilities must bring untold distress to millions of people in various parts of the world. I desire to pay a tribute to the Australian people for the calmness which lias characterized their reception of the news of this tragic occurrence, and I hope that their minds will remain unaffected by hysteria throughout the progress of the war. I believe that there is a grim resolution on the part of every person in this country to do whatever is possible to bring the conflict to a successful issue, so that those factors which disturb the peace of the world may be for all time removed. I pay a tribute, also, to all those who have exerted themselves during recent months in the cause of peace, who have worked so assiduously to devise a method of solving by negotiation the problems involved in this quarrel. Britain’s contribution has been most commendable. The White Paper is a most convincing document. It is a grave misfortune that the world should be plunged into war in order to settle a dispute that might have been settled peacefully and with justice to all concerned. I hope that we shall not see a repetition of some of the things that occurred during the last war, when lawabiding Australian citizens, because of their racial connexions, were subjected to suspicion, injustice and ill-treatment of a kind quite contrary to the principles which we, as a democratic people, hold clear. I trust that all law-abiding citizens will be treated fairly and justly, no matter who their parents may have been. Only recently I visited those parts of the world which are now most, closely affected by the present war. I travelled through Poland, Germany, Russia, France, and several other European countries. In every country I visited I was received with the utmost courtesy, and was shown the greatest kindness, and it hurts me grievously now to think that many of the people whom I was privileged to meet at that time are to-day directly involved in this disastrous experience. It has been suggested that all those who are members of the great German nation are to be regarded as supporting the ideals of the Government which to-day rules that country. I do not believe that to be true. I had an opportunity to speak to many Germans, who deeply resented the tyrannical methods of their Government in its attempt to destroy the free institutions which those people loved as much as we love our own. They were powerless, however, in the face of ruthless coercion by the Nazi regime, to prevent what was going on. I am confident that, at this moment, there are in Germany millions of people who feel towards the present conflict very much as we do. Internal problems will surely arise because of the suppression of the masses in Germany. Although by reason of the actions of their governments these peoples find themselves in conflict with other nations, we should bo careful in considering these matters to keep in true perspective the relationship which we bear one towards another. 1 have had the privilege of traversing the territories now in dispute, aud I believe that long before now the differences that exist in relation to them should have been submitted to arbitration in order to determine the rights or wrongs of the claims made by the opposing parties. The segregation of a large section of territory belonging to the German nation into a “ corridor “ for another nation could have resulted only in irritation and strong provocation. Why did not those who formulated the Versailles Treaty seek to avoid creating a position which had in it all the disturbing elements that have led up to the present conflict? If those who were responsible for the drafting of the treaty had provided for Poland a corridor on the east side of East Prussia, I am sure that it would have avoided unnecessary irritation. I do not believe, however, that even the present circumstances provide justification for the German Government’s resort to force and the brutal methods it has employed in its diplomacy. Only by a clear indian,tion of a willingness to deliberate as equals in this situation could there have been a satisfactory conclusion of the differences. The peoples of central European countries have been living under conditions of fear because of hatreds and bitterness born of centuries of turmoil. As I passed from one country to another. I saw the evidence of this in the fact that, even in 1935, men were stationed at the frontiers in camouflaged trenches, manning machine guns and other war equipment directed against neighbouring territories. Thank goodness we have in this country no circumstances similar to those. If we could through the League of Nations do something towards the removal of the fear that has exercised the minds of European peoples, particularly during the last quarter of a century, we should ultimately make a very valuable contribution to the permanent peace of the world. I had the privilege of being able to sit in conference with some of the leading representatives of the British Commonwealth and to have the advantage of the advice which members of the British Cabinet gave to the conference. In 1935, and again in 1937, it was emphasized that if the Dominions contributed to the extent of seeing that their own peoples were fed and clothed and the territories under their control were amply protected, they would be regarded as having made a magnificent contribution as units of the British Commonwealth. That statement was made in 1935 by Mr. Anthony Eden, then Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. On the occasion of my last visit to the United Kingdom in 1937, Sir Samuel Hoare expressed substantially the same views. We were told as members of the Parliaments of our respective Dominions, to emphasize the need for the development of industries necessary to make our countries selfsupporting in time of emergency. It was stressed that it was most essential that the Dominions should shoulder the responsibility of safeguarding their own people. I believe that that is a sensible view, and that if we can attain the highest standard of efficiency in. those industries that provide the essential means to enable us to make this continent secure, we shall have made indeed a valuable contribution towards the part we are expected to play during the present conflict. There are attendant dangers in the Pacific that make the conservation of our manhood an absolute necessity. We all desire that the outcome of the great struggle will be the suppression of those powers which seek to subvert our democratic institutions and to interfere with the liberties of the people. We hope that this will be done as speedily as practicable, so that it will be possible for all mein De rs of the human race to live under conditions of greater social, economic aDd national security. I join with other honorable members who have said that we shall do all that is possible to assist in the successful prosecution of war and preserve the interests of our own people. No person should be allowed to profit at the expense of the nation and its people in this time of emergency. .1 have already been warned by certain bud.ness interests in South Australia that in an endeavour to make undue profits some persons are accumulating large stocks of materials that may be essential for civil and military purposes. Actions of that nature must be dealt with immediately, because we cannot allow some to profit at the expense of others. Moreover, those who have money should make it available to assist in the prosecution of war. Rates of interest paid should not be higher than the prevailing rate. The Common wealth Bank, under the guidance of the Parliament, should take full control of Australia’s financial requirements during the war to the end that effective defence may be ensured at a minimum cost. I support those honorable members who have said that it is remarkable how readily finance can be made available to prosecute a war, although, at the same time, we arc told that funds are not available to provide employment and a greater measure of social security to our people. In the future, there will be an insistent demand by those now unfortunately placed for a greater share in the wealth which they assist to produce. I recognize that our imperative obligation is to make this country secure against, invasion. We should respond .with those means at our. disposal and assist those who are seeking to overthrow powers which arc threatening the world and the existence of those demorr a tic institutions upon which civilization largely depends.
.- I was very pleased to hear the right honor.able the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) state to-day that Australia is standing right behind the British Government in the prosecution of the war now in progress. lt is a world-wide calamity, and a crime against civilization that such a war should be forced upon the world. We, as British people, cannot afford to lose in the struggle, not only for the sake of the British Empire, but also in the interests of civilization. The Government must first consider the safety of Australia. That is absolutely essential; but if the danger in the Orient which wo- believed until quite recently was real he removed, and we have a definite assurance from Japan that it will remain neutral or come in as an ally of Britain, Australia should send a volunteer expeditionary force to assist Great Britain and the other dominions in the fight for liberty.
– That nation might change its policy.
– That is possible. But if the Commonwealth Government received the necessary assurance that that nation is not likely to be allied with Germany, we should in the interests of a.14 classes in Britain and in France assist to carry the burden which they are carrying, and not expect them to sacrifice their lives in order, to ensure our safety. I was glad to hear the Prime Minister say that he had urged the British Prime Minister to make every effort- for peace and to be generous in his proposals to the German people, provided that we were generous at our own expense. I agree with the right honorable gentleman entirely, because I believe that last September we received temporary security at the expense of another nation of 9,000,000 persons who were committed to the worst form of slavery the world has ever known. That is something of which we as Britons cannot be proud. The Government has taken the only course open to it, and if Australia is not threatened from the East we cannot wait until Britain is defeated or until we are attacked before making some practical effort. Should we do so, we could expect the same treatment as the Poles are receiving, and have our cities and towns bombed and non-combatants murdered as they are being murdered in thousands to-day. It is preferable to fight on German territory rather than allow the
Germans to fight in Australia. I agree with the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) that war profits should be kept down to a reasonable margin, and that industries engaged in the production of materials of war should be controlled so that profits cannot be made at the expense of those who may have to serve in this great struggle. I believe that if we do not go to the assistance of Great Britain, we shall be betraying those gallant members of the Australian Imperial Force who laid down their lives in the Great War. I hope that the Government will adopt the policy which I have outlined, that it will stand firmly behind the British Government, and, if it is safe to do so, send an expeditionary force to aid Great Britain.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Gardner) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Hughes through Mr. Menzies) - by leave - agreed to -
That he have leave to bring in a Bill for an Act relating to Trading with the Enemy.
Bill brought up, and read & first time.
Motion (by Mr. Hughes) - by leave - agreed to -
That he have leave to bring in a Bill for an Act to amend the Judiciary Act 1903-1937.
Bill brought up, and read a first time.
Motion (by Mr. Menzies) - by leave - agreed to -
That he have leave to bring in a bill for an Act to make provision for the Safety and Defence of the Commonwealth and its Territories during the present state of War.
Bill brought up, and read a first time.
Assent to the following bills reported : -
Supply and Development Bill 1939.
Invalid and Old Age Pensions Appropriation Bill 1939.
National Health and Pensions Insurance Bill 1939.
States Grant (Youth Employment) Bill 1939.
National Registration Bill 1939.
Supply Bill (No. 1) 1939-1940.
Aliens Registration Bill 1939.
Defence Bill 1939.
– I have received from Mrs. Kill en a letter thanking the House for its resolution of sympathy.
– I have received letters from the family of the late Hon. A. G. Ogilvie and the Government of Tasmania thanking the House for its resolution of sympathy.
The following papers were presented : - -
Commonwealth Bank Act- Balance-sheets of Commonwealth Bank and Commonwealth Savings Bank and Statement of the Liabilities and Assets of the Note Issue Department, as at 30th June., 1939; together with Auditor-General’s Reports thereon.
Air Force Act - Regulations Amended - Statutory Rules 1939, No.64.
Apple and Pear Tax Assessment Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1939, No. 50.
Arbitration (Public Service) Act - Determinations by the Arbitrator, &c. - 1939-
No. 14 - Arms, Explosives and Munition Workers’ Federation of Australia.
No. 15 - Arms, Explosives and Munition Workers’ Federation of Australia.
No. 16 - Arms, Explosives and Munition Workers’ Federation of Australia.
No. 17 - Commonwealth Telephone Officers’ Association.
No. 18 - Amalgamated Postal Workers’ Union of Australia.
No. . 19 - Amalgamated Engineering Union ; Australasian Society of Engineers: and Boilermakers’ Society of Australia.
No. 20 - Professional Officers’ Association, Commonwealth Public Service.
No. 21 - Professional Officers’ Association, Commonwealth Public Service.
No. 22 - Australian Postal Electricians’ Union; Australian Third Division Telegraphists’ and Postal Clerks’ Union ; Commonwealth Telephone Officers’ Association ; Federated Public Service Assistants’ Association; Fourth Division Officers’ Association ofthe Department of Trade and Customs ; Fourth Division Postmasters, Postal Clerks and Telegraphists’ Union; Meat Inspectors’ Association, Commonwealth Public Service; and Professional Officers’ Association, Commonwealth Public Service.
Commonwealth Grants Commission Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1939, No. 56.
Commonwealth Public Service Act -
Appointments - Department -
Civil Aviation - F. B. Martin, J. A. McCormack, C. S. Wiggins.
Health - A. J. Gumley.
Interior - M. Fizelle,J. F. McCounell.
Postmaster-General - J. M. Santamaria.
Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1939, Nos. 52, 62,65.
Regulations (Parliamentary Officers) amended - Statutory Rules 1939, No. 59.
Defence Act -
Defence (Monetary Control) Regulations -Statutory Rules 1939, No. 77.
Defence (National Security) Regulations -Statutory Rules 1939, Nos. 73. 74, 75, 76.
Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1939, Nos. 51, 58, 82.
Defence Act and Naval Defence Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1939, Nos. 53, 70. 71.
Excise Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1939, No. 60.
Iron and Steel Products Bounty Act -
Return for year 1938-39.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired -
For Administrative purposes - Darwin, Northern Territory (2).
For Banking purposes - Ashfield, New South Wales.
For Defence purposes -
Bullsbrook, Western Australia.
Darwin (near), Northern Territory (2).
Forest Hill, New South Wales.
Newcastle, New South Wales.
Nowra, New South Wales.
Port Adelaide, South Australia.
Red Cliffs, Victoria.
For postal purposes -
Granville, New South Wales.
Riddell’s Creek, Victoria.
Ungarie, New South Wales.
Motor Industry Bounty Act - Return for year 1938-39.
National Registration Act - Regulations -
Statutory Rules 1939. No. 55.
Naval Defence Act - Regulations Amended -
Statutory Rules 1939, No. 72.
Norfolk Island Act- Ordinance of 1939-
No. 2 - Passion Fruit Industry Assistance Agreement.
Papua Act -
Infirm and Destitute Natives’ Account -
Statement of Transactions of Trustees for year 1938-39.
Ordinances of 1939-
No. 1- Supply 1939-1940.
No. 2 - Petroleum (Prospecting and Mining).
Papua and New Guinea Bounties Act - Return for year 1938-39.
Post and Telegraph Act - Regulations amended- Statutory Rules 1939, No. 57.
Post and Telegraph Act and Post and Telegraph Rates Act - Regulations amended -
Statutory Rules 1939, No. 66.
Quarantine Act - Regulation amended -
Statutory Rules 1939, No. 49.
Raw Cotton Bounty Act - Return for year 1938-39.
Seat of Government Acceptance Act and Seat of Government (Administration) Act -
Ordinance of 1939 - No.5 - Hospital Tax (No. 2).
Advisory Council Ordinance.
Sulphur Bounty Act - Return for year 1938-39.
Wine Export Bounty Act - Return for year 1938-39.
Wine Grapes Charges Act- Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1939, No. 54.
Text of Documents exchanged between the United Kingdom and German Governments from 22nd August, 1939, to the Outbreak of War, 3rd September, 1939.
The documents contained below have been selected to illustrate the main stages of the critical period in the GermanPolish dispute, culminating in the outbreak of war. They cover the period from Tuesday, 22nd August, 1939, to Sunday, 3rd September, 1939, and consist for the most part of official communications exchanged between the Governments of the United Kingdom and the German Reich. The texts have been linked for thesake of clearness by consecutive narrative.
The German-Polish dispute had been in the forefront of European politics since March of this year and for the same period it carried a direct British interest by reason of the guarantee given to Poland by the United Kingdom Government. This guarantee, binding the United Kingdom to support Poland in the event of a threat to her independence or integrity which she felt bound to resist, was announced on 31st March, at a time when there was reason to fear that the German Government was contemplating the use of force in pressing upon Poland demands regarding Danzig and. the Polish Corridor.
In a preliminary agreement concluded in London on 6th April the British guarantee was
reciprocated by corresponding assurances from the Polish Government towards Great Britain.
This arrangement was made formal in the Anglo-Polish Agreement of Mutual Assistance signed
in London on 25th August. In the interval, the British obligation had been affirmed on
several occasions by spokesmen of the United Kingdom Government in the clearest terms. It
was in recognition of this obligation and of the consequent direct British interest in
German-Polish relations that on 22nd August, when the signature was impending of the German
pact of non-aggression with Soviet Russia,
Letter of 22nd August, 1939, from Mr. Chamberlain
Your Excellency will have already heard of certain measures taken by His Majesty’s Government and announced in the press and on the wireless this evening. These steps have, in the opinion of His Majesty’s Government, been rendered necessary by the military movements which have been reported from Germany and by the fact that apparently the announcement of a German-Soviet Agreement is taken in some quarters in Berlin to indicate that intervention by Great Britain on behalf of Poland ia no longer a contingency that need be reckoned with. No greater mistake could be made. Whatever may prove to be the nature of the GermanSoviet Agreement, it cannot alter Great Britain’s obligation to Poland which His Majesty’s Government have stated in public repeatedly and plainly, and which they are determined to fulfil. It has been alleged that if His Majesty’s Government had made their position more clear in 1914 the great catastrophe would have been avoided. Whether or not there is any force in that allegation, His Majesty’s Government has resolved that on this occasion there shall be no such tragic misunderstanding. If the case should arise they are resolved and prepared to employ without delay all the forces at their command and it is impossible to foresee the end of hostilities once engaged. It would be a dangerous illusion to think that if war once started it will come to an early end even if a success on any one of the several fronts on which it will be engaged should have been secured. Having thus made our position perfectly clear, I wish to repeat to you my conviction that war between our two peoples would be the greatest calamity that could occur. I am certain that it is desired neither by our people nor by yours and I cannot see that there is anything in the questions arising between Germany and Poland which could not and should not be resolved without the use of force if only a situation of confidence could be restored to enable discussions to be carried on in an atmosphere different, from that which prevails to-day. We have been and at all times will be ready to assist in creating conditions in which such negotiations could take place and in which it might be possible concurrently to discuss the wider problems affecting the future of international relations including matters of interest to us and to you.
The difficulties in the way of any peaceful discussion in the present state* of tension are, however, obvious and the longer that tension is maintained the harder will it be for reason to prevail. These difficulties, however, might be mitigated if not removed provided that there could for an initial period he a truce on both sides and indeed on all sides to press polemics and to all incitement. If such a truce could be arranged then at the end of that period during which steps could be taken to examine and deal with complaints made by either side as to the treatment of minorities it is reasonable to hope that suitable conditions might have been established for direct negotiations between Germany and Poland upon the issues between them (with the aid of a neutral intermediary if both sides should think that that would be helpful). But I am bound to say that there would be slender hope of bringing such negotiations to successful issue unless it were understood beforehand that any settlement reached would, when concluded, be guaranteed by other Powers.
His Majesty’s Government would be ready if desired to make such contribution as they could to the effective operation of such guarantees. At this moment I confess I can see no other way to avoid a catastrophe that will involve Europe in war. In view of the grave consequences to humanity which may follow from the action of their Rulers, I trust that Your Excellency will weigh with the utmost deliberation the considerations which T have put before you.
On “Wednesday, 23rd August, Herr Hitler sent the following reply to Mr. Chamberlain asserting that Danzig and the Polish Corridor were definite interests of the German Reich which it was impossible for Germany to renounce : -
Letter’ of 23rd August, 1939, from Herr Hitler to
Your Excellency, the British Ambassador has just handed to me a communication in which Your Excellency draws attention in the name of the British Government to a number of points which in your estimation are of the greatest importance. I may be permitted to answer your letter as follows : -
On Friday, 25th August, Herr Hitler asked the British Ambassador at Berlin (Sir Nevile Henderson) to visit him and thereupon made to him the following verbal communication expressing a desire for a closer understanding between England and Germany and for a solution of the problems of Danzig and the Corridor:-
By way of introduction the Führer declared that the British Ambassador had given expression at the close of the last conversation to the hope that after all an understanding between Germany and England might yet be possible. He (the Führer) had therefore turned things over in his mind once more and desired to make a move as regards England which should be as decisive as the move as regards Russia which had led to the recent Agreement. Yesterday’s sitting in. the House of Commons and the speeches of Mr. Chamberlain and Lord Halifax had also moved the Führer to talk once more to the British Ambassador. The assertion that Germany affected to conquer the world was ridiculous. The British Empire embraced 40,000,000 square kilometres, Russia 19,000,000 square kilometres, America 9,500,000 square kilometres, whereas Germany embraced less than 60,000 square kilometres. It is quite clear who it is who desires to conquer the world. The Führer makes the following communication to the British Ambassador : -
Furthermore, commercial aircraft had been shot at. If the Polish Government stated that it was not responsible it showed that it was no longer capable of controlling its own people.
Italy are untouched - in other words, he does not demand that England gives up her obligations towards France, and similarly for his own part he cannot withdraw from his obligations towards Italy. He also desires to stress the irrevocable determination of Germany never again to enter into conflict with Russia. The Führer U ready to conclude agreements with England, which, as baa already been emphasized, would not only guarantee the existence of the British Empire in all circumstances as far as Germany is concerned, but also if necessary an assurance to the British Empire of German assistance regardless of where such assistance should be necessary. The Führer would then also be ready to accept a reasonable limitation of armaments which corresponds to the new political situation and which is economically tolerable. Finally, the Fiihrer renewed his assurances that he is not interested in western problems and that a frontier modification in the west does not enter into consideration. Western fortifications which have been constructed at a cost of milliards were the final Reich frontier on the west. If the British Government would consider these ideas a blessing for, Germany and also for the British Empire might result. If it rejects these ideas there will be war. In no case would Great Britain emerge stronger - the last war proved this. The Fiihrer repeats that he is a man of ad infinitum decisions by which he himself is bound and that this is his last offer. Immediately after the solution of the German-Polish question he would approach the British Government with an offer.
Herr Hitler told Sir Nevile Henderson that all he required for an agreement with Poland was a gesture from Great Britain indicating that Poland would not be unreasonable. Sir Nevile Henderson at once informed Herr Hitler that Great Britain would not go back on her word to Poland and that Herr Hitler’s offer would not be considered unless it meant a negotiated settlement of the Polish question.
On Saturday morning, 26th August, Sir Nevile Henderson flew to London to give a full account of his conversation with Herr Hitler to the United Kingdom Government. The British Cabinet considered the German proposals on Saturday, 26th August, and again on Sunday, 27th August. A formal reply to HenHitler was completed on Monday morning, 28th August. On the afternoon of the same day, Sir Nevile Henderson flew back to Berlin bearing the following British Note to the German Government reciprocating the latter’s expressed desire for an Anglo-German understanding, reaffirming the intention of the United Kingdom Government to honour its obligations to Poland, and suggesting that direct discussions should be entered upon by Germany and Poland with a view to securing a guaranteed settlement of German-Polish differences on a basis which would safeguard Poland’s essential interests : -
Communication of 28th August, 1939,
His Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom have received the message conveyed to them from the German Chancellor by His Majesty’s Ambassador in Berlin and have considered it with the care which it demands.
They note the Chancellor’s expression of his desire to make friendship the basis of relations between Germany and the British Empire and they fully share this desire. They believe, with him, that if a complete and lasting understanding between the two countries could be established it would bring untold blessings to both peoples.
The Chancellor’s message deals with two groups of questions - those which are matters now in dispute between Germany and Poland, and those affecting the ultimate relations of Germany and the United Kingdom. In connexion with these last, His Majesty’s Government observe that the German Chancellor has indicated certain proposals which, subject to one condition. he would be prepared to make to the British Government for an understanding. These proposals are, of course, stated in very general form and would require closer definition, but His Majesty’s Government are fully prepared to take them with some additions, as subjects for discussion and they would be ready, if differences between Germany and Poland are peacefully composed, to proceed so soon as practicable to such discussion with a sincere desire to reach agreement.
The condition which the German Chancellor lays down is that there must first be a settlement of differences between Germany and Poland. As to that, His Majesty’s Government entirely agree. Everything, however, turns upon the nature of the settlement and the method by which it is to be reached. On these points, the importance of which cannot be absent from the Chancellor’s mind, his message is silent, and His Majesty’s Government feel compelled to point out that an understanding Ul) 0 11 both these is essentia] to achieve further progress. The German Government will be aware that His Majesty’s Government have obligations to Poland by which they are bound and which they intend to honour. They could not, for any advantage offered to Great Britain, acquiesce in a settlement which put in jeopardy the independence of a State to whom they have given their guarantee.
In the opinion of His Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom a reasonable solution of the differences between Germany and Poland could and should be effected by agreement between the two countries on lines which would include the safeguarding of Poland’s essential interests, and they recall that in his speech of 28th April last the German Chancellor recognized the importance of these interests to Poland.
But, as was stated by the Prime Minister in his letter to the German Chancellor of 22nd August, His Majesty’s Government consider it essential for the success of the dis cussion which would precede the agreement that it should bc understood beforehand that any settlement arrived at would bo guaranteed by other Powers. His Majesty’s Government would be ready if desired to make their contribution to the effective operation of such a guarantee.
In the view of His Majesty’s Government it follows that the next step should be the initiation of direct discussions between the German and Polish Governments on a basis which would include the principles stated above, namely the safeguarding of Poland’s essential interests and the securing of a settlement by an international guarantee.
They have already received a definite assurance from the Polish Government that they are prepared tQ enter into discussions on this basis and, His Majesty’s Government hope that the German Government would, for their part, also be willing to agree to this course.
If, as His Majesty’s Government propose, such discussion led to agreement, the way would be open to negotiation of that wider and more complete understanding between Great Britain and Germany which both conn tries deserve.
His Majesty’s Government agree with the German Chancellor that one principal danger in the German-Polish situation arises from reports concerning the treatment of the minorities. The present state of tension with its concomitant frontier incidents, report of m al- treatment and inflammatory propaganda is a constant danger topeace. It is manifestly a matter of the utmost urgency that all incidents of the kind should be promptly and rigidly suppressed and that unverified reports should not be allowed to circulate, in order that time may be afforded, without provocation on either side; for a full examination of the possibilities of settlement. His Majesty’s Government are confident that both Governmentsconcerned are fully alive to theseconsiderations.
His Majesty’s Government have said’ enough to make their own attitude plain* in the particular matters at issue between Germany and Poland. They trust that the German Chancellor will not think that, because His Majesty’s Government are scrupulous concerning their obligations to Poland, they are not anxious to use all their influence to assist in the achievement of a solution which may commend itself both to Germany and to Poland.
That such a settlement should be achieved seems to His Majesty’s Government essential not only for reasons directly arising in regard to the settlement itself, but also for wider considerations of which the German Chancellor has spoken with such conviction.
It is unnecessary in the present reply to stress the advantage of a peaceful settlement over a decision to solve the question at issue by force of arms. The results of a decision to use force have been clearly set out in the Prime Minister’s letter to the Chancellor of 22nd August, and His Majesty’s Government do not doubt that they are as fully recognized by the Chancellor as by themselves.
On the other hand His Majesty’s Government note with interest the German Chancellor’s reference in the message now under consideration to a limitation of armaments, and believe that, if a peaceful settlement can be obtained, the assistance of the world could confidently be anticipated for practical measures to enable transition from preparation for war to normal activities of peaceful trade to be safely and smoothly effected.
A just settlement of these questions between Germany and Poland may open the way to world peace. Failure to reach it would ruin the hopes of better understanding between Germany and Great Britain, would bring the two countries into conflict, and might well plunge the whole world into war. Such an outcome would be a calamity without parallel in history.
The reply of the United Kingdom Government, was communicated to the French and Polish Governments before delivery to the German Government. The reply, however, was not made public because Herr Hitler had insisted that it should be kept secret until he had had an opportunity to consider it. The British Note was handed to Herr Hitler by the British Ambassador at 10.30 p.m. on 28th August. At 7.15 p.m. on Tuesday, 29 th August, Herr Hitler handed to the British Ambassador at Berlin the following written reply stating that the German Government demanded the return of Danzig and the Corridor to the Reich and the safeguarding of German minority rights in Poland, and accepting the British proposal that Germany and Poland should enter into direct discussions : -
Communication of 29th August, 1939.
The British Ambassador in Berlin has submitted the British Government’s suggestions, to which I felt bound to reply in order -
The German Government have noted with satisfaction from the reply of the British Government and from oral explanations given by the British Ambassador that the British Government for their part are also prepared to improve the relationship between Germany and England and to develop and extend it in the sense of the German” suggestion.
In this connexion the British Government are similarly convinced thru the removal of German-Polish tension. which has become unbearable, is the pre-requisite to the realization of this hope.
Since Autumn of the past year, and on the last occasion in March, 1939, there were submitted to the Polish Government proposals, both oral and written, which, having regard to the friendship then existing with Germany and Poland, offered the possibility of a solution of the questions in dispute acceptable to both parties. The British Government are aware that the Polish Government saw fit in March last finally to reject these proposals. At the same time they used this rejection as a pretext for an occasion for taking military measures which have since been continuously intensified. Already in the middle of last month Poland was in effect in a state of mobilization. This was accompanied by numerous encroachments in the Free City of Danzig due to the instigation of Polish authorities ; threatening demands in the nature of ultimata, varying only in degree, were addressed to that city. A closing of the frontier, at first in the form of a measure of customs policy, but extended later in a military sense affecting also traffic and communications, was also imposed with the object of bringing about the political exhaustion and economic destruction of the German community.
To this were added barbaric actions of maltreatment which cry to Heaven, and other kinds of persecution largely of the German national group in Poland which extended to the killing of many resident Germans or to their forcible removal under the most cruel conditions. This state of affairs is unbearable for a Great Power. It has now forced Germany after remaining a passive onlooker for many months in her turn to take necessary steps for the safeguarding of German interests. And indeed the German Government can but assure the British Government in the most solemn manner that a condition of affairs has now been reached which can no longer be accepted or observed with indifference.
The demands of the German Government are in conformity with the revision of the Versailles Treaty in regard to this territory, which has always been recognized as being necessary : viz., the return of Danzig and the Corridor to Germany, the safeguarding of the existence of the German national group in territories remaining to Poland.
The German Government note with satisfaction that the British Government further are in principle convinced that some solution must he found for the new situation which has arisen.
They further feel justified in assuming that the British Government too can have no doubt that it is a question now of conditions for the elimination of which there no longer remain days, still less weeks, but perhaps only hours. For in the disorganized state of affairs obtaining in Poland, the possibility of incidents intervening, which it might be impossible for Germany to tolerate, must at any moment be reckoned with. “Whilst the British Government may still believe that these grave differences can be resolved by way of direct negotiations, the German Government unfortunately can no longer share this view as a matter of course. For they have made attempts to embark on such peaceful negotiations, but, instead of receiving any support from the Polish Government, they were rebuffed by the sudden introduction of measures of a military character in favour of developments alluded to above.
The British Government attach importance to two considerations (1) that the existing danger of an imminent explosion should be eliminated as quickly as possible by direct negotiation, and that (2) the existence of the Polish State, in the form in which it would then continue to exist, should be adequately safeguarded in the economic and political sphere by means of international guarantees.
On this subject the German Government makes the following declaration : -
Though sceptical as to the prospects of a successful outcome, they are nevertheless prepared to accept the English proposal and to enter direct discussions. They do so, as already emphasized, solely as a result of the impression made upon them by Britain’s statement, received from the British Government, that they too desire a Pact of Friendship (Freundschaftsabkommen) in accordance with the general lines indicated to the British Ambassador.
The German Government desire in this way to give to the British Government and to the British Nation a proof of the sincerity of Germany’s intentions to enter into a lasting friendship with Great Britain. The Government of the Reich feel, however, bound to point out to the British Government that in the event of a territorial rearrangement in Poland they would no longer be able to bind themselves to give guarantees or to participate in guarantees without the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics being associated therewith.
For the rest, in making these proposals the German Government have never had any intention of touching Poland’s vital interests or of question- ing the existence of an independent Polish State. The German Government accordingly in these circumstances agree to accept the British Government’s offer of their good offices in securing the despatch to Berlin of a Polish emissary with full powers. They count on the arrival of the emissary onWednesday, the 30th August, 1939. The German Government will immediately draw up proposals for a solution acceptable to themselves and will if possible place these at the disposal of the British Government before the arrival of the Polish negotiator.
It will be noted that the German reply of 29th August, referred only in general terms
to proposals which were subsequently to be drawn up by the German Government. On receiving
this communication from Herr Hitler, the British Ambassador drew attention to the fact
that the German Note required the arrival in Berlin of a Polish plenipoten tiary on the
following day, namely, Wednesday, 30th August.
The British Ambassador transmitted the German reply of 29th August to the United Kingdom Government and on 30th August the British Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs sent the following interim telegram to Sir Nevile Henderson asking him to inform the German Government that its reply would be carefully considered, but that it would be unreasonable to expect the Polish representative to appear in Berlin by 30th August: -
Telegram of 30th August, 1939,
We shall give careful consideration to German Government reply but it is of course unreasonable to expect that we can produce a Polish Representative in Berlin to-day and German Government must not expect this. It might be well for you at once to let this be known in the proper quarters through appropriate channels. We hope you may receive our reply this afternoon.
On 30th August, the following telegram was sent (2.45 p.m.) by Mr. Chamberlain to the German Chancellor through the British Ambassador at Berlin stating that the German Note was being considered with all urgency, that Poland was being asked to avoid frontier incidents and asking that similar instructions should be issued on the German side: -
Message from Mr. Chamberlain
2.45 p.m. on 30th August, 1939.
We are considering the German Note with all urgency and shall send an official reply later in the afternoon. We are representing at Warsaw how vital it is to reinforce all instructions for avoiding frontier incidents and I would beg you to confirm similar instructions on the German side. I welcome the evidence in the exchanges of views which are taking place of the desire for Anglo-German understanding of which I spoke yesterday in Parliament.
On 30th August, the following further telegram (5.30 p.m.) was sent to the British Ambassador at Berlin by the British Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs instructing him to point out to the German Government the necessity for restraint and absence of provocation by Germany as well as Poland : -
Telegram sent at 5.30
In informing the German Government of the renewed representations which have been made in Warsaw, please make it clear that the Polish Government can only be expected to maintain an attitude of complete restraint if the German Government reciprocate on their side of the frontier and if no provocation is offered by members of the German minority in Poland. Reports are current that Germans have committed acts of sabotage which would justify the sternest measures.
On 30th August, the British Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs instructed the British Ambassador at Berlin by telegram (6.50 p.m.) to stress the unreasonableness of the German request concerning the arrival of a Polish plenipotentiary and suggesting the adoption of the normal diplomatic procedure: -
6.50 p.m. on30th August, 1939.
We understand that the German Government are insisting that a Polish representative with full powers must come to Berlin to receive the German proposals. We cannot advise the Polish Government to comply with this procedure, which is wholly unreasonable. Gould you not suggest to German Government that they adopt the normal procedure, when their proposals are ready, of inviting the Polish Ambassador to call and handing the proposals to him for transmission to Warsaw and inviting suggestions as to the conduct of negotiations. The German Government have been good enough to promise that they will communicate the proposals also to His Majesty’s Government. If the latter think they offer a reasonable basis, they can be counted on to do their best in Warsaw to facilitate negotiations.
On30th August, the following reply of the United Kingdom Government to Herr Hitler’s Note of 29th August was sent to the British Ambassador at Berlin stating that the Polish Government was at once being informed of the German Government’s Note and urging that both Poland and Germany should give assurances that during negotiations no aggressive military movements would take place : -
Communication of30th August, 1939.
His Majesty’s Government appreciate the friendly reference in the declaration contained in the reply to the German Government to the latter’s desire for an Anglo-German understanding and to their statement of the influence which this consideration has exercised upon their policy.
His Majesty’s Government repeat that they reciprocate the German Government’s desire for the improvement of relations, but it will be recognized that they could not sacrifice’ the interests of other friends in order to obtain that improvement. They fully understand that the German Government cannot sacrifice her interests, but the Polish Government are in the same position, and His Majesty’s Government believe that the vital- interests of the two countries are not incompatible.
His Majesty’s Government note that the German Government accept the British proposal and are prepared to enter into direct discussion with the Polish Government.
His Majesty’s Government understand that the German Government accept in principle the condition that any settlement should be made the subject of an international guarantee. The question of who shall participate in this guarantee will have to be discussed further, and His Majesty’s Government hope, to avoid loss of time, that the German Government will take immediate steps to obtain the assent of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, whose participation in the guarantee His Majesty’s Government have always assumed.
His Majesty’s Government also note that the German Government accept the position of the British Government as to Poland’s vital interests and independence.
His Majesty’s Government must make an express reservation in regard to the particular demands put forward by the German Government in an earlier passage in their reply. They understand that the German Government are drawing up proposals for a solution. No doubt they will be fully examined during the discussion. It can then be determined how far they are compatible with the essential conditions which His Majesty’s Govern ment have stated and which in principle the German Government have expressed their willingness to accept.
His Majesty’s Government are at once informing the Polish Government of the German Government’s reply. The method of contact and arrangements for discussions must obviously be agreed with all urgency between thi German and Polish Governments, but in His Majesty’s Government’s view it would be impracticable to establish contact so early as to-day.
His Majesty’s Government, fully recognizing the need for speed in the initiation of discussions, share th« apprehension of the Chancellor arising from the proximity of the two mobilized armies standing face to face. They would accordingly most strongly urge that both parties should give assurance* that during negotiations no aggressive military movements will take place. Hi» Majesty’s Government feel confident that they could obtain such an undertaking from the Polish Government if the German Government would give similar assurances.
Further His Majesty’s Government would suggest that a temporary modus vivendi might be arranged for Danzig which might prevent the occurrence of incidents tending to render GermanPolish relations more difficult.
The Polish Government was informed of the text of the United Kingdom Government’s .Note of 30th August and of the United Kingdom Government5* opinion that, while a meeting between German and Polish representatives in Berlin on ‘30th August was impossible, it was important that discussions should be opened without delay, providing $m agreement could be arrived at as to the method and general arrangements to be adopted. The British Ambassador at Berlin delivered the reply of the United Kingdom Government of 30th August to the German Foreign Minister at midnight on 30th August. Sir “Nevile Henderson informed Herr von Ribbentrop that the United Kingdom Government felt that restraint by Poland was only possible if Germany reciprocated and if the German minority in Poland did not provoke the Poles. The German Foreign Minister replied that provocation came entirely from the Polish side. When Sir Nevile Henderson suggested that the Polish Ambassador should be invited to call and be given the German proposals for transmission to his Government with a view to immediate negotiations, Herr von Ribbentrop read out the detailed German proposals and stated that it was too late to give them to the British Ambassador since the Polish representative had not reached Berlin by midnight. Herr von Ribbentrop refused violently to invite the Polish Ambassador to see him, but hinted that the matter would be different if the Polish Ambassador asked for an interview. The United Kingdom Government took immediate steps to suggest to the Polish Government that the latter should confirm to the German Government its acceptance of the principle of direct discussion.
When handing the reply of the Polish Government to the British Ambassador at Warsaw on the afternoon of 31st August, 1939, the Polish Foreign Minister stated that contact with the German Government would be established by the Polish Ambassador at Berlin. The reply itself contained a guarantee by the Polish Government that there would be no violation of the German frontier during negotiations, provided the German Government gave a similar guarantee.
On 31st August, 1939, the British Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs instructed the British Ambassador in Berlin by the following telegram (11 p.m.) to inform the German Government that the Polish Government were taking steps to establish contact with the German Government: -
Please inform the German Government that we understand that Polish Government are taking steps to establish contact with them through the Polish Ambassador in Berlin.
Please also ask them whether they agree to the necessity for securing an immediate provisional modus vivendi as regards Danzig (we have already put this point to the German Government) would they agree that M. Burckhardt might be employed for this purpose if it were possible to secure bi« services ?
The United Kingdom Government was informed by the British Ambassador in the following telegram that these instructions had been carried out: -
Written communication was made to the Ministry for Foreign Affairs early this morning in the sense of paragraph 2 of your telegram.
In the early evening of 31st August, the Polish Ambassador at Berlin had an interview with the German Minister for Foreign Affairs regarding the British suggestion that direct discussions between the German Government and the Polish Government should be initiated. During the interview no German proposals were communicated to the Polish Ambassador. The Polish Ambassador, was unable to report the result of his conversation with Hen- von Ribbentrop to his Government after the interview because he found that the German Government had terminated communication between Germany and Poland.
About two and a half hours after the Polish Ambassador had seen Herr von Ribbentrop on 31st August, the detailed German proposals for a settlement of Polish-German differences were broadcast from German wireless stations. Simultaneously the German State Secretary communicated to the British Ambassador at Berlin the following document setting out the detailed text of the German proposals winch had been read to Sir Nevile Henderson by Herr von Ribbentrop on 30th August, 1939, and containing declaration that, in view of the nonarrival in Berlin of a Polish negotiator possessing plenary powers, the German Government regarded its proposals as rejected : -
on the Evening of 31st August, 1939.
His Majesty’s Government informed the German Government in a Note dated 28th August, 1939, of their readiness to offer their mediation towards direct negotiations between Germany and Poland over the problems in dispute. In so doing they made it abundantly clear that they too were aware of the urgent need for progress in view of the continuous incidents and the general European tension. In a reply dated the 29th August the German Government, in spite of being sceptical as to the desire of the Polish Government to come to an understanding, declared themselves ready in the interests of peace to accept the British mediation and suggestions. After considering all the circumstances prevailing at the time, they considered it necessary in their note to point out that if the danger of a catastrophe was to be avoided, then action must be taken readily and without delay. In this sense they declared themselves ready to receive a personage appointed by the Polish Government up to the evening of the 30th August, with the proviso that the latter was m fact empowered, not only to discuss, but to conduct and conclude negotiations. Further, the German Government pointed out that they felt able to make the basic points regarding the offer of an understanding available to the British Government by the time the Polish negotiator arrived in Berlin.
Instead of a statement regarding the arrival of an authorized Polish personage-, The first answer the Government of the Reich received to their readiness for an understanding was the news of the Polish mobilization and only towards 12 o’clock on the night of the 30th August, 1939, did they receive a somewhat general assurance of British readiness to help towards the commencement of negotiations. Although the fact that the Polish negotiator expected by the Government of the Reich did not arrive removed the necessary condition for informing His Majesty’s Government of the views of the German Government as regards possible bases of negotiation, since His Majesty’s Government themselves had pleaded for direct negotiations between Germany and Poland, the German Minister for Foreign Affairs, Herr von Ribbentrop, gave the British Ambassador, on the occasion of the presentation of the last British note, precise information as to the text of the German proposals which would be regarded as a basis of negotiation in the event of the arrival of the Polish plenipotentiary.
The Government of the German Reich considered themselves entitled to claim that in these circumstances a Polish personage would immediately be nominated at any rate retroactively. For the Reich Government cannot be expected for their part continually, not only to emphasize their willingness to start negotiations, but actually to be ready to do so while being from the Polish side merely put off with empty subterfuges and meaningless declarations. It has once more been made clear as a result of a demarche, which has meanwhile been made by the Polish Ambassador, that the latter himself has no plenary powers either to enter into any discussion or even to negotiate.
The Führer and the German Government have thus waited two days in vain for the arrival of a Polish negotiator with plenary powers. In these circumstances the German Government regard their proposals as having, this time too, been to all intents and purposes rejected although they considered that these proposals, in the form in which they were made known to the British Government also were more than loyal, fair and practicable. The Reich Government consider it timely to inform the public of the bases for negotiation which were communicated to the British Ambassador by the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Herr von Ribbentrop. The situation existing between the German Reich and Poland is, at the moment, of such a kind that any further incident can lead to an explosion on the part of the military forces which have taken up their position on both sides.
Any peaceful solution must be framed in such a way as to ensure that the events which lie at the root of the situation cannot be repeated on the next occasion offered, and that thus not only the east of Europe but also other territories shall not be brought into such a state of tension. The causes of this development lie in -
The impossible delineation of frontiers as fixed by the Versailles dictate.
The impossible treatment of the minority in the ceded territories.
In making these proposals, the Reich Government are therefore actuated by the idea of finding a lasting solution which will remove the impossible situation created by frontier delineation which may assure to both parties their vitally important line of communication which may, as far as it is at all possible, remove the minority problem and, in so far as this is not possible, may give the minorities the assurance of a tolerable future by means of a reliable guarantee of their rights. The Reich Government contend that in so doing it is essential that the economic and physical damage done since 1918 should be exposed and repaired in its entirety. They of course regard this obligation as being binding for both parties.
These considerations lead to the following practical proposals -
The following shall be entitled to vote. All Germans who were either domiciled in this Territory on the above day (the 1st January, 1918) or born there up to that day. The Germans who have been driven from this Territory shall return to it in order to exercise their vote with a view to ensuring an objective plebiscite and also with a view to ensuring the extensive preparation necessary therefor. The above Territory shall as in the case of the Saar Territory be placed under the supervision of an International Commission to be formed immediately, on which shall be represented the four great Powers - Italy, the Soviet Union, France and England. This Commission shall exercise all the rights of sovereignty in this Territory. With this end in view the Territory shall be evacuated within a period of the utmost brevity still to be agreed upon by the Polish armed forces, the Polish Police and the Polish authorities.
Should the plebiscite be favorable to Germany, Poland is to obtain rights analogous to those accorded to Germany to a. similar extra-territorial communication by road and railway for the purpose of free and unrestricted communication with her port of Gdynia.
Both parties undertake not to call upon members of the minority for military service.
It will be noted that this communication from the German State Secretary of 3 1st August, 1939, contains an admission that the Polish Ambassador had already made a demarche which the German Government regarded as unsatisfactory because the Polish Ambassador had no Plenary powers to negotiate. At the time when the proposals were broadcast, no copy of the proposals had been communicated to the Polish Government, and no copy was in the possession of the British Government.
In the early morning of 1st September, 1939, Herr Hitler issued a proclamation to the German Army stating that Poland had refused a peaceful settlement and had appealed to arms. He had, therefore, decided to meet force with force. On the same morning, Herr Forster, leader of the Nazis in Danzig, published a proclamation to the effect that Danzig was now part of the German Reich. The German Reichstag met on the same day, and Herr Hitler asked the Reichstag Deputies to endorse Herr Forster’s action. The Reichstag thereupon unanimously passed a law recognizing the incorporation of Danzig in the Reich. Meanwhile, German troops crossed the Polish frontier at a number of points during the morning of 1st September, and commenced general military operations against Poland.
The British Cabinet met on 1st September, and decided to instruct the British Ambassador at Berlin to transmit at once to the German Government the following message: -
On instructions of His Majesty’s Principal Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs I have the honour to make the following communication: -
Early this morning the German Chancellor issued a proclamation to the German Army which indicated clearly he was about to attack Poland.
Information has reached Hil Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom and the French Government that German troops have crossed the Polish frontier and that attacks upon Polish towns are proceeding.
In these circumstances, it appears to the Governments of the United Kingdom and France that by their action the German Government has created conditions (viz., an aggressive act of force against Poland threatening the independence of Poland) which called for the implementation by the Governments of the United Kingdom and France of the undertaking to Poland to come to her assistance.
I am accordingly informing Your Excellency that unless the German Government are prepared to give His Majesty’s Government satisfactory assurances that the German Government have suspended all aggressive action against Poland and are prepared promptly to withdraw their forces from Polish territory His Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom will, without hesitation, fulfil their obligations to Poland.
The communication from the British Government was handed to Herr von Ribbentrop at 9.40 p.m. on 1st September, 1939, and an immediate reply was requested. Herr von Ribbentrop informed the British Ambassador that he would submit the British communication to Herr Hitler. As no reply to the British Note had been received, the United Kingdom Government instructed the British Ambassador on 3rd September, 1939, to see Herr von Ribbentrop at 9 a.m. (Berlin time) on Sunday, 3rd September, and to inform the German Foreign Minister that, unless the Chancellor’s reply was received by 11 a.m. on the same day, the United Kingdom Government would from that hour regard itself as at war with Germany. No reply from the German Government was received by the time specified. At 11.16 a.m. on 3rd September, 1939, therefore, an announcement was made by Mr. Chamberlain at Number 10 Downingstreet, London, that Great Britain waa at war with Germany.
House adjourned at 10.58 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 6 September 1939, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1939/19390906_reps_15_161/>.