16th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. W. M. Nairn) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– Is the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture in a position to make a statement relating to the conclusions reached by the committee which was commissioned by the Government recently to inquire into the dairying industry? Has the Government reached a decision upon the recommendations of the committee to increase the financial returns to dairy farmers in respect of commercial butter, to declare the industry a. protected undertaking, and, in order that production may be stimulated, that men now serving with Militia units should be restored to farms on which they were previously employed?
– The whole matter is under consideration. Definite action for the relief of the situation has been taken by a grant of £2,000,000 to the industry.
Distillery at Warracknabeal.
– I ask the Minister for Supply and Shipping what expert or experts recommended the erection of a power alcohol distillery at Warracknabeal, Victoria. . Will the honorable gentleman lay the relevant papers on the table of the House ?
– The usual procedure was followed in the investigation of this matter; it was that adopted by the previous Administration in connexion with many projects in which it was involved, such as- the building of annexes and factories of various kinds. I am not prepared to lay the papers on the table of the House.
– As the Legislative Council of Tasmania has rejected the Commonwealth Powers Bill, will the Prime Minister state the Government’s intentions?
– The Parliaments of three States have dealt with this legislation, leaving three that have yet to decide their attitude towards it. When that has been determined, the Government will consider the then existing situation.
– I rise to make a personal explanation. A section of the press reported this morning that in this House last night, during my absence, the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) stated that shortly after I had become Assistant Treasurer of New South Wales I had remitted £20,000 in taxation to David Jones Limited, of Sydney By courtesy of the honorable member, I have this morning seen the Hansard report of his speech-. This states that, referring to the honorable member for Robertson, he said-
About the time he became a member of the Government of New South Wales, he and his colleagues granted remissions of taxation amounting to £20,000 to firms like David Jones Limited, of Sydney.
The statement of the honorable member is capable of two interpretations. He may have meant that the Government of which. I was a member, through the Parliament, amended the taxation law, and reduced the rates of tax. That is correct. Whilst I cannot cite the details, I can say that the revised tax rates in bills that I introduced into the Parliament of New South Wales in 1932 and 1933, reduced the rates of tax-; but the greater part of such reductions was conferred upon the lower groups of incomes. If the statement of the honorable member implies that remissions of tax were made to specific taxpayers, I assert emphatically that that is not correct.
– I did not say that.
– I made no such remissions of tax; and I have no knowledge of, nor do I believe that, any such remissions of tax were made by any of my colleagues. The only authorities competent to remit tax were the Commissioner of Taxation; who could amend an assessment and refund an amount overpaid; the court, or the board of review, which upon an appeal or an objection could vary an. assessment that had been made by the commissioner; or the board of relief, in instances of hardship. As a Minister of the Crown, I have never seen, nor have I tried to see the taxation file of any taxpayer. I have never dealt with an application for the reduction or remission’ of tax by David Jones Limited1, or anybody else, nor did I have the power to do so.
– I, too wish to make a personal explanation. This is not the first occasion, and probably it will not be the last, on which remarks of mine have been distorted by the press. I do not believe that there was any intention’ to misrepresent what I said last night; but the published digest of my statement does create an unfortunate impression. I did not accuse the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Spooner) of having done anything venal or improper. I was criticizing, in’ my opinion properly, the policy of the Government of which he was a member, in remitting tax to classes of taxpayers in receipt of certain incomes whilst expecting unemployed single men to live on 5s. 6d. a week. I contrasted that policy with the failure of the honorable member, while he was a member of the Government of New South Wales, to support in any way at a meeting of the Loan Council a policy of reflation, or the use of bank credit, in order to rectify the evils of deflation. I said that whilst he refused, during the depression years, to do anything to improve the conditions of the people by the use of bank credit-
– Order ! The honorable member is going beyond the bounds of a personal explanation.
– I said that he also argued against the use of bank credit in a time of war.
– Order ! The honorable gentleman has made his personal explanation.
– I should be the judge of that, Mr. Speaker.
– The impatience of honorable members opposite should not, sir, interfere with the relations between you and me, in my attempt to put my view-
– Order ! The honorable member must proceed with his personal explanation.
– To put my view in regard to the misrepresentation to which I have been subjected by the press, and to make clear the position in relation to the honorable member for Robertson, who considers that certain remarks of mine have placed him in an unfortunate light.
– Will the Minister for Supply and ‘Shipping state whether there is a serious shortage of spare parts for motor vehicles, and whether he is taking any special action by which spare parts may be imported or manufactured in Australia, in order to overcome the shortage, so that essential transport vehicles may be kept in use on the roads ?
– The shortage of spare parts for motor vehicles has created a serious problem in this country. All practical steps to encourage the manufacture of spare parts in Australia have been taken, and plans have been put into operation for their production. The Government has taken the matter up with the representatives in Australia of the Government of the United States of America, in order to see how far assistance can be given to us under the leaselend scheme. The stage has now been reached in this country at which it is necessary to appoint a Controller of Spare Parts, in order to put the whole matter on a satisfactory foundation.
– Has the attention of the Prime Minister been drawn to the fact that racing dogs are being conveyed in horse-boxes to dog race meetings throughout the country districts? Does he approve of that practice, and, if so, will he have a similar privilege extended to the owners of horses who desire their animals to compete at patriotic race meetings held in country districts?
– I am not aware what arrangements, if any, have been made for the transport of dogs to race meetings. I shall ascertain the facts and shall then offer an opinion on them.
Services of Women
– As there is a large body of women with special ability who are over the age of 45 years, and as many of them rendered service in the last war, will the Minister for the Army make provision for such women to be allowed to serve as members of the Australian Women’s Army Service, if their services would prove of value in the war effort?
– The Australian Women’s Army Service is recruited from women whose ages are from 18 to 45 years, and it is considered inadvisable to increase the age limit beyond 45 years. In the event of the number of women required for essential Avar positions not being available, consideration will be given to raising the age limit slightly beyond 45 years, but at present I can hold out no hope for favorable consideration of that proposal.
– Following ques tions asked by me on the 11th December last, and again on the motion for the adjournment of the House on the 27th January, I now ask the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture whether he is in a position to state when the money due to the wheat-growers of Western Australia for wheat acreage compensation will be paid?
– The money required for those payments has been available for a considerable time, and is at the disposal of the Australian Wheat Board for distribution. The board has evidently decided to make those payments directly to the wheat-growers at the time when payment is made for this season’s wheat. I shall bring the matter to the notice of the board, and let the honorable member know what payments have been made.
– Willthe Minister ask the board to expedite the payments?
– I shall.
Operations Near the Solomons.
– In view of the various reports received that a ‘battle is raging near the Solomon Islands, I ask the Prime Minister whether he has any information to supply to the House regarding it?
– The communique issued at Washington at 8 a.m. to-day, Australian time, shows that there has been much aerial activity in the South Pacific Area. I do not propose to read the communique, because honorable members can obtain it elsewhere; but I shall have it circulated among honorable members if they so wish. At 11 a.m. to-day a further communique was to the effect that during the last several days there have been numerous surface and air clashes between United States and Japanese forces in the Solomons area. The communique further states -
Increased activity on part of Japanese indicates major effort to regain control of entire Solomons area. Both United States and Japanese forces suffered some losses. To reveal, at this time, details of engagements would endanger success of our future operations in this area.
As far as I know, the naval forces of both fleets in this region are at present at sea; that is, they are not alt their bases.
– Can the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture state what arrangements have been made for the harvesting of the wine grape crop this year?
– I shall have inquiries made, and furnish a reply to the honorable member at an early date. The agricultural committees and the man-power authorities have been trying to do everything possible to distribute, as equitably as possible, the limited number of workers available for the grape harvest.
– On Friday last the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Morgan) asked me whether consideration would be given to the adoption of a national wholemeal loaf for Australia, similar to that in- Great Britain, and I undertook’ to supply further information on: the matter.
It is necessary to consider certain basic facts. The national’ wholemeal loaf in Great Britain is= made from a flour which contains’ 85 per cent, of the original wheat grains, thus-, containing a good deal of what is commercially known as- pollard. It is important to remember that this loaf was adopted in England, not for any health reasons, but because o£ the urgent need to use for food- as much as possible of the wheat which was being imported. There are two considerations from the health point of view, and there, is the economic aspect.
In Australia, there is no need1 to conserve wheat- to this extent; as abundant supplies of wheat ase available-. The only considera.tion; therefore,, is that of the health of. the public. Before- any vital change could be made in. milling and baking- processes and in domestic habits, it would be necessary to show that present standards of flour and’ habits of the people are producing adverse effects on the health, of the community. There is no proof that this is the case, There is proof, however; that an over-consumption of white flour in the form of pastries; biscuits and other products is undesirable-.
With regard to bread there are two aspects, the vitamin content and the indigestible residue known popularly as roughage. ‘ There is, at present, no proof of a vitamin. Bl deficiency amongst the Australian people- which would justify so fundamental a change as compelling them to eat nothing but wholemeal, bread. The vitamin Bl content of Australian flour has been- proved to be high, and steps are being- taken to improve milling processes so that a still higher standard may be reached’ without great disturbance of existing habits. It is not true, so far as proof is available, that the general health of the community is impaired by the absence of the roughage. This may be true in individual cases, but it is a matter for correction under medical! advice or by individual initiative. There is, therefore, no. justification for imposing upon the community the compulsory use of a wholemeal loaf, for either economic or health reasons.
Release of Workers from the Army - Rates, of Pay.
– No direct application has been made to me- for the release of men from the Army for this, purpose. The- honorable- member must realize that there- are great difficulties this year in the way of releasing men accustomed to this class of” work. These- difficulties- have to do with existing: strategical requirements, and the present disposition of. troops. I. shall be pleased to. give full consideration to the honorable member’s suggestion, and shall make- a more detailed reply to-morrow.
– Has- the Minister for the Army seen that section of the report o£ the expert committee appointed by the Government to inquire into the dairying industry in which- it is stated that one step immediately necessary for the restoration of production to- the required level is to facilitate where possible the voluntary return to the industry of men already called up for training in Militia units? Will the Minister consider this recommendation with a view to deciding whether experienced men in Militia units are rendering, a- greater service to the country as soldiers than they would i’f assisting in the production of foodstuffs which the Government has declared to be essential ? If he inclines to the latter view, will he- see that more sympathetic consideration is given by military officers to applications- for the release of men from the Army?
– .Consideration will be given to that part of the report, mentioned’ by the honorable member, but I must point out that the release of men- for work in the dairying industry presents almost insuperable difficulties because of the location of troops. In many instances, they are far removed from the dairying centres. However, the Government appreciates the difficulties which are being faced by the dairy-farmers, in common with
Other primary producers and, indeed, with very many sections of the community. Always keeping in mind the paramount importance of the defence of Australia, andthe need to maintain our forces at maximum strength, the Government will give consideration to all requests for the release of labour f or essential industries.
– When men are released from the Army to workin primary industries axe they paid the ordinary military rate, or do they receive award rates? If they receive military rates of pay, is the money found by the defence authorities, or by the persons for whom the soldiers work ? If the employer pays more than the military rate, who collects the difference?
– Men have been released temporarily from the Army to engage in seasonal work in primary industries, such a sugar and wheat. While the men are on leave from the Army and engaged in these occupations, they are paid the award rates of wages prevailing in the industry.
Mr.ROSEVEAR. - Is it a fact that men in the military Labour Corps are sometimes put to work on the waterfront alongside union men who are receiving award rates of pay? Is it a fact thatthe Government collects from the stevedoring company full union rates for all labour corps men employed on the waterfront, and then impounds the difference between the union rate and the military rate of pay ? If that be so, canthe Minister say why men in the Labour Corps should be treated worse than those who are released from the Armyto engage in seasonal work?
– From time to time members of the Labour Corps have performed work of a temporary character on the waterfront, and while so engaged the shipping companies have paid the ruling rate of wages for waterside workers. The difference between the soldier’s rate of pay and the award rates has been placed in a separate fund, but, according to the latest reportsthat
I have received, no definite decision has been arrived at regarding the disposalof the money in that f und. I shall supply information on the subject to the honorable member as soon as itis available.
– Are we to assume that a fund, which by this ‘time has accumulated considerable proportions, has no purpose? Or was it created with some definite objective in view? It seems ridiculous to create a fund without knowing the purposes for which the money will be used.
– Officers of the Army are now in consultation with officers of the Treasury with a view to determining what money is in the fund and to what purposes it should be allocated.When we take into consideration the claims in respect of pensions, repatriation rights and the maintenance of soldiers who are employed in industry, it is not certain whether the fund is in credit or in debit.
– Can the Minister for Air say whether a thorough investigation is made into all serious accidents to service aircraft so as to discover the causes of them?Has he satisfied himself that everything possible is being done to reduce the number of accidents ?
– Every air accident is investigated by a committee which has been specially appointed for that purpose, and a staff is employed onthat work all the year round. A report is submitted to me in every case. In addition, a record is kept of the causes of accidents where causes can be ascertained, and graphs are prepared showing the number of accidents arising from thevarious causes.Comparisons are madebetween the ratio of air accidents in Australia and the ratios in other countries. Generally speaking, the ratio is lower in Australia than elsewhere. I am sorry to say that accidents sometimes occur because ofdisobedience offlying orders, and steps are taken to deal with such situations, and to prevent a repetition.
– Is the Ministerfor Health aware that there is an epidemic of scurvy among children in some parts of Australia? Have the Commonwealth health authorities instituted am inquiry into the causes of the epidemic, and, if so, what practical steps have been taken to meet the situation? In view of the shortage of fruit and vegetables - at least at a reasonable price - have the medical authorities considered the greater use of wholemeal bread, with its higher vitamin content, as one method of preventing scurvy ‘
– I am not aware that there is an epidemic of scurvy, but T know that the number of cases is increasing. The health authorities are doing their best to ensure that proper supplies of fruit and vegetables shall be available to the public, hut I do not know that they have taken any special steps in regard to wholemeal bread.
Debate resumed from the 3rd February (vide page 270), on motion by Mr.
That the bill now be read a second time.
– Nearly fourteen months- after Japan’s entry into the war the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) has introduced into this Parliament a bill to authorize the employment in an extended area of that portion of Australia’s defence forces known as the Militia. This measure has been introduced only after the Government has pursued a policy of deliberate evasion and indefensible procrastination, and after the Prime Minister has sought and obtained permission to do so from a coterie of dictators in the Labour movement, notwithstanding that the Government’s military advisers must previously have indicated the need for an extended use of the Militia. The action of the right honorable gentleman in approaching various Labour organizations for their consent to introduce what he himself believed to be essential legislation amounts to an ignoring of this Parliament, which consists of the elected representatives of the people, and is charged with the responsibility of legislating in the interests of the people.
Before examining the measure in detail, I propose to offer some observations on the way in which this highly important subject has been handled by the Government. Japan’s entry into the conflict about two months after the Curtin Government assumed office imposed a great responsibility on the Administration. The Opposition, with some knowledge of war planning and of administration under war conditions, recognized the additional responsibilities thrust upon the Government, and accordingly it offered to share those responsibilities either by participating in an all-party government, or by accepting a share of executive authority in some form or other. That offer was refused. Since then the Opposition has wholeheartedly and conscientiously co-operated with the Government in an attempt to provide an all-in war effort and to discharge Australia’s obligations as one of the allied nations. The Opposition recognized that war-time necessities transcended party political considerations, but unfortunately its attitude has been misrepresented and misinterpreted as weakness. That, however, has not debarred the Opposition from doing what it believes to be its duty in war-time in contrast to what might be expected of an Opposition in times of peace. For that reason I wrote to the Prime Minister on the 17th December, 1941, offering the wholehearted co-operation of the Opposition in furthering Australia’s war effort. There were no strings to the offer: the Opposition was actuated solely by the desire to assist the Government. It recognized, that an all-in war effort was indispensable to success, and that forward planning was necessary, having in mind particularly the conditions which existed at that time. In the view of the Opposition, such planning involved the removal of all legal impediments in the Defence Act to the employment of our forces outside certain areas. We had in mind, not the indiscriminate use of the Militia, but their use where in the opinion of the Government they could best meet any emergency that might arise. The Government ignored that letter, and therefore it is well that I should remind honorable members that on the 16th December, 1941, this Parliament pledged itself to defend Australia and its territories, and to carry on hostilities in association with Australia’s allies until final victory over our enemies was achieved. Apparently, that pledge was conveniently forgotten by the Prime Minister when the Opposition offered to co-operate with the Government. Accordingly, in May, 1942, when the Opposition was greatly disturbed because of the Government’s neglect of essential planning, and its failure to take adequate steps for the defence of this country and the discharge of Australia’s obligations to its allies, I moved for the removal of all territorial limitations upon the power of the Commonwealth to employ the Australian Military Forces. My amendment was defeated by 31 votes to 27. Among those who voted against it was the independent member for Henty (Mr .Coles). It is interesting to note that not one speaker on the Government side of the chamber was able to justify the Government’s refusal to amend the Defence Act in order to merge the two armies into one effective fighting force. In fact the debate was notable for the manner in which Labour members carefully evaded the real issue. Between that time and the historic conference of the Australian Labour party in November, 1942, the Government refused consistently to amend the Defence Act. In October, 1942, the Minister for the Army, in his capacity as Deputy Prime Minister, declared, authoritatively and without equivocation, “ There is neither necessity nor justification for conscription for overseas service to-day”. He was equally emphatic in declaring that the Government was opposed to conscription for overseas service, and that there was less need for conscription then than there had been at any previous time. 1 ask honorable members to bear in mind that the Minister’s declaration was made only three weeks before the Prime Minister approached the interstate Labour conference with his new proposals. On the 16th November, 1942, the conference of the Australian Labour party in Melbourne carried a resolution reaffirming its adherence to “ complete and indissoluble unity with the allies “. Further, it pledged its “ determination to stand with our allies in resisting aggression and bearing willingly the burden and perils involved in the struggle”. The hollowness of that unanimous resolution was demonstrated subsequently when eight of the delegates opposed the granting of leave to the Prime Minister to submit his motion relating to the use of the Militia. On the next day, the 17th November, the Prime Minister proposed the motion, but the conference refused to proceed with it, and shelved its immediate responsibility by referring this important military and non-political question back to the State executives. I can appreciate readily just how the Prime Minister felt. “We in this chamber know that the right honorable gentleman has persevered time and time again, against substantial pressure, in an endeavour to have the Defence Act amended, and we realize that as a Labour man he cannot ignore the wishes of the Labour movement. Unfortunately, he must depend upon the machinery of the Australian Labour party in important matters of this kind. We can all visualize the able manner in which the Prime Minister would put his case to the conference, and the impression that he would make, but unfortunately even the undisputed facts which he was able to place before delegates, and the seriousness of the war situation, were not sufficient to induce the conference to accept responsibility for an immediate decision. The matter was referred back to the State executives for further discussion.
This important question is not one that should be made the subject of party political considerations; it is a national question, and the facts should be considered calmly. I propose to give to honorable members a brief outline of the relevant events which have occurred since Japan’s entry into the war. In December, 1941, the Government of this country, through the Prime Minister, informed the President of the United States of America that the Commonwealth was honoured to be associated with the United States in resisting aggressors until they were overthrown. In the light of subsequent happenings, I invite Parliament and the nation to assess that statement at its true value. In the same month the Prime
Minister declared that without any inhibitions of any kind, Australia looked to the United States of America, free of any pangs as to traditional links of kinship with the United Kingdom. On the 9th February, 1942, the Minister for the Army, when congratulating. General MacArthur on the fight against the Japanese in the Philippines, made the following significant statement: -
It is. not within our power to send help in your immediate trials, but our fighting men look forward to the honour of joining forces with the men of the American forces in other theatres of war.
Our fighting men do look forward to joining forces with the men of the United. States of America in any theatre of war, but this Government, with an. eye on its: future in office rather than on Australia’s future, refuses to allow them to do so.. In fact it refuses to lay the foundation for a junction of these forces wherever war may be waged outside definite territorial limits.. On the 14th March, 1942, the Prime Minister, in a broadcast to the United States of America, said that Australia looked to that country as the paramount factor on the democracies’ side in the Pacific. He also made the following declaration : -
We are fighting mad. . . . Our people have a Government that is governing with orders and not with weak-kneed suggestions. . . We are, then, committed, heart and. soul, to total warfare.
Later in the same month,. General MacArthur arrived in Australia as Commander-in-Chief of the South- West Pacific Area, and the presence of substantial American forces in Australia was announced. The Prime Minister declared Australia to be of cardinal importance in the Allied conduct of the war. Hie went on to say -
This Government has never wavered in the view that, on the grounds of highest strategy as well as by reason of all that Australia and New Zealand represent on the side of human values for which the Allies are fighting, the Anzac area is a vital area to the world war.
I regard that statement as particularly importantin the light of the proposals that the Prime Minister has now submitted to Parliament insofar as New Zealand is concerned. The Anzac area mentioned, is far greater in extent than the area defined in the measure now beforethe House. In June, 1942, a month af ter the Opposition had moved for the merging of the two armies in this country, the Prime. Minister warned the nation of the possibility that Australia could) be lost,but the Government remained inactive. It f ailed to do anything to achieve unity in our Army, or to amend the Defence Act to remove the legal impediment which prevented.it from making adequate defence plans to meet possible emergencies. The Opposition did not advocate the indiscriminate despatch of our Militia forces from Australia. Surely it is not suggested that if the present measure be carried the Government will despatch immediately the whole of our Militia forces to the defined areas ! The Opposition merely advocated the removal of the existing legal impediments so that any plan which, on the advice of its expert advisers, the Government might consider to be necessary to meet any emergency, could be put into effect without delay. The object was merely to facilitate sensible, and, I submit, indispensable planning to meet whatever contingency this- unfortunate conflict might force upon us. On the 7th August, 1942, the Prime Minister declared that Australia must share the perils of total war problems. He said that Australia had shared them, was sharing them, and would share them, and added that he accepted primary responsibility for sharing the risks of war. It is quite apparent now that in reality the Government is not prepared to share the risks of war. The Government has resisted every move by the Opposition for an amendment of the Defence Act to merge the Australian Imperial Force and the Militia so that an undivided Australian Army may share the risks of war with the fighting forces of other Allied’ Nations. The Prime Minister declared that Australia had enjoyed, and was continuing to enjoy, the protection that membership of the United Nations conferred upon us; but, equally we must share the perils. That he said, involved not only receiving allocations made to us from the common pool of the United Nations’ resources; but also making our contribution as a fighting; productive nation. I put it to the House: Is not the Government’s refusal to make available, wherever required, a united Australian army, a refusal to share those risks ? Is it not a refusal by Australia -as a -fighting, productive nation to make ‘its contribution to the cause of the United Nations. I have cited these statements in order to put on record declarations which are calculated to lead the people and our allies to believe that Australia was prepared to bear its fair share of the ‘risks of fighting total war, and, further, was prepared to amend the Defence Act in order to :be fully prepared for .-any contingency that might arise. Those declarations were such as to lead the nation to believe that, in spite of all the disputation and dissension arising in the Labour movement, as the result of that conference, the Prime Minister would courageously introduce into this Parliament -a -measure to amend the Defence Act adequately. However, instead -of giving effect to ‘those declarations, ‘the Government decided not to take action which would enable Australia tn honour its full obligations as one of the United Nations. Up to the time -that the special federal conference of the Australian Labour party met in Melbourne, the Government, while crying to the United States of America for aid, was prepared to allow only one section >o’f Australian troops to fight alongside the Americans against the common enemy. The Labour Conference was advised of the Prime Minister’s proposal on the 17th November last. That a Labour Prime Minister -should suggest that the policy of the parity should be changed even in a very limited respect to meet the changing conditions of “war was enough to throw the -controlling body of the Labour movement into .confusion. The delegates at that conference foresaw the destruction of the Government and the splitting of the Labour party, of which the Deputy Prime Minister had warned the public three weeks earlier. Those members of the Labour party with no responsibility for the conduct, of the war became panicstricken and ran for cover. They threw aside all considerations of national security, and decided to defer action until they received instructions from the State executives of the party.
I shall now deal with the manner in which the Prime Minister handled this all-important question. A major alteration of Australia’s legislation was contemplated. It was an amendment which the Prime Minister regarded as inescapable in view -of the changing war situation. T-his amendment -was something that could be effected by Parliament alone. Having reached the conclusion ‘that an amendment of the Defence Act was a military, and not a -political, necessity, the Prime Minister, who has a responsibility to every section of the community and not merely to .supporters of the -Labour ‘party, should have asked the Cabinet, the Advisory War ‘Council and the Parliament to give effect to that decision. Had. he followed that course, this legislation would , havE been -an accomplished fact months ago.. However, he decided to approach the Interstate Labour Conference, an irresponsible coterie of Labour supporters. In reality,, he handed over the function of Government to an outside body. He did more than that - he handed over to that outside organization control of Australia’s destiny, and .the decision whether -or not we should honour our obligations to our allies. I invite the House to contrast .this action which the Prime Minister took in November, 1942, with . his bold declaration to the Parliament on the 35th March last. On .that occasion the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) suggested that before putting the Mobilization of Services and Property Regulations into effect, the Prime Minister should summon -.another Labour conference to learn whether that conference would agree to them, or .their spirit. The Prime Minister’s reply was brief and to the point. He said, “I do not propose to entrust the government of this .country to anybody outside this Parliament’”. That statement was applauded by the -Opposition then, as it is applauded now. Had the Prime Minister adopted the same attitude when he contemplated amending the Defence Act, the Opposition would again have applauded him. Instead, his action in entrusting the ‘Government ito a party political organization merits the strongest condemnation. It is an affront to the Parliament, and an insult to the men of the fighting forces. However, if the people of Australia are prepared to accept Labour in Government, they must accept it in association with the political machine in control of the Labour movement; and it is in the people’s hands to remedy that position at the ballot-box when the opportunity arises. Only last week the Prime Minister declared in this House that in operational matters there should be no politics, just as in military matters there should be no politics. How does he reconcile that statement with his actions in approaching these outside bodies which consist solely of Labour supporters ? Were not those approaches evidence of the intrusion of party politics into both operational and military matters? Can the Prime Minister deny that such was the case ? The Opposition and the people of Australia are entitled to ask the reason for the Prime Minister’s change of front within a period of eight months. On the 17th November he approached the Interstate Labour Conference. On the 27th November he approached the New South Wales Executive of the Australian Labour party; on the 4th December, the Victorian branch of the Australian Labour party; and again on the 4th January, the Interstate Labour Conference. As the result of the Prime Minister’s second approach to the Interstate Labour Conference, the Government was “ authorized “ to add to the Defence Act a proviso for the greater use of the Militia. This authorization was given to the Prime Minister of a nation at war by an irresponsible body of Labour dictators, who were divided, and are still divided, among themselves on this very subject. They alone have enabled the Prime Minister to submit this bill to the Parliament to-day; and they alone give to members of this Parliament the privilege of debating this measure. Parliament, which has been waiting patiently since November - and the Opposition has been waiting for fourteen months - is now given an opportunity to debate the Government’s proposals to use the Militia in an extended area. What would have been the position had the Interstate Labour Conference turned down the Prime Minister’s proposals? If press reports are correct, the opportunity we now have to debate this bill has really been given to us by a
Tasmanian delegate to the conference who, although he opposed the Prime Minister’s proposals in November, supported them in January. What would be the position with respect to this legislation had that Tasmanian delegate not changed his mind? Would this bill have been introduced if that member of the Tasmanian executive had voted as he had originally intended?
When the Prime Minister first approached the Interstate Labour Conference, the public was led to believe that the Government contemplated a merger of the Australian Imperial Force and the Citizen Military Forces. Support for this view is to be found in a statement by the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), when addressing this chamber last December. The honorable member declared - and it was not denied - that the Prime Minister had said, in the course of his speech before the Interstate Labour Conference -
Gentlemen, there is no argument against one army.
After attending the meeting of the Interstate Labour Conference in Melbourne, the Prime Minister declared on the 20th November that one army under one command for military operations in the South-West Pacific was a military necessity. On the 28th November, the Sydney Morning Herald, reporting the meeting of the Full Cabinet, at which the Militia proposal was supported, stated -
He (Mt. Curtin) strongly combated the argument that his proposal amounted to the general introduction of conscription. It meant nothing of the sort, he said. There would still be a Militia and an Australian Imperial Force as separate entities.
Which of those statements aTe we to believe? Speaking in the House on the 1:1th December, the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) declared that the amendment which was submitted to the conference simply meant that the Citizen Military Forces might be used at the discretion of the Government, and subject to proper safeguards, outside the strict legal limits of Australia and its territories. Again, I ask: Whom is the public to believe? The House should remember that, whilst the honorable member for Melbourne was a delegate to the Interstate Labour Conference, the Minister for the Army was not. The House is entitled to know what took place to cause the Prime Minister to decide upon the definition of the South-Western Pacific Zone as embodied in the bill. There is a substantial difference between the original proposal placed before the conference on the 17th November and that which was ultimately accepted on the 4th January. I am curious to know whether the definition contained in the bill was the result of a compromise or of expert advice as to military necessity, or of political expediency.
Last night the Prime Minister failed to offer to the House one valid reason for the failure of the Government to face its obligations to other allied nations. This bill provides further evidence that, at heart, the Labour party is still isolationist. The Prime Minister told the House that the zone for the employment of the Citizen Military Forces must be within the scope of General MacArthur’s operational command. Why limit the use of those forces to a zone within the South- West Pacific Area which is General MacArthur’s command ? I urge the Government to face the realities of the situation, and permit the ‘Citizen Military Forces to be used in the whole of the South-West Pacific Area. Again I ask whether the definition is the result of political disputation and expediency.
The Prime Minister also pointed out that the Navy and the Royal Australian Air Force have operated outside the strictly defined limits of the Southwestern Pacific Zone. In the circumstances, I fail to understand why the Government has imposed a ban upon the Militia fighting in the fullest co-operation with our allies. If Australian sailors and airmen may fight side by side with the troops of the allied nations against Japan, why does the Government adopt a “stand back” attitude in respect of one section of the Australian Army? The Prime Minister stated that, with the passage of this legislation, the whole of the Australian naval, land and air forces will be available to the Commander-in-Chief for employment in the South-Western Pacific Zone as defined in the bill. To the definition of the area prescribed in the bill, the Opposition takes the strongest objection. The House was informed that the primary aim of global strategy was first the defeat of Germany, and then the concentration on Japan of the full resources of the United Nations. But the Commonwealth Government is not prepared now to take action which will enable the full resources of Australia, combined with those of other nations, to be concentrated upon Japan. If the Government, to please its trade union masters and party supporters, steadfastly refuses to weld our fighting forces into one army, and insists upon limiting the use of one section of those forces, total war is meaningless regarding our participation. Though one of the United Nations, Australia will not be making its full resources available for concentration against Japan until the Government removes every restriction on the use of the Citizen Military Forces.
Speaking of the ultimate defeat of Japan in the Pacific, the Prime Minister stated that Australia would make its maximum contribution to achieve this objective. I fail to understand how the Prime Minister can seriously make such a declaration when after sixteen months in office, the Government is prepared only to propose a very limited use of the Militia. At the same time, the Government expects our allies to make all their resources available to defend this country. The Prime Minister went to great lengths to answer the severe criticism of this proposal. He mentioned that after the last war leaders of the Australian Imperial Force had recommended that the essential part of preparation for the defence of Australia against Japanese aggression was the amendment of the Defence Act. I direct attention to the fact that at that period, only “ possible “ aggression by Japan was contemplated. I do not propose to comment on the attitude which successive governments adopted towards that recommendation. My only concern is that up to December, 1941, Japan had not allied itself with the Axis against the Democracies. But when the Japanese threat became so real as to threaten the security of Australia, the amendment of the act became a pressing necessity. Although the Opposition urged the Government to act swiftly, it refused, for political reasons, so to do. Upon this Government alone rested the obligation to take every possible step to secure the security of the nation. It failed to discharge that obligation.
The Government is already laying the foundation for post-war reconstruction, but the first essential is to ensure that planning for the years of peace will be within our hands. We must first win the war, and I am convinced that an amendment of the Defence Act, as the Opposition has suggested, is of primary importance in achieving that objective. Obviously,- the Government should be able to send our forces when and where they are required to meet any emergency. The Prime Minister informed the House that if or when the circumstances permit, Australian forces will be available for employment in any theatre in which their services will be most valuable. If that is the intention of the Government, I cannot understand why the Prime Minister has submitted this miserable amendment. The legislation should provide for the effective merger of the forces for use wherever they are required. This bill will undoubtedly find a place in the records of Australian Labour government, but it will not be an honoured place. It will come to be regarded as a smeared page in the annals of Australian history. The Prime Minister was humiliated at the conferences of the Australian Labour party, and the Opposition hoped that after those disputations and dissensions, the Government would introduce a fullblooded measure. Our hopes have been bitterly disappointed.
The Opposition will not oppose this legislation, which constitutes a departure from a principle that the Labour party has held dear, if unwisely, for so long. This legislation becomes a basis for action which a responsible government will be able to take in future for the purpose of meeting any emergency. I say on behalf of the Opposition that if the time should ever come when we have to resort to the forms of the House in order to make adequate and proper provision for the defence of Australia, the bill that will be submitted will be an improvement upon this one. We accept this measure as an advance by the Labour party from the anti-conscription tradi- tions that it has cherished for so many years. It is something upon which a responsible government, when the time comes, can and will build, if the need should, unfortunately, arise. It is only because in the Prime Minister’s speech there is an assurance that the territory defined in the bill will meet all Australia’s defence requirements, and comply with every demand of military strategy as outlined by the Commander-in-Chief, General Douglas MacArthur, that we are prepared to accept it; but we accept it with the reservation1 that if it does not adequately answer our defence needs we shall take every step that the forms of the House permit in order to rectify the position. I, in my capacity as Leader of the Opposition, know the gravity of the position. I know the urgency of the measure, and that it is indispensable to the proper and adequate defence of Australia. For this reason and others that I have mentioned, the Labour party has departed from its traditional policy of anti-conscription, and agreed to extend the territory to which our troops may be sent whenever the emergency shall dictate. The Opposition could have moved very embarrassing amendments to this measure, but it is not prepared to make it the plaything of party politics. We recognize that this proposal relates to a national necessity which transcends all party political considerations. The people of Australia, our allies, and the cause for which we are fighting, have waited too long, and it may be, too patiently, for such a measure, and my advice to the House is to give it an expeditious passage and let us get on with our duty and responsibility of winning the war.
– I am amazed. I have just listened to one of the most insincere addresses that I have ever heard. As an attack upon the Government it might read all right for political propaganda purposes, but it produced no explosion. Apparently the whole House is satisfied with the bill. I think I am justified in referring to the fact that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Fadden) gave me honorable mention in his speech, when he said that I voted against an amendment moved by the Opposition last June. I did, because I realized at that time, as I realize to-day. that the Opposition was not sincere in proposing, that amendment. If honorable members opposite look up the records, they will find that their members were not all present or paired. There was no intention on their part to go further in the matter; and I- did not feel prepared at the time to embarrass the Government; The Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin.) is entitled to some credit and. congratulation for his courage in bringing forward even this bill. I am not going to say that I am thoroughly satisfied, with the bill, ‘but the Prime Minister,, as the leader of a party which has definite political views, in regard to military service, took his political life in his hands by going to his party to persuade if of the necessity of- using our cimpulsorily enlisted forces- outside of Australia. He brought his party to a position where it accepted that step as a necessity, and now we have the bill in our hands. I was rather disappointed that in the Prime Minister’s presentation of the bill he. neglected one very important’ point. He stressed with great force the strategic need for the movement of our troops out of Australia, but he omitted to stress the moral obligations resting on Australia to go farther. Let us turn back the clock twelve months, and look at the position in which we in Australia were then. We were in much the same position that Great Britain was in at the- time of Dunkirk. We had practically no well-equipped troops within Australia, and were apparently open to attack by Japan. By a miracle that attack did not come. The Prime Minister at that time made an urgent appeal to the United. States of America. It was quite obvious that we could not get our own overseas troops back quickly, and we could not obtain help from any other source, so we appealed to America, which had recently come into the war because of the attack by the Japanese on. Pearl Harbour. America responded, and its response was magnificent’. General Douglas- MacArthur was appointed,, in response to our appeal, Commander of the Allied” Forces in the South-West Pacific. In an address in this building,he said’:’“‘I pledge to you all the strength of my’ nation, and- all the blood of my countrymen How splendidly that pledge has been honoured! The United States of America threw its ships, planes and men between us and: the enemy in the battle of the Coral Sea. It immediately sent large numbers of practically untrained troops to this country. Some of those- boys lost their lives in training - in learning to fly planes that they had nothad a chance to learn to fly in their own country. They crashed on our aerodromes and our beaches, and all over New Guinea in fighting the- enemy. Meanwhile, troops of the Australian Imperial Force were brought back from overseas, and later they did a magnificent job in New Guinea.. They were able to do that job because they were aided -by machines and equipment supplied by America - motorized transport, aerodrome and road-making machinery, and aeroplanes. America gave that material, and the lives of its people tb Australia. Therefore, it is up to us to give everything’ in return.
– Why not do it ? Is this bill “everything”?
– This bill, as I have said, is not wholly satisfactory to me. We have a moral obligation to America. The people of that country do not understand our political set-up. They cannot realize that we have two armies. They do not know the history of the Australian Defence Act. They know only that their troops are serving anywhere in the world, and that they have broken down all their previously-held inhibitions in respect of service. This bill, which will be accepted by this House, can be acceptable to the people of Australia and America if it is slightly amended. I intend to submit at the committee .stage an amendment which, I think, the ‘Government can accept. It is, to add to clause 3 the words “and in Such other areas as the Governor-General may, from time to time, proclaim as essential for the defence of Australia “. Th.at would take the fetters off this Parliament and the Government; It would mean that, should a position arise 3-uch as the Prime Minister has said arose last November, when it was- essential that our Defence Act ShOuld’ be” altered, a period of three months’ would- not have’- to elapse before an alteration could he made, so that it would be possible to send Australian troops, if necessary to the Philippines, in fulfilment of our obligation to the United States of America. Our Army is to-day in an impossible position. Militia forces are hopelessly mixed up with members of the overseas forces who are distinguished by having the letter “ X “ before their number. There are militia companies in Australian Imperial Force brigades. I do not think that any one knows what the exact make-up is. This state of affairs is due to untidy thinking. The Army could be put into a clean and tidy position by a little proper thought and planning, without the need to introduce legislation of this character. Militiamen could be “ B “ and “ C “ class men, and all our troops who are capable of going to meet the enemy could do so. The Militia to-day contains an enormous percentage of the total number of our troops - a much greater percentage than is generally understood. Those men are supplied with good equipment made in Australia, and with it in their hands they stand on our doorstep inviting the enemy to attack them there and to fight inside our own house. Should they have to take part in an engagement, they will be handicapped by not having had any previous battle experience. The whole experience of this war indicates that the only troops which can successfully emerge from an engagement without heavy casualties are those that have had battle experience. If militiamen are enabled to accompany the Australian Imperial Force without restriction wherever it may go, it will then be possible for members of the Australian’ Imperial Force to have frequent periods of relief while the other forces are obtaining battle experience. We should then have the whole Army thoroughly trained. At present, it is impossible thoroughly to train our Army in battle exercises. I now give notice that at the committee stage I shall move the amendment to clause 3 that I have indicated.
.- The bill before the House, which has just had the robust blessing of the honorable member for Henty, is, I suppose, the greatest anti-climax in modem political history. I say that it is an anti-climax, for the reason that in November last the
Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) announced at the Interstate Conference of the Australian Labour party that he desired to have amendments made to the Defence Act which would enable the services of the Militia to be utilized outside Australia. That announcement immediately gained the headlines. I was in Western Australia at the time. The effect of that dramatic statement was such, that inside 24 hours speculation was rife as to how long the Prime Minister would last and who would be the new member for Fremantle.
– The right honorable gentleman was sorry that he was in the West.
– The honorable member is quite right. I was very sorry I was in the West, because I wanted very much to be in the middle of all this excitement. The statement was made in all the newspapers that what was proposed was a merger of Australian armies. That, too, gained the headlines. The Prime Minister was complimented in many quarters on the boldness of the action he had taken; and at once those who did not like his proposal - for example, the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) - became unusually vocal and uncommonly well reported. We were then told that there was a “ rift within the lute “ ; that this was going to bring the whole house down. It was said that this great movement marked a revolutionary period in the history of Labour. Unfortunately, there appears to have been an error in the counting on the first day, because the conference referred the matter back to the State executives of the party. Parliament was told to sit quietly on one side in the meantime. It was said, “You, gentlemen, are, of course, the Parliament, but you have the misfortune to be merely those elected by the people. We are now going to deal with those who have the fortune to be elected by unionists. So, Parliament, you will wait “ - as we did, patiently, while the various executives all round Australia took the matter into consideration. Ultimately, the proposal of the Prime Minister was accepted, as the result of the vote cast by one Tasmanian delegate - I believe I am right in saying - plus the vociferous support of all the communist trade unionists in New South Wales.
– They wish to go as far as the right honorable gentleman desires to go.
– Oddly, they do, but for very different reasons. When we reached that point, we witnessed, of course, a few incidentally amusing things. In December, when the House last met, we had the almost hilarious spectacle of the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) briefly associating himself with the seconder of an amendment, and then galloping quickly through the door in order to escape having to vote for that amendment. It was a complete education for many of us in the shifts and changes that occur in politics. In due course the conference met again. There were stormy meetings in Fitzroy and other homes of democracy.
– The right honorable gentleman is not game to hold a public meeting in Fitzroy on this matter.
– I am prepared to address a meeting in Fitzroy at any time. One who can address the honorable member’s corner in this chamber need not worry about addressing a mob in Fitzroy. With all the alarms and all the excitement in the press, every body was waiting for the storm clouds to burst, but what did the clouds produce? Did they produce a really dynamic flash or a real crash? Not at all. The result was merely like the toot of a tin whistle.
This bill, which we were told was to do so much, and which we now see is to do so little, provides the greatest anticlimax in modern political history in Australia. What does the bill do ? I have had a look at a map, with the aid of what the bill describes in terms of meridians, and it is my opinion that the measure adds to existing areas-, within which the Militia may be used, Timor, Amboina and Dutch New Guinea. Those three areas are effectively added to the already existing areas.
– Cannot the Militia be sent to the South Pole?
– I am indebted to the honorable member. I had left out MacRobertson Land. Somebody opposite has asked, “What about Borneo and what about the Celebes “ ? I omit them because
I consider that any half of an island must be omitted from this calculation. We could not say that East Java is effectively included within this area, unless we were particularly told that we were to have the fantastic position that Militia troops would be ready to operate in East Java, but when an astronomer announced that the 110th meridian of east longitude had been reached, they would have to come to a halt. That would be absurd. Even the honorable member for Henty would perceive the absurdity of that. Therefore I omit Java, because it has not been effectively included by this bill.
– The right honorable gentleman omitted it in the legislation which his Government introduced.
– I am coming to that point. The first point I am establishing is that Java, Borneo and the Celebes are, for all practical purposes, outside the area to which the Australian Militia may be sent. In other words, there are substantial areas within General MacArthur’s jurisdiction which are not included in this bill. The second thing to be said about the measure is that it is not clear that there can be no merger of the Australian Imperial Force and the Citizen Military Forces. What is a merger? Perhaps the word needs a little definition. When I and other honorable members use the expression “ merger “ we refer to the making identical of the terms and conditions of service of all members of the Army in Australia, whether they are membersof the Australian Imperial Force or of the Citizen Military Forces.
– That expression has been used by the right honorable gentleman and by the press.
– I commonly use it.
– It has not been used by the Government.
– I shall not bandy words as to whether it has ever been used by members of the party opposite. If they mean to say that they have never approved of a merger of the two forces, I agree that they never have, and I say further that there is no indication of such merger in the bill now. before the House. Quite obviously - and here I am able to agree with the honorable member for Henty - we cannot have forces which are all intermingled, some belonging to the Australian Imperial Force, some members of the Citizen Military Forces, an Australian Imperial Force battalion alongside a< Militia’ battalion in the same brigade, and so on, and then hope that, when- we provide- a mystic line represented by one- of’ the meridians, they shall dissolve into their separate identities, one going forward: and the other backward: This is not a bill to- merge the- Australian armed forces, andi it is not a bill to make the Militiaavailable within the- whole of General MacArthur’s’ command.
I return with submission to the observationsmade by the Prime Minister when he introduced the bill. I desire to make three comments- in particular- on what he said. In the third of those comments; I shall deal with the matter on which the right honorable gentleman interjected across the table a few moments ago; In the first place,. the right honorable gentleman has said, as justification, of the area marked, out in the bill; that the zone must be within General MacArthur’s command. I am completely mystified by that.. “Why must it be? If that applies to the Citizen- Military Forces,, why should it not also apply to the Australian Imperial Force? If we are to be told’ that, the Militia must be attached to General MacArthur’s command, why not the Australian Imperial ‘Force also? Does this indicate that the AustralianImperial. Force is- in no conceivable circumstances, to- serve outside General MacArthur’s command.? . Does it mean that, if New Zealand were attacked, no member of the Australian. Imperial Force should go there,, because New Zealand is not within General MacArthur’s command? Does- it imply that, in such el 1’cumstances, we should gaze- in a fond and foolish fashion at New Zealand- and say: “ We are sorry. We know you are our brothers, and- cousins, hut we cannot do anything about it”?
– The- right honorable gentleman knows quite different from what he is arguing;
– I do not.. If the policy of the Government is that, in- such circumstances iti would go to the assistance of. New Zealand,. I ask the Minister,, when he- comes- to address us, to explain, what is- meant by- the statement that- the zone must be within General MacArthur’s command’. The Navy has at all times, in this war, operated- irrespective of zones. It is quite true that Australian naval forces might in the first instance be regarded- as attached to one particular zone or. another; but the history of naval operations around Australia in the last twelve months- has demonstrated’, as- the Prime Minister agrees; the’ complete fluidity of naval warfare. The result is that Australian ships and Australian men have fought outside the area of General MacArthur’s- .command, and the same is- true of the Air Force. Many a man of the Royal Australian Air Force has fought outside the area of General MacArthur’s command. Now we aretold that while that is- true of the Navy and: the Air Force and the- Australian Imperial Force, it cannot be true- of the Militia. Well, I give up. I cannot follow that process of reasoning. It seems te me, in effect, to be- putting the cart before the horse. General MacArthur is a very distinguished soldier, but whatever command he has over Australian forces, he enjoys with the approval of the Australian Governmnent and the Australian people, speaking, through this Parliament. Those forces are not under the governmental control of General MacArthur. Such military forces as areassigned to him are under his- operational command, but he is not the ruler of Australia, and to say that the functions of this Parliament are in some way restrained by the jurisdiction which General MacArthur enjoys- is to put thi! cart before the horse.
The second observation which I wish to make upon the Prime Minister’s speech i? that it seemed to disclose the very curious conception that as troops’ are required for base garrisons and lines of communication, there will be- ample use for our total Militia strength in areas which lie inside the proposed zone. If an offensive has- to be driven beyond that zone, then the Australian Imperial Force can conduct’ it, and’ the Militia- will be fully occupied in the areas which we shall, ex hypothesi, have conquered. That seems to me to- be a most curious conception of’ military operations. This tropical war has shown abundantly that the wastage’ of man-power, particularly through sickness, is enormous. If we are to maintain fighting forces under fighting conditions so as to enable them to advance, we must have such reserves as will enable us to reinforce them and rest them. In those circumstances, to say that the bulk of the Australian Army is to be used only for garrisoning lines of communication, while the minor portion of the Army is to be used for offensive purposes, seems to ignore all tho lessons learned in New Guinea.
The third comment which I wish to make is this : The Prime Minister appealed in his speech to history. He seeks to extract great comfort from the fact that in June, 1940, the National Security Act was amended at a time when very large powers were taken over persons and property - and it was amended with the present Prime Minister’s full approval. Tho effect of the amendment was to ensure that although these vast powers were being taken over persons and property, they were not to be used by the Governor-General in Council for the purpose of introducing compulsory military service overseas. In the National Security Act the Government took extraordinary powers, so extraordinary that one or two of the colleagues of the Prime Minister voted against the measure. The powers taken were so extraordinary that Parliament excluded specifically the power to introduce conscription by regulation. Now the Prime Minister says, “ Well, you did not introduce conscription then; why should you criticize us now?” I remind the right honorable gentleman that he is going through the movements of doing it now. I thought the whole purpose of this bill was to take compulsory power over the Militia so that they might be compelled to serve in areas outside Australia. Moreover, I remind the right honorable gentleman that in June, 1940, the war, in a physical, fighting sense, was thousands of miles away from Australia. It was practicable at that time to have an Australian Imperial Force distinct from the Militia, because the Australian Imperial Force was the only body of troops that had fighting functions. The Militia were here in Australia. However, when Japan came into the war, and drove down through the east, when this Government recalled the Australian Imperial Force from abroad, the whole problem was fundamentally changed. The question then arose as to how we were to handle two sets of troops, one enlisted for serviceabroad, and one compelled for service at home. The country was faced with a. new problem in that there was an enemy near us, and there was prospect of fighting on Australian territory. That fighting is now occurring, and has involved, the Militia and the Australian Imperial Force alike. Therefore, of what use is it to say that in June, 1940, in the circumstances which I have recalled, wit should have done something, which, had we attempted it, the Prime Minister would have screamed to high heaven - namely, taken power to introduce conscription into Australia by regulation? He knows that if I, as Prime Minister, had at that time refused to have the limiting proviso added to the bill, I would have torn the country from top to bottom, and the first person to attack me on the issue would have been the right honorable gentleman himself.
It is unwise to appeal to history if you are vulnerable on history yourself, and the Prime Minister and the members of his party are in this respect as vulnerable as men could be. We are considering a bill to include Timor, Amboina and Dutch New Guinea in the area within which the Militia may be required to operate. Why are we not discussing proposals to include in that area Papua and Norfolk Island ? The answer is that they were included by the deliberate vote of this Parliament at the instigation of my Government in June, 1939, and against the solid vote of the Labour party, and that at a time when nobody but a child could have doubted that war was coming to the world. The bill providing for the inclusion of areas Papua, Norfolk Island and the Mandated Territories within Australia for the purposes of the Militia was brought down by the then Minister for Defence, our late lamented and distinguished friend, Brigadier-General Street. I admit that the brunt of the battle in this chamber was borne by the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn), who has always been consistent on this issue, and he was assisted by the honorable member for
East Sydney (Mr. Ward), now a relatively silent sponsor of the present bill. I sympathize with him. The honorable member for Bourke, as he himself will recall, moved an amendment, the substance of which was to exclude those territories from the compulsory provisions of the Defence Act. Every member of the then Opposition voted for that amendment. We, at least, saved the present Government that trouble ; we gave a starting point a little beyond the boundaries of the Commonwealth of Australia.
There is another point of history which I desire to emphasize. We heard a good deal yesterday about the Militia keeping watch and ward in Australia and the adjoining territories while the Australian Imperial Force would go forward and attack, and from time to time we have heard a great deal about the supreme advantage to Australia of the Government being able to bring back seasoned and experienced Australian Imperial Force divisions. We were told of the great part that they had played in stiffening the Army and saving Australia from Japanese aggression. I recall reluctantly, but as an appeal has been made to history, I recall promptly, that the enlistment of the Australian Imperial Force divisions was the act of a government consisting of members now on this side of the House, and that when I, as Prime Minister, announced that those divisions would go overseas - and if they had never gone overseas they would never have become seasoned and experienced divisions capable of becoming the backbone of the Australian Army - the present Prime Minister, who was then Leader of the Opposition, protested against the proposal, probably against his better judgment, and that his protest, which was put in the form of a motion, was supported by every honorable member on the Labour side of the House. I remember very well - and this again is a relevant piece of history - that we would not have much in the way of militia forces to-day but for the fact that early in this war, indeed, within a few weeks of its commencement, compulsory military training was re-introduced in Australia. The re-introduction of compulsory military training was contrary to the platform of the Labour party, and the proposal excited motions of protest and violent attacks. It was only in the middle of 1940, when what might have been either the dawn or the sunset of an election began to appear, that -the Labour party, at one of its historic conferences, decided for the first time that there would be compulsory military training and agreed with a decision made seven months earlier by the Government then in office that the Australian Imperial Force divisions serving abroad should be reinforced. Just as “ those who live in glass houses should not throw stones “, so those who appeal to history in this matter are illadvised indeed to jeer at members on this side of the House for not having done in June, 1940, things that were not then anything like so urgent as they have been for the last twelve months.
The vital question - and here I speak for myself - is one of complete unity within the forces themselves, complete identity in terms and conditions of service. We shall not get that while some men are volunteers for service abroad and others are confined to service at home. Only three or four months ago the Prime Minister, when initiating an austerity campaign, invited the people of Australia to take a pledge in which the following words appeared: -
We .shall make of our nation two complete fighting armies - the fighting forces to smash their way back through New Guinea, Java, Malaya, the Philippines and on to Japan; and the working forces that will back them to the limit in mine, factory and workshop.
That was the pledge which the right honorable gentleman asked every one of us to take; he included the honorable member for Melbourne, and all of us in this chamber. I say without hesitation that it is an affront to the intelligence and self-respect of Australians to be told that a government, which can on« week use those stirring words, those true words, and week after week thereafter make its appeal, and occasionally almost its demands, to fully conscripted allies on the other side of the world, should immediately thereafter come to Parliament and explain that the fighting forces who - I must again quote those words - “ will smash their way back through Java,
Malaya, the Philippines and on to Japan “ are to be either a sadly overworked Australian Imperial Force or conscripts from London or New York who are fighting thousands of miles from their homes. This is not a very proud moment in tha history of this Parliament, nor will it be a proud moment in the history of Australia. This bill and the. reasoning behind it exhibit a very poor conception either of this war as a global war, unless thai is a mere phrase and not a real belief, ot of our duty in relation to it. We shall regain our self-respect and some of out lost reputation only when we abandon this conception and come to realize that this is a world war, and that no limit can be set to the duty of Australia in relation to it-
1-4.38].- The right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies) has tried to make a great deal out of the press reports of statements by supporters of his own party in regard to the merging of the Militia and the Australian Imperial Force. It is, therefore, well to make i/t clear that at no time has the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) proposed to either a Labour conference or this country that the Government should merge the- two forces into one. That idea, I regret to say, arose out of suggestions by a sensation-mongering press, and it was taken up by representatives of the Opposition with the object of injuring a Labour government which, I can
Bay without being unduly egotistical, has in this crisis in Australia’s history done a wonderful job, as is recognized by many people throughout the Commonwealth. Members of the Opposition and those who saw a chance to injure the Prime Minister, by discrediting him among the members of his own party, arc actuated by a desire for office. I say frankly that, among some members of the Opposition, there H a greater desire for office and an opportunity to regain some of their lost power than there is to assist the nation in it; time of need. The term “merger” in relation to the Australian Imperial Force and the Militia, was coined by the sensationmongering press of -this country, and taken up by members of the Opposition parties in this Parliament because they saw in it an opportunity to split this Government which came .into office mot because the Labour party had a direct majority in this chamber or in the Senate, but because supporters of the previous Administration could not even agree among themselves as to how they should conduct their own paTty business, far less the business of defending Australia. Almost immediately the Lah our Government took over the reins of office, it was faced with a military situation unparalleled in our history.
Much has been said about the need for courage and determination1 to face the future resolutely, but I would remind honorable members that when the right honorable member for Kooyong was Prime Minister, he inserted, al the request of the members of the then Opposition, a special provision in the National Security Act, stipulating that that legislation would not bo used to impose conscription’ for overseas military service. The right honorable member has said that had that provision not been inserted, the country would have been tom to pieces; but surely that was not the act of a brave man. A brave man, holding a majority in both Houses, as did the right honorable member for Kooyong at that time, would have had the courage to ignore whatever views were expressed- by his political opponents, and to take whatever action he deemed necessary in the interests of this country. Does the right honorable member not think that there is still a danger that this country would be torn to “pieces if an attempt were made to give effect to such a policy at the present time?
– Conditions then were nothing like what they are now.
– I admit that circumstances have changed in- some respects, but surely the right honorable member will admit that there is still a great danger that the imposition of conscription for overseas service might destroy a very valuable asset in the conduct of this war, namely, the solidarity of the great mass of the working people in the support of our war effort^ This’ war cannot be won merely by securing the goodwill and support of people in inluential positions, such people as industrial executives, newspaper editors, and others who represent what I may describe, without any attempt at disparagement, as the more conservative elements in the community. Whatever policy may be adopted it can bc won only if we have the united support of the masses of the working people. The right honorable member for Kooyong must realize that the proposal which he is now advocating, namely, the merging of the Australian Imperial Force and the Citizen Military Forces, is one which in the last war, under much more favorable circumstances than exist to-day, caused considerable harm to public morale.
– The matter did not wise in the last war.
– The division of public opinion on the subject of conscription for overseas service was extremely harmful to this country, and nobody knows that better than the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) who is the Leader of the party of which the right honorable member for Kooyong is a member. Although I have nc doubt that the right honorable member for Kooyong is sincere in the proposal that he supports, he must be aware that it could create a serious division in tho ; auks of the people. Moreover, the question is one which the right honorable member’s own party has agreed should not be decided except -by referendum. As to other proposals to which considerable prominence has been given in recent months, the almost unanimous opinion has been that the present is n most inappropriate time to embark upon a referendum on any subject. What has the Government done, and what has been proposed by the Prime Minister? The Prime Minister went along to what all honorable members know to oe the governing body of the Labour movement and made certain proposals. Is there anything very dreadful in that? I imagine- tha: much of the policy of the United Australia party and the United Country party i» decided by meetings of members of those parties. I notice that such meetings ure held regularly and that resolutions are carried. One docs not have to be a member «f the inner -circle of these organizations to realize that the policy to be pursued by honorable members opposite is decided in that way. I have noticed that although the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) is inclined at times to express belligerently his own personal views, when the bells ring for a division he is always found voting with his party. I have not seen him moke any attempt to break his party affiliations. He says all sorts of things in criticism of his own party as well as of the Labour party, bat when it comes to a show-down he always votes with his colleagues in Opposition. I do not know exactly to what party he belongs, bait obviously he has more affinity with the conservative side of the House than with this side. I put it to the right honorable member for Kooyong that just as he, sensing amongst the people a violent division of opinion which would h-i lider the war effort, inserted certain safeguards in the National Security Act despite the fact that hia Government’s majority in both Houses of Parliament would have enabled him to ignore opposition if he so desired, this Government, bearing in mind the entire strategy of the war and the requirements of the present situation which may possibly continue for a long time to come, has decided to extend the geographical limits - that is the .exact phrase which should, have been used in the -press if the truth were ‘ strictly adhered te- in which th, Militia forces may serve. That was the simple proposition put by the Prim* Minister to the governing authority of the Labour party in the same way as other important issues have been sub- . milted to that body from time to time.. It is desirable that the public mind, should be clear on that point. There has. never been any deviation by the Prime Minister or the Labour party sinew .theproposal was first advanced by the right honorable gentleman in an endeavour tomeet the needs of the situation now facing, this country.
– Did the Prime Minister not say that there was no argument against one army?
– I do not rememberwhat might have been said in the press,.
The newspapers published statements coined in phrases drawn entirely from their own imagination’; those phrases were not used by tha Prime Minister, or by any other member of this party. The Prime Minister’s original proposition was received with acclamation by a great number of people and a majority of honorable members. He has not deviated one point from bis original proposition. Neither the Prime Minister, nor the Government, can be held responsible for statements made by irresponsible people who arc merely bent on creating some sensation, and -who think that they can be king-makers and play a great part in determining who shall govern this country. After consultation with those competent to express an opinion, not only in this but also in other countries, it was believed, not particularly in relation to this matter, but in accordance with global strategy, that it was necessary for the defence of this country to implement the’ proposal embodied in this measure. From that proposition we have
Hot shifted one line. It is just as well to make that- clear to those people who now say that this proposal represents a whittling down of the Prime Minister’s original proposition.
– Has not the Government shifted off its original course * meridian or two?
– No; we have not shifted one point. It is true that the press has tried to create a certain atmosphere; but the original proposal has not been whittled down one bit. A decision was reached after very careful consideration, and that decision is now pat to this Parliament. Why did not the right, honorable member for Kooyong, when he was Prime Minister, with all his vaunted courage, and a majority^ inborn Houses, go on with the proposition that he now puts forward? He answers tha* question himself. He says, “I was afraid I would tear this country to pieces if. I did that “.
– He also said that it was. not necessary at the time.
– But the right honorable member poses as the embodiment of -wisdom. Unlike a mere mortal, he is bie to look into the future. In his speech he sneered, and in his joking way tried to hold up the Government to ridicule. Yet the Government he led was so divided against itself that it could not govern its party meetings. He now poses as a man of great wisdom.
The proposal now placed before the Ho-ise meets all the needs of the war situation, and :t has been brought forward by the Prime Minister, who is aware of car needs now and in the future, so far as they can be foreseen by those who are competent to understand what are likely to be our requirements, not only for the immediate future but also for the full duration of the war. They decided what area should constitute the South- Western Pacific Zone. They visualized how this war was to be conducted, and how the commands within a global strategy, should be arranged. They, and not this Government, decided those matters. They, the leaders of military thought in all the Allied Nations, led hPresident Roosevelt and. Prime Minister Churchill, conferred on these -matters. Despite the fact that the Governments of Australia and New Zealand desired that the South- West Pacific Area should embrace a wider area they, with their knowledge of the conduct of war. both now and in the future, fixed the boundaries of the South-West Pacific Area as they now exist. Admittedly, slight changes of the original boundaries have been made, but, in substance, these people, who were the most competent to decide allied strategy’ now and in the future, fixed the boundaries of the South- West Pacific Area. General Douglas MacArthur was appointed Commander-in-Chief in that area, and it is the particular duty of the Australian people, ia association with him, to protect it, playing their part in accordance . with allied global strategy.
My main reason for rising to speak in this debate is to remove the misconception which exists in the press, and in the minds of honorable members opposite concerning the Government’s original proposition. Right from the start of the discussion of the subject, the press endeavoured to create in the minds of the people, the impression that the Government’s proposition meant the merging of the Militia and the Australian Imperial
Force. I want to remove that idea entirely. It has never been in the minds of the Prime Minister or members of this party. Honorable members opposite may differ as to whether this proposition is right or wrong; .but I reiterate that the Government has not departed from the original proposition put forward by the Prime Minister, and which is now embodied in the bill before us. All of us are human. Therefore, I cannot hut come to the conclusion that honorable members opposite saw in this proposal an opportunity to split the Labour party. Nothing would give them greater gratification. They would be glad to see, as happened when the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) put his conscription proposals to the test of a referendum, the people who largely represent the workers of this country split into ribbons through an internal dispute over this problem. It is clear that any such dispute could not but have the result of detracting from our war effort.
– Will the Minister deny that the Prime Minister at his press conference on the 20th November last said that one army with one’ command was now a military necessity, because of the bitter handicaps imposed by factors hindering military mobility?
– I do not know whether that report is correct. I have seen statements made by the Prime Minister distorted in press reports. I can quite understand that the Prime Minister meant that he had decided that in this particular area the Australian Imperial Force and the Citizen Military Forces should be able to fight as one army. That is the purport of the Governments proposal.
– And with the same status.
– Yes; and the two forces to be on the same conditions. That is the whole intention of the Government; but that does not mean a merging of the Australian Imperial Force and the Citizen Military Forces.
– What shall we do when we come to the boundary line? Have the Militia to step out?
– The honorable member would probably draw the boundary line in the middle of Europe.
– I would not. I refer to the boundary that will divide Java.
– Whether the judgment of the Government is good or bad i_ not the point.
– Has the Japanese Government approved the boundary fixed by the Commonwealth Government?’
– Does the honorable member consider that Australia, with the forces that it can muster in this global war, can send its troops all over the world? Surely there must be a limit to our activities!
– I refer to Borneo and Java.
– I remind the honorable member that even the Australian Imperial Force can be sent to theatres of war only with the consent of the Commonwealth Government.
– Will the Treasurer answer my question about Borneo and Java?
– When the honorable member contends that the Government should bo permitted’ to send our troops anywhere in the world, he should not lose sight of the fact that the Australian Imperial Force could not have been sent t,o Greece if the Commonwealth Government had objected.
– I object to the Treasurer putting into my mouth words that I did not use.
– Order! This running fire of interjections must cease. The Treasurer is entitled to be heard.
– I emphasize that the High Command’ cannot send the Australian Imperial Force to any part of the world unless it obtains the approval of the Commonwealth Government. The Australian Imperial Force could not have been sent to Greece, even though the military command had considered their participation to he a vital necessity in that campaign, if the- Commonwealth Government had not consented.
– That statement answers the contention of the Treasurer.
– No Australian soldiers could have been despatched to Greece unless the Prime Minister of the day, on behalf of the Government, had agreed to .their transfer from Africa.
– What is wrong with that?
– No matter how wide we make the limits of the area in which Australian troops may be used, their participation in a campaign will still be subject to the -approval of the Government.
– That is the guarantee.
– It does not mean that if the use of the Citizen Military Forces were permitted outside the SouthWest Pacific Area, the Commonwealth Government would allow them to be sent to any part of the world-.
– That is an excellent reason for widening the defined limits of the area in which the Citizen Military Forces may be used.
– The Government could take that power.
– The previous Government, in which the honorable member was a Minister, did not take that power because it was politically afraid to do so. Cabinet feared that such an attempt would divide the people into two irreconcilable factions. Mr. Harrison. - The circumstances are now entirely different.
– I grow weary of hearing that excuse. My purpose in participating in this. debate was to assure the House that’ the statements which have been made .about merging the Citizen Military Forces and the Australian Imperial Force are concoctions of the press or the Opposition. The original proposal of , the Prime Minister has not been altered. The area in which the Citizen Military Forces may serve has been defined by the right honorable gentleman who is better informed regarding global strategy than is any other honorable member. In an earnest desire to do the best thing in the circumstances the Prime Minister has defined those limits, and he now asks the House to approve of them.
– I absolutely scout the idea that this bill is a military measure. It has nothing to do in the strict sense of the word with military affairs. The Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) has introduced it as a political -measure, and it is the result of a political decision, not by the Commonwealth Government, but .by an irresponsible body outside Parliament which is apparently in a position to dictate to the Government what it shall and shall not -do. This measure must be contested for three reasons. First, because of its origin and the circumstances in which it has been introduced; secondly, -because of the serious consequences in the international sphere to the good reputation of the Commonwealth; and, thirdly, because it does not enable the .Commonwealth Government properly to conduct the military operations in which it is engaged. For. three months, Australian newspapers and broadcasting stations have been declaring that the principal objective of the Commonwealth Government was to merge the Australian Imperial Force and the Citizen Military Forces. I did not hear until this afternoon, and I certainly did not read, any contradiction by the Prime Minister or any other Minister of that statement which has been dinned into the mind of the Australian public for three months. Even the secret “government spokesman” who seems to know a good deal about what is happening, was silent on the subject. As the Government must have been aware of these statements, it was undoubtedly under an obligation to the people to deny them. The Government is entitled to use every”1 broadcasting station in the Commonwealth for half an hour daily for the purpose of announcing its intentions to the public; and I have no doubt that ir the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) had approached the editors of leading Australian newspapers, they would have published a contradiction of this unfortunate story.
Another matter, imperfectly concealed but capable of only one interpretation, has been a constant rumour that this bill has its genesis in certain recommendations or requests which emanated from the Commander-in-Chief of the SouthWest Pacific Area, General Douglas MacArthur. Personally, I am not of that opinion. I do not believe that the Commander-in-Chief, having his responsibilities to the United States of America, would take it upon himself to suggest to the Commonwealth Government what it should do with the Australian Militia. I consider that he would leave that matter to the (Government’s good judgment and sense of decency. I am afraid that he will be disappointed.
– Does the honorable member consider that the Government ought to .answer the misrepresentations that appear in the press?
– 1 do nothink .that it ought to answer all the statements of the honorable gentleman, because they answer themselves.
– Do not try to misrepresent my attitude 1
– My hostility to the honorable member is not personal but only political. Honorable members are well aware of the manner in which the bill descended from Mount Olympus to the marsh. At first, the public assumed that the bill would effect the merger of the Australian Imperial Force and the Citizen Military Forces. There was to be only one army; one responsibility, one organization, one system of training and one military objective, namely, the defeat of the enemy who is so near our shores. “When we consider the truth of oft-repeated statements about the smallness of our population, and the. vastness of our territory, wc must confess that we have not adopted a very genteel attitude in our international relations in the Pacific zone during the last 40 years. We have ridden a horse as high as any camel, and now we are asked to get down on to the ground and fight. But the attitude of the Labour party is that we shall put into the struggle not all that we have, but only a portion of what we have.
– We cannot put in all that we have, because we must defend our country.
– Under this bill we are not attempting to put in all of what we have to spare. We are not playing our part, as we should be if we recognized that we are engaged in total war. We are debating a bill which represents the limit beyond which a Labour organization outside this Parliament would not authorize the Prime Minister to proceed. If the Attorney-General brings in a bill to amend the Constitution - and no doubt he will be tempted or provoked into some such action before very long - one of its provisions should be that no man shall be allowed to take his seat in this Parliament if he has given a pledge or signed an undertaking to submit to the dictation of any outside body. It is high time that such a provision went into the Australian Constitution, in view of the spectacle that we all witnessed in the not far distant past, of the Prime Minister attending a private meeting in the City of Melbourne, and being there told, by the good grace of the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) and some of his- friends, to depart while they considered where the armed forces of Australia should be employed in time of war. The shade of W. S. Gilbert must have groaned at having missed the chance to satirize such a happening. It would not be the Lord High Chancellor or the Mikado of Japan who would be held up to ridicule. We would see as leading lights in this drama of nonsense the right honorable gentleman and his satellites, the lord high panjandrum and the lord high executioner of the Trades Hall, no doubt closely attended by the honorable member for Melbourne.
– Did not a previous. Prime Minister, who is now the honorable member’s leader, do very much the same in 1916 ?
– I do not know to what the honorable member for Melbourne is referring. There is also the question of the two maps. I do not think I am breaking any confidence when I say that I went by invitation last week to see a certain map, which I know that many other honorable members on this side of the chamber saw. I can assure the House that the boundaries laid down in that map are not the boundaries laid down in this bill.- The House is entitled to know why they were changed.
– Probably by direction.
– No doubt by direction.
– Does the honorable member believe in any boundaries at all ?
Mr. ARCHIE CAMERON.^! do not believe in any ridiculous, boundaries of this kind. I noted the interjection of the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. paterson) when, the right honorable membar for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies) was speaking. I observed very early that the southern limit of this area was the South Pole, but when we look at our own act on the statute-book, under which we took over control of a vast area of the Antarctic by international agreement, we see that we can send troops under this bill to a portion of the Antarctic continent which is under our jurisdiction, but not to other portions. There is one long strip one degree wide, a long sliver of waste and ice - reminding me of the intellectual ice ‘that we see ob the benches opposite - to which we could not send our Militia. The eastern boundary of our Antarctic territory is the 160th. degree of east longitude, but this area ends at the 159th degree, so that there is down- there one degree, stretching across the sea to the South Pole, from which our men would be excluded, whilst on the other side we could not send men to all that part of Antarctica which stretches from the 110 th to the 45 th degree of east longitude. It is not likely that we shall ever send .people there, except perhaps to cool their tempers and freeze their disappointment. For that purpose Borne of our friends opposite might go there for an extended stay. When, however, we look at the other end of the picture we ‘see some ridiculous things. Borneo has been referred to. According to this bill, we could send Australian Militia into Dutch Borneo, but we darc not send them into British Borneo; or we could send them into eastern J ava, but must not send them into western Java,
– What does the honorable member think of the speech of the Leader of the Opposition in this connexion?
– I am not dealing with the speech of the Leader of the Opposition at the moment. He is not the Government. The Government is on the. other side of the House. So far as my own attitude is concerned, before I am finished the honorable member for Melbourne will know quite definitely where I stand. He can deal with the Loader of the Opposition in his own way. In Java there are still to the best of my belief some Australian prisoners of war. There are many Australian prisoners of war in Malaya. According to the dictate of the Australian Labour party to its servant the Commonwealth Government, we cannot send Militia troops into Malaya or western Java, even if we have them in the adjoining parts of the country, in order to rescue our own men. I cry shame on any bill that makes such a provision, and more shame on any Parliament that passes it.
– This hill does not go as far as the Labour Conference decision.
– The honorable member for Bourke moy be able to tell us something very interesting on that subject.
– Is the honorable member more concerned about tho rubber plantations and the tin mines than about the prisoners of war in Malaya?
– If talk were the most valuable thing in this world the honorable member for Melbourne would be a gold-mine. The Prime Minister has advanced the argument that the Australian Navy and Air Force can go anywhere. What is this great democratic principle that the Government and the Labour party now put up? Are there to be two laws and two sets of privileges in this country! Are we to tolerate two sets of responsibilities? Is- there to be one law and one responsibility for the volunteer, and another law and another responsibility for the man who will not volunteer? In no democratic community under modern conditions can there be two laws applying to different sets of people. Every man must take his share of the load. Later on I shall say something about the-burden of taxation. This is a case in which with our limited resources we have nothing like what we require to do our share of the job that we have undertaken. It is absurd to suggest that the Militia are to go into a new area and to be told, as King Canute told the waves : “ Thus far and no farther “. It is to be noted that the waves did not take much notice of King Canute. The time will come, and I shall be quite happy to be on this side of the chamber to witness it, when another Labour Government will have to come before this House and eat this bill, and1 apologize for ever having brought it in. I have watched the shifts and contortions of the Labour party year in and year out. I was sitting on the other side of the chamber, in the seat that the honorable member for Melbourne now occupies, when we heard the famous Wynter defence policy speech that the Prime Minister referred to yesterday. It was only right that it should have been delivered in this House on the 5th November! It was delivered by the then Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) and we had on the other side a certain Minister waiting to deliver the same speech; it was somebody else’s stuff. But the policy of the Labour party was never baaed on it. It was the decision of the last Lyons Government that the strength of the Militia should be increased to 70,000 men. I ask any member of the Government party to-day, particularly of those who are His Majesty’s Ministers of State, to rise in hia place and tell this chamber and the country what he did towards raising those 70,000 men on that occasion. There will be a deadly silence in answer to that challenge, because so far as I know not one of the present Ministers went out and put before the country the case that the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) was putting forward on behalf of the Lyons Government when it increased the Militia to 70,000 men. We then had a record peace-time defence vote, and the division that was taken will show what the members of the Labour party did on that occasion, the year after the famous Wynter speech. Then came the war. I now see opposite me honorable members who were at that, time sitting on this side of the chamber, and. I remember hearing some of them ask who were the. enemies which the Lyons Government was preparing to fight. What was the reason for this wasteful expenditure, they asked, and one . honorable member ‘ asked how the Government could expect him to agree to send the sons of the workers overseas to fight Britain’s imperialist wars. There has been a change of heart since then. There are many men in this chamber who said only a little while ago that Japan was no enemy of ours, and that the Government was wasting money in preparing to defend the country. The government of the day was accused of creating hysteria when it called for increased defence measures. However, early in 1940, the present Prime Minister, who was then Leader of the Opposition, suffered a sudden change of heart. I do not think that he even consulted the Australasian Council of Trade Unions before his conversion. He had previously voted against the proposal to send the Australian Imperial Fo;ce overseas, but when he wa3 campaigning in the Geelong district on behalf of the honorable member for Corio (Mr. Dedman), he decided that the Australian Imperial Force would have to be reinforced. Later, when the pressure increased somewhat, he even declared himself in favour of the Empire Air Training Scheme. These concessions were the political price which purchased the presence in this chamber of the Minister for War Organization of Industry (Mr. Dedman).
The question arises as to what will be the position of members of the Citizen Military Forces if, in the course of a campaign, they happen to cross the boundaries laid down in this bill. According to international law, if a man in uniform is t caught by the enemy doing something beyond the duties prescribed for him by his Government, he has no rights under the law. Presumably, if a militiaman were taken prisoner by the Japanese outside the zone prescribed in the bill, he would not be entitled to the treatment which international law prescribes for prisoners.
The important thing to consider in connexion with this measure is the honour and international reputation of Australia. I have very strong feelings on this point, and I would refuse to represent in this Parliament any electorate which wanted me to accept this bill. In my opinion, this Government has squealed too much whenever we looked like getting- hurt. I frequently see extracts from overseas journals, and I have learned that in many quarters Australia has earned the reputation of being a country that squeals. If we agree tamely to accept this tragic measure, we shall be known overseas, not as squealers, “but as “welshers”. We have had emissaries running to London and Washington to ask for help. We have been prepared to accept the assistance of conscripts, and we have not been too fussy about their being over 21 years of age. We have accepted whatever help was forthcoming, whether from sailors, airmen, or soldiers. We have accepted the help of men from the islands to the north that have been overrun by the enemy. We have asked for, and have accepted, war material which has been made under conditions that our own unionists would not accept. The industrial record of this country over the last few months, particularly the activities of the coal miners and the wharf labourers, has been disgraceful. That statement can go out to the people of this country as coming from me. I intend that it should, and I do not care if I am accused of dividing the country. I have a profound conviction that until we get some effective division on matters of this kind we shall continue to have our policies founded on expediency rather than on principle. This bill reeks of expediency. It should never have been brought down, and it should certainly not be allowed to go through Parliament without challenge. Therefore, I move the following amendment: -
That all words after “That” he left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words : - “ the bill be withdrawn and redrafted to provide that any member of the Citizen Military Forces may be required to serve anywhere beyond the limits of Australia.”
This is supposed to be a total war, and so far as we are concerned we must win or we shall be totally lost. We are fighting a war in which there can be no compromise. We cannot compromise with our enemy to the north. We are engaged in one of the bitterest racial wars in the history of mankind, and we cannot wage it successfully by half measures. The bill before us is an insult to the people of Australia. I believe that the heart, mind and spirit of the people of this country are behind the exertion by the Government of every effort that can be put forward in order to win the war. This bill does not do that. It falls far short of any measure that I would be prepared to support. Therefore I seek to amend it, so that everything we have can be thrown into the struggle. When the time comes for the discussion of peace terms, I hope that there will not be a negotiated peace, because I do not see how we could negotiate with Tokyo. I believe, as was said recently by a member of the Senate, that we must either destroy J apan as a Pacific power or the Japanese will completely overrun Australia and destroy us. There can be no half measures with regard to the men, the material, the time or the place. We must put all we have into the fight, where it is needed. Until that is the policy of this Parliament, I and others who share my opinions will be obliged to act as I intend to act to-day.
Not long ago, I told the Prime Minister that he was attempting to assume the role of a Cromwell. He has adopted the role of a Cromwell, but that of Richard the son and not Oliver the father. The people of Australia should tell the Government to conduct the war effort on the basis of a total war, and the sooner they do it the better it will be. I am not to be intimidated by a threat of an election. Whatever the characteristic boasting of the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) may be, he having inherited one of the safest seats in Australia, there are many members on this side who will not wish to taste the electoral waters too soon. If the Government wishes to appeal to the people it has the right to do so, but there is no certainty that it will be returned to power. I have too great a faith in the common sense, the political acumen and the inherent human decency of the people of Australia to believe that they would support a government that has asked the Parliament to pass such a bill as that now before us. If Ministers or other honorable members opposite happen to be Australia’s delegates at the peace conference what excuses for this bill will they be able to offer to the representatives of the Dutch, American, British and other nations with whom we have been associated in the Pacific war?
Mr.duncan-Hughes. - I second the amendment, and reserve my right to speak.
– This bill constitutes a departure from the traditional policy of the Labour party, in that it provides for service by the Australian Militia beyond the boundaries of the Commonwealth. It would also have been a departure from the traditional policy of the party had the Prime Minister submitted the measure without having first referred it to the interstate conference of the Australian Labour party, because members of the party opposite have always boasted that that conference determines their policy and that they adhere to it. Therefore it is not surprising to me that the Prime Minister did consult that conference, although I think that he acted wrongly in doing so. The people of Australia did not return the Labour party with a majority at the last elections, but many of them supported that party with their eyes open. Presumably the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Wilson) and the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Coles) approved of the action taken by the Prime Minister with regard to this measure, but the honorable member for Henty has now intimated that he intends to move what he describes as a small amendment, which he thinks that the Prime Minister will accept. My opinion differs entirely from that of the honorable member. If his amendment were accepted the House might just as well amend the Defence Act which provides that no member of the Citizen Military Forces shall be called upon to serve outside Australia unless he volunteers to do so, because under that amendment the Government would decide where and when such service should be required. Some opponents of the proposal to require the Militia to serve in any theatre of war outside the Commonwealth and its territories look upon this as a conscription issue, but I claim that no such issue arises. The Militia is already conscripted, and there is now no serious objection to. that on the part of certain honorable members who were recently loud in their protests against conscription. As I understand conscription, under it a man is compelled to be trained and to fight anywhere, even against his will. He may be temperamentally unfitted and may, be worthless as a soldier; many men, are, yet they are taken from their homes and their ordinary avocations, and are trained. There is no serious objection to that by certain honorable members. Their opposition is to sending Australian troops out of Australia to fight. We have had evidence of that on quite a number of occasions. Protests have been made, and votes have been cast in this House against the proposal to send the Australian Imperial Force out of Australia. I do not think that the honorable members for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) and Batman (Mr. Brennan) will be offended at my saying that they have always consistently opposed the sending of men out of Australia to fight. If consistency be a virtue, then they have been virtuous in that regard. I cannot say that of many of their colleagues. As the objection is to sending Australians out of this country to fight, it is useless to try to make it appear that the objection is to conscription. It is nothing of the kind. On whichever side of a geographical line a man is called upon to fight, he is equally a conscript. The drawing of geographical lines, and the defining of zones in which the Militia may be used, are most bewildering to every body, including many friends of the Prime Minister. I, like the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron), was shown a map on which were drawn lines indicating the area of General MacArthur’s command. That was deemed to be the area in which, under this legislation, the Militia would be allowed to operate. But when we saw the bill we learned that the zone which it defines is not identical with the area of General MacArthur’s command. I cannot understand why it was considered that the area in which the Militia should serve should be confined to that of General MacArthur’s command. After all, the areas of commands change in every war. At present, General Alexander has command of the Middle East, yet the greater part of his forces is far beyond the Middle East. Before this war has been won, the area of General MacArthur’s command will have been extended. Therefore, why stipulate that the present South- West Pacific Area shall be that in which the Militia shall serve? It is most extraordinary. But what is stranger still is that the zone defined in the bill does not coincide with the area of
Iiia command,; and it is entirely different from ‘the area indicated on the map that we were shown. Some one has said that the zone has been whittled down.
– That is not correct.
– Perhaps it is no.t. The reason for ‘the alteration has to be explained. Guadalcanal and many other islands off the east coast -of Australia are outside the area into which the Government is to be allowed to send the Militia. If New Zealand, which is more closely .related to us than any other country in the world, were .likely to be invaded next week, we could :not send assistance unless we had first passed an act of Parliament empowering that to be done.
– Gould not the Austraiian imperial Force be sent4
– Oh, yes. In that .event the Australian Imperial Force would he withdrawn .from Australia, New Guinea, or wherever else it might be. The Prime Minister has said ‘that the Militia are to be used a t bases and on lines of communication after the Australian Imperial Force has conquered the islands to the north of Australia and has pushed on farther. It is now said that that force could -be sent to New Zealand, if that -dominion needed assistance. I do not ‘know its exact number, but I do not suppose that it is more than 70,000. The Prime Minister told us last night that it consists of four divisions, ‘including the division in the Middle East. I do .not pretend to even guess at -what the enemy may do, , but I should think it quite possible that if he can send a force to Australia he can with equal facility send one to Kew Zealand. He would need to have command of the sea before he could do either. If he were to send a force to New Zealand, we would not be able to send to the assistance of that dominion any of our militia forces. If the Government is considering public opinion, surely it can visualize the .view that will be taken of that position by the people of Australia’! The eastern boundary proposed by the bill does not nearly extend to the limit of General MacArthur’s command. The Prime Minister’s refutation last night of the assertion that the noninclusion of Malaya is an abandonment of Australian prisoners of war .in that region, was extraordinarily weak. His statement was, that .it might as well .be said that we .were abandoning our prisoners of wai1 in Germany. I should suppose that during every waking hour the Prime Minister and the .Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) are thinking of those prisoners. To me, the most hateful feature of either this or the last war is that a division of our men has been captured and is now inside wires at night and working during the daylight hours under the compulsion of members of what we regard ‘as an inferior Tace - the 3 apanese. Yet we cannot send our men to assist in their release. Americans, Britons, -Chinese and ‘Dutchmen may release ‘them from their ‘bondage, but our men must not. Should that occur, our heads would -hang in shame for ever ; we would not be able to escape from the disgrace. The Government should have paid heed to this consideration at least when it set out to define and limit the boundaries within which our men shall :be obliged to fight. This is a colossal piece df -humbug, and an attempt at face-saving. The ‘Government wanted to do something. It could -do what ‘has been suggested ‘by the honorable member “for Henty (M»r. ‘Coles), but, of course, it will not. The ‘Government is empowered to decide where the Australian Imperial For.ee or the Militia shall be sent. Then why all this fuss and trouble about fixing geographical lines within which they may fight? The thing is so utterly absurd that we must be the laughingstock of the world. What is even more absurd is that a proclamation must .be issued before the Militia can be sent to any of those islands. I do not want to discuss strategy, but I -do not suppose that the military advisers of the Government think that they will defeat Japan by occupying the islands which the Prime Minister described last night as malaria stricken. They may decide to send men to Timor - I do not know - but they .could not be sent there unless a proclamation had first been issued. Of course., the enemy will not listen ! If it should ‘be decided to send men to Timor, a proclamation to that effect would be issued. Then, it might bc decided that another island should be occupied, so, in due course, another proclamation would be issued; and so on. This is the most absurd proposal that has ever been submitted to any Parliament in the world, and it must be laughed at by any person who thinks about it.-
– The Leader of the Opposition supports it.
– The honorable member for Melbourne interjects again. When the former honorable member for Melbourne, Dr. Maloney, died, this House grieved. It has grieved every sitting day since. If we do not want to look too absurd in the eyes of the world, we shall not vote against the proposal that the Militia may be sent a little farther away than was previously allowed. I, at least, shall not vote against the proposal ; nor will the Leader of the Opposition. Yet that right honorable gentleman is accused of insincerity by the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Coles). I should not have thought that the honorable member for Henty would accuse an honorable member on this side of insincerity. There is nothing insincere about the attitude of the Leader of the Opposition. On the contrary, it is perfectly sensible, but whether he will vote for the amendment of the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron), I do not know. I know what I shall do.
– Will the honorable member vote for it?
– That will be revealed in due course. I have said that the whole proposal is bewildering. I had thought it was worse than that - that it was colossal humbug and a facesaving scheme. It will, however, be quite ineffective. Moreover, it will make this Parliament, as well as the Government and the people of Australia, the laughingstock of the world. Nothing like it has ever previously been introduced in any parliament. I am astonished that the Prime Minister should introduce such a measure, because I had a good deal of respect for his judgment and his methods. However, his. action is the logical result of his training, but the zone he has defined in the bill is beyond any understanding. The right honorable gentleman has my . sympathy, but because of his action in introducing a measure of this sort, he will be regarded for ever as unfitted for the high position which he now holds.
.- The measure before us is “ A bill for an act to authorize the service of members of the Citizen Military Forces in the South-Western Pacific Zone for the duration of the present war “, and is designed to amend a section of the Defence Act which has stood the test for 40 years. That section provides that no member of the Military Forces shall be required to serve beyond the limits of the Commonwealth and the territories under the control of the Commonwealth unless he voluntarily agrees to do so.
– Was not the provision in relation to the territories under the control of the Commonwealth inserted later ?
– No. It was in the original act. The extension to the mandated territories, which has been referred to in this debate, was added later.
– The honorable member is right.
– Although the compliment was not paid me of including my name among those who supported the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn), I hope and believe that 1 did support him in opposition to that extension.
– The honorable member’s name was mentioned.
– I know that in another part of the debate I was commended for consistency. The bill also proposes to amend section 5 (7) of the National Security Act which, true to the policy of the Labour party up to the time of the introduction of that legislation, and later, ruled out conscription for overseas and foreign service. In a fairly long parliamentary career; I have been associated with opposition to conscription of that kind. Indeed, as I enjoyed the distinction of leading the debate in the House of Representatives on the 14th September, 1916, when the present right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) introduced what may be described as the Conscription Referendum Bill, 1 may claim to have been fairly actively associated with the opposition to conscription. I took an active part in the referendum campaigns. The question to he submitted to the electors as set out in that measure was -
Are you in favour of the Government having, in this grave emergency, the same compulsory powers over citizens in regard to requiring their military service for the term of this war outside the Commonwealth as it now has in regard to military service within the Commonwealth?
It will be seen that the question which was then submitted to the electors was rhetorical rather than direct. Two referendums followed, one in 1916 and the other in the following year. On both occasions the proposal was opposed by the Australian Labour party. The people were urged to vote in the negative, and, in fact, they did vote in the negative by a large majority in the first case, and in the second case by even a larger majority. Indeed, the only State which favored conscription for overseas service at the second referendum was Western Australia. It was a time of great rejoicing for the Labour party. That relatively small remnant of the political Labour party which had been led out of the party room by the then Prime Minister, the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), very soon became assimilated in the Nationalist party, but the Labour party as a whole rejoiced. The party was organized for the vote as probably never before, and it was animated, as it thought, by a great principle. The success which it finally achieved at the polls was achieved despite the money which had poured from the capitalist coffers in opposition to it; in spite of threats and punishments that were inflicted upon people who, until then, had considered themselves free; and in spite of the natural fear under which the people laboured as the result of being involved in a war which up to that time was the greatest that had ever afflicted humanity, although we have lived long enough to experience a still greater conflict. The Labour party was almost ruthless in its opposition. Hard-bitten members who had given conspicuous service in building up the party were expelled from its membership. To admit oneself a con.scriptionist was to place oneself outside the Labour party. Time will not wither nor custom stale the infinite variety of methods by which the Labour party has recongratulated itself as the anniversaries of its great achievement have occurred. I remember making a special journey from this Parliament with my friend the Minister for Supply and Shipping (Mr. Beasley) by car to Sydney and back in the early hours of the following morning after having attended a meeting in the Paddington Town Hall at which we heartily congratulated ourselves and members of a new generation upon the achievements of other days. Opposition to conscription for overseas service was a part of our structure ; it was of our bone and sinew ; it was of the spirit and of the soul of the Labour party. Although 1 took an active part in the campaigns to which I have referred, my attitude had nothing to do with strategy. I offered then, and I offer now, no argument as to the disposition or the strength of our armed forces. I was then, and I am now, nothing of a strategist. I offered then, and I can offer now, no worthwhile opinion in regard to the opening of a first, second, or third front. My opposition to conscription was based upon other considerations which had nothing to do with necessity or expediency, but which had to do with the fact that as a legislator I was asked to be an instrument in the seizing of an Australian citizen, if indeed he had ever been admitted to citizen rights at all, forcibly expatriating him from his own country, and making him, for my protection and for the protection of others, an instrument for waging war in a foreign country, or at least in a country whose government was not responsible to him or to the voters of the land from which he was expatriated. I hold to the view that it is simply wrong; and that was the view which at that time generally prevailed, although- then, as now, there were strategists, persons who said that conscription was not necessary, that men had volunteered in sufficient numbers, that divisions of adequate strength proportionate to our population had already enlisted. All those things, and many more, were said, and, I think, rightly said; but my opposition rested mainly on the principle which I have mentioned rather than upon strategical considerations. It is only fair to those who are in disagreement with the view I am now expressing, to say that they do not like the term conscriptionist as it applies to them. They resent being dubbed conscriptionists for overseas service ; and they argue that the policy which they are now advocating has nothing to do with the policy which they so roundly condemned, and so vigorously opposed in ‘other days. They submit that it is something entirely different. I can only say that my embarrassment proceeds from an inability to see any difference at all. Indeed, holding the views which I hold about conscription for overseas service, to me there is no difference in fact. However, people are entitled to change their views, and parties are entitled to change their policies. It is worth remarking that honorable members opposite whom. I would call callous conscriptionists avoid, apparently for political reasons, the use of the term conscription in this instance. They do not forget that conscription has been proved, on appeal to the people, to bn politically unpopular. They do not forget, that they were roundly beaten on this issue on two occasions. Particularly, they do not forget that the soldier’s vote, though it was juggled and misrepresented, and for a time suppressed, was on the balance of evidence now known, as, indeed, it was then known, opposed to the policy of conscription. Neither do honorable members opposite forget that they are in this House by virtue of a pledge which they gave to the electors that they were not in favour of conscription for overseas service. Indeed, every party through its leader was so pledged. There may have been individual breakaways. For instance, the recalcitrant honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron), in accordance with his practice, may have jumped the fence an4 gone out of bounds for the time being. But, generally speaking, all parties, including the Labour party, were pledged against conscription. Honorable members do not forget that. When one comes to examine what to me has been the fundamental consideration I notice that the Militia - the persons to be operated on- by this new conscription - is regarded objectively as a “ thing “. It is to he “used”, “moved”, and “employed” to the best advantage, not of the members of the Militia, but of other people. We did hear that there was to be a merger. Now it appears that the merger was never part of Government policy. I do not desire to controvert what the Treasurer has said upon that subject. Nor am I in a position to do so. What I do know is that many wise people thought that a merger might very well take place, and that as the result of it members of the Militia might join the single army if they wished, and in the free exercise of their undoubted rights. It would be found that some thought that very few of the Militia had, in fact, abstained from joining. In this matter the precise numbers who would have so abstained makes no difference to me. It is rather the exceptional case that I have in mind - the case of a person who, notwithstanding coercion and persuasion in the exercise of what hitherto had been his free will, was unwilling to enlist for service in any theatre of war beyond Australia. It seems to me. that the most sinister aspect of conscriptionist propaganda is that it involves the forcible handling of the few at the hands of the many. Conscription for service overseas is a matter not of geography but of government, and involves personality, character, individuality, the highest traditions of liberty, and the personal conception of the difference between right and wrong.
The elements of conscription, to which I object, are force, deportation and expatriation, with the moral certainty that at least some of those who are by force deported will never return. The question was not how far they were to be deported, because the distance is immaterial; The point is that they were to be deported against their will to a country the Government of which owed no responsibility to them. The honorable member fm Bourke has written’ an excellent pamphlet against conscription, and I hope that all honorable members have read it. The author pointed out the essential difference between men being compelled to fight for one’s country within its boundaries and being compelled to fight in a distant land. Personally, I prefer not to conscript any one, but the actual distance does not matter, inasmuch as it is a foreign land. But the present position is different in some degree from the previous campaign. Hitherto, our opposition was to conscription even for service in Empire territory, with our British brethren who spoke the same language and had the same system of government as ourselves. So long as it was conscription for overseas service, we strongly and consistently, -and, in the last resort, successfully opposed it. In this instance, conscription is for service in a foreign country. Most of the argument against conscription, up to the present time at all events, has rested upon opposition to service abroad under any government. It was that which inspired the belief in the Labour party that conscription was an outrage upon the life and liberty of the individual, and upon the fundamental right of a minority at the hands of and for the supposed benefit of a majority. If we apply those simple tests, there will be no difficulty in understanding the reasons which animated opponents of conscription in the last campaign. Nor will it be difficult to understand why opponents of conscription see no difference between the present case and that against -which they previously directed their opposition. Sitting suspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m. Mr. BRENNAN. - It is worth remembering that the point of view that I have been stressing is illuminated, although it is not otherwise affected, by the fact that the persons who are selected or to be selected for deportation are youths who in many cases have not yet been admitted to the franchise. They certainly have not under the general statutory provisions which govern electoral conduct been permitted to vote, or given any part in the making of those laws under which they are required to suffer such tremendous penalties. They are young men potentially at least voted out of life by old mcn. They are young men on the threshold of life voted upon by men practically on the eve of their dissolution. In that regard one could not have a better example than this very House in which we arc privileged to sit. Most of us, although not &Tl, arc at least bordering upon the sere and yellow leaf. I would say to the young mcn here : “Are you proud of the fact that, in the exercise of your respon sibility, and in your privileged position, you impose against his will this obligation upon your fellow Australian young man, who is similarly situated to yourself, except that you, and not he, enjoy the privilege of membership in this Parliament? To the older men I would say with great respect : “ Do you feel a sense of satisfaction in the knowledge that you, .having lived .your lives, and in the security of Parliament, are voting younger mcn, against their will, into a danger zone from which you have exempted yourself in old age?” I would say to all members, young and old : “ Are you proud of the fruits which you are gathering from the privilege which you enjoy? Will you be pleased in after life with the work of this protected industry of law making? “ I would say to all honorable members: “You have been at great pains to make this a protected industry, with a priority number 1 in your favour. In this category, and in this law factory, you have forged and are forging the clamps upon a selected group of your fellow Australians by a law which falls not equally upon all, but especially upon a few, and from which you, in tho exercise of your privilege and power, have most carefully exempted yourselves.” I ask the question: In what way does this present bill differ from that conscription which I heartily opposed as a member of this Parliament but a few short weeks ago, and which in loyalty to my party I was then bound to oppose? Is it that Australia is threatened ? Surely that cannot justify, if tho view that I have been putting is correct, a wrong done by one person to another? Is it the fact that you or I are more anxious, or, to put it in another way, more fearful, more frightened than wo were? Surely . that gives us no moral right to interpose the body of a third person, between us and the enemy ? I am not qualified to be, nor do I pretend to be, a moralist. I make no case for other people. Being no strategist, neither am I anything of a dogmatist, but I have, in common with others, I hope, the advantage of the still small voice of conscience, and I have, I hope, in common with others, the faculty of reason. The exercise of these satisfies me that, so far from the question being entirely political, as some people would have us believe, it is almost entirely nonpolitical, personal and ethical. Others may take a different view, and, if they take that view honestly, as I assume that they do, then their case may well be different from mine. ‘ At least in this instance what appears to them to be right may be right, but it certainly cannot be right for me, to whom it appears foul and wrong. I hope, without defiance and without disloyalty - and I have no desire or intention to be defiant and certainly none to be disloyal - that I have made myself sufficiently clear. I have not spoken of this bill as being necessary or unnecessary. Early in my speech I ruled out necessity as an invalid argument. Such matters as the disposition and strength of the forces I leave to the Commander-in-Chief, General Douglas MacArthur, to whose country we owe so much, and who, in most generous and glowing terms of appraisement, has acknowledged without stint the complete co-operation of Australia with America in the defence of both continents. I leave them to him and to the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde), whose speech of recent date in this House, and whose contributions to the press, have been quoted by unfriendly voices on the other side of the chamber. So far from being unfriendly to the Minister, I think that, when he spoke those words so recently about- conscription, and in opposition to it, he spoke from his heart, and that he spoke the truth. I cannot imagine that he has so rapidly and at such little notice departed from the view which he then held and expressed. [Extension of time granted.] I rely upon the inherent willingness of the great bulk of Australians to defend from aggression that part of the world which it is their duty to defend, and in whose defence I should be proud and pleased to play my little part. I acknowledge the power but question the right of Parliament to pass this law.
– This bill imposes conscription in this country for the first time in its history, and it is imposed by a man who all his life has bitterly opposed it and has pledged himself and his party many times to prevent its imposition. The right honorable gentleman has not given us his reasons for his amazing change of front. No one listening to him last night could have imagined for a moment that the purpose of the bill to which he was addressing himself was the imposition of conscription on the Militia forces of this country. He made a general review of the war situation, and gave an exposition of the strategic position in the Southwest Pacific. He then proceeded to give an explanation of, and reasons for, the limitation imposed by the provisions of the bill in regard to the forces that will come under its operation. The impression sought to be conveyed by the right honorable gentleman was that he is still the vigilant and faithful watchdog of the people, standing in his appointed place to protect them from those who wished to conscript them. Not by a word did he who, time and again, has posed in this chamber as the champion of its dignities, its rights, and its privileges, explain why he went behind the. back of Parliament to the Labour conference to seek authority to do that which, over and over again, he had pledged himself he would not do. Certainly not a word fell from his lips as to why he who had opposed conscription for 27 years now sought to enforce it. But whilst he gave to the House no reasons for his volte face, the press has told us that he did give reasons to the Labour conference. The Sydney Morning Herald, in its report of the Labour conference on the 19th November, 1942, said -
The case which it is understood Mr. Curtin put before conference was’ in brief that the High Command considered the stage had been reached in the Pacific War where homogeneity of the Australian Imperial Force and the Militia was essential to the most effective prosecution of the war.
This is supported by a further report in the same newspaper on the 20th November, 1942, which stated-
It was officially stated in Canberra yesterday that General MacArthur was the inspiration of the move.
We may accept that as a statement of the position. In the main, no doubt, it is ; for we know very well that the reasons which the right honorable gentleman gave to the conference must have been very weighty; and we know, too, that he has told the House on many occasions that the reason why the Government waa unable to accept the proposal of the Opposition that the limitation imposed upon the Militia forces should be lifted, was that such action was unnecessary and unjustified by the military situation. As the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) has reminded us, that was said also by the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) on, I think, the 27th October, 1942.
Tho Prime Minister, then, rests his case for the imposition of conscription on the’ military situation, which makes that which, until the other day, was unnecessary and unjustifiable, absolutely essential for the safety of the country. This afternoon, the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) sought to persuade this House and the country that, despite what had been said in the press and by the people, this is not conscription at all. What the honorable gentleman said, in effect, was very much like the plea of the young woman who, being charged with having an infant born out of holy wedlock, pleaded in extenuation, “It is only a little one”, l-.would say that it will no doubt grow. These efforts on the part of the Prime -.Minister and others to persuade the House, and particularly the rank nml me of the Labour party, that this is not conscription, is so much camouflage. /Conscription has nothing to do with the number of persons to whom it applies, the duties allotted or the place where these are to bc performed; its basic principle conflicts with and limits individual liberty. As my honorable friend the member for Batman has pointed out eloquently and convincingly, the principle is the thing and not the! degree to which the principle is applied. The issue is clear ; the Commonwealth is in danger; are the rights of the individual to prevail over those of the comm unity - should men bc compelled to defend their country? That is the question. As a result of over twelve months occupancy of the treasury bench the right honorable gentleman has been confronted ;with a situation which he has been compelled at last to realize w:th all its implications; and, against his will, I have do doubt whatever, he has been com.pelled to admit that in everything he pui Contended in the last 27 years, he has been in the wrong. That, I think, explains the position. I would not do the right honorable gentleman the wrong to suppose that he has taken this step, which lie must have known would have farreaching consequences, if his conscience had not prompted him to take it. He has reminded us that the operation of this measure is to be confined to the SouthWestern Pacific Zone, because that is a portion of the area over which General MacArthur has control. Are we, then, to suppose that the mere fact that General MacArthur has control of this area is a reason for enforcing a principle which is vicious and infamous? What the right honorable gentleman say8 in effect is that that which for 27 years, and up to November lust, was unjustifiable, unnecessary and infamous, has now become a patriotic duty which no individual may neglect except at his peril. He says that the military situation has compelled him to take this course. Let us for a moment put oi one side the question of whether or nut it is called conscription. . It is compulsion. The Prime Minister says to a mau, “You shall go there when I direct you to do so; it is beyond the confute* of Australia and its territories.; you shall fight there “. If that is not conscription, what is? Distance has nothing at all to do with the matter. In the last war millions of British soldiers went to France. They were conscripted, in the last two years of the war. They went 20 miles across the channel. Are we to say that they were not conscripted because they could get to their homos in a few hours, or a day at most? Many of them were given home leave from time to time and were able to visit their wives and families; because it must be remembered that the fighting was in northern France atd they wore never more distant from their homes than SOO or 400 miles, at most. In this war, Britain has sent men to Egypt, thousands of miles away, for the same reason that they were sent to France, only 20 miles from England, in the last war. The Militia may be sent to New Guinea, Borneo, Java, or any place within the wide limits fixed in thi? bill. It has to be pointed out that the bill, promises much and does litt Jo. It is intended to remedy a military situation which the Prime Minister has said is grave indeed. What can the Militia do? Where can they go that is now beyond their order of leave? They cannot go to the Solomons, where fighting is proceeding/but they can go to southern Borneo, Java, and the Celebes, where there is no fighting.
If the right honorable gentleman rests his case, as he does, on the military situation, I submit that he has failed to substantiate it. The honorable member for Batman has brought back vividly to my mind those stirring days of long ago when he and I crossed swords for the first time on this very subject. I remind the Prime Minister that, for the first two years of the last war, the Australian divisions were maintained at full strength by voluntary enlistment. Then we were advised by our military leaders that the flow of recruits by voluntary enlistment waa inadequate - and that recourse to conscription was necessary. 1 point that out because the right honorable gentleman has rested his case on the advice of his military leaders, for it was on similar advice from the same quarters that I acted. We were confronted at that time with opposition which was not very different from that , with which the right honorable gentleman has to contend to-day. The opposition of the Labour party to compulsory enlistment for overseas service is’ no new thing. Anticonscription was then ‘ as it is now a cardinal point of its policy. So far the policy of the right honorable gentleman to-day and my policy then followed along the same lines, but here the similarity ended. As Prime Minister, I had stated definitely that conscription would not he imposed on thu people without their having been previously consulted. And in due course they were consulted. The referendum of the people on this question was the first occasion on which the people of any country had had an opportunity to say whether they would accept conscription. And from that day to this the people of no other country have been given this opportunity. When the proposal submitted to the’ electors was rejected, their decision was accepted by the Government of the day. The honorable member for Batman has made reference to what followed. He has said that the party that was responsible for conscription represented a minority, but this statement is misleading. The position of political parties at that time was very different from that which obtains to-day. When the Government of which I was the head went to the country after the referendum, it -was returned with an overwhelming majority, while the Labour party which had opposed conscription was sent into the wilderness, where it remained, save for the brief interlude of the Scullin Government, for a generation or more, until the accession to office- of the present Prime Minister. He has seen the light and has prevented the ship from running on the shoals. He has imposed conscription though he promised tho people that conscription would not be introduced until the people had been consulted. He stated in this House that the people had a positive guarantee, and that he was one of the guarantors, that conscription would not be imposed without their being consulted.
The Treasurer would have us believe that this measure will adjust itself to the military situation and has not the remotest connexion with conscription. He must think members of the Opposition are very foolish, if he imagines that they will accept such u contention. Does he say-that a measure which stopped short of. conscription would have produced such effects as this proposal did upon the conference of the Australian Labour party, upon the Labour executives, and upon the rank and file of Labour throughout the length and breadth of Australia? Why was all this heat and passion aroused? I shall not recall to the mind of the Prime Minister all that was reported in the press as having been said at the Australian Labour conference in Melbourne, but I remind him that the representatives of two of the greater States of the Commonwealth rejected his proposal. As the Leader of the Opposition (Mi. Fadden) has pointed out to-day, but for one man in Tasmania the Government would have been utterly undone. It is absurd at this stage to say that all this heat and passion was brought about by something which stopped short of conscription. The proposal did not stop short of conscription, and that is the whole trouble. Now honorable members opposite are placed in a very difficult position. Nobody knows better than I do all that the rules, regulations and platform of the Labour party involve. The party has taken the first step along this road, lest a worse thing should befall it. I think that it has done right, but it has not gone far enough.
On examining the speech of the Prime Minister carefully, we note a promise that the measure will be extended to meet the needs of the military situation; but at present it does not meet the situation as it exists to-day. If the bill were to be regarded only as one designed to meet the present military situation it would not deserve the support of this Parliament, but it is something more than that. Lt is a belated recognition of the fact that voluntary enlistment, and the division of the fighting forces of this country into two armies, are calculated to invite disaster. The Prime Minister has been reminded by the Leader of the Opposition, and by the right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies) of what the position is. If conscription were imposed without limitation, Australian soldiers would be able to fight .alongside Russian conscripts, without whose help the Allies would be in a bad way to-day; they could fight in Libya alongside British conscripts; they could fight with American conscripts in the Solomons, without whose help we should have been utterly undone. The Prime Minister does not deny that, but under this bill our Militia Forces cannot go to any front where fighting is going on. This measure does not in any way determine what is to be done with members of the Militia; it merely gives to the Government power to send them where it will within the limits prescribed in the bill. The right honorable member for Kooyong pointed out that neither the Australian Imperial Force nor the Militia could move a yard without the order and consent of the Government, so the onus of exercising the power to be given to it is rightfully thrown on the Government. I regret that the Prime Minister has not made it clear, although he has implied, that he will lift the limitation upon the use of the Militia as and when circumstances demand. In the face of what has happened we are encouraged to believe that the limits upon the use of the Militia in this ‘bill will be lifted. ‘Strange things have happened in the conscription campaigns in the past. But the strangest of all is the right honorable gentleman’s change of front on conscription. As one who for 27 years has been exposed to obliquy as the arch-priest of conscription, let me say that I never imposed conscription on the people of this country, but the present Prime Minister proposes to do so. The right honorable gentleman would have us believe that he still stands as the angel with the flaming sword, and none may enter his paradise; but his posturing will not deceive the people, the gates are open and .although this bill is only a “ little one “, conscription will shortly be the law of the land. It is necessary that the people should understand what conscription moans. I do not seek to take advantage of the present situation. God knows that the dangers threatening Australia are such that all party manoeuvring should be swept aside. We ought to face the position, and endeavour to march forward as one man. I have done all that I was able, as a member of this House, to give the Prime Minister and his party every support. I have taken no mean or petty advantage. I have given to the Prime Minister and his party all credit as well as all support; but I am not going to stand by and allow the position to be distorted. The fact is that conscription is to be imposed, and by one who but yesterday stood as the man who defended the pass against conscription. Now the pass is open. This is not the first metamorphosis that has taken place in the Prime Minister’s attitude since the beginning of the war. In 1939, he was opposed even to compulsory military training. He saw no need for it, and he saw no need to send troops abroad. Where, I ask him, would we be now but for the. experience gained by our troops abroad? Indeed, the right honorable gentleman takes no little credit to himself now for having these fully trained men available for the defence of Australia. They are fully trained, indeed, as they have proved in a manner which no nation can misunderstand, but no thanks are due to him and his party for that. The Prime Minister has always stood as the opponent of industrial conscription, but now we find that both industrial and military conscription have been imposed by the Government of which he is head. Men can be conscripted into the labour forces, and they have no say in the matter. Men can be conscripted into the military forces, and compelled to do, not only their military, duties, but also any other work which they are directed to do. There remains to no man or woman in Australia to-day any freedom at all. I do. not say that such measures as the Government has taken are not justified; I am merely pointing out how far the Prime Minister has travelled since the beginning of the war. In 1939, he was opposed to compulsory training; now he stands as the man who, for the first time in the history of Australia, has introduced conscription. I hope that the Prime Minister will understand that the Opposition is sincerely anxious to help him, but he cannot expect us to break out into loud h os annas when this Parliament suffers the cruel humiliation of seeing the Leader of the Government consulting an outside body over which Parliament has no control.
– Did not the right honorable member himself do the same thing?
– The Prime Minister is reported in the press to have said to the Australian Labour party conference that there was a great difference between what he intended to do and what I had done.
– Well, wasn’t there?
– Yes, there was. He said that I had defied the Australian Labour party executive, and so had deserved expulsion, while he had sought its authority for what he proposed to do. After some adventures that authority was granted, and so, apparently, he was deserving of eulogy. I pledged myself to give the people an opportunity to express an opinion on the conscription issue, and I did so. The Prime Minister gave the same pledge, but he has dishonoured it - he has not given the people an opportunity to express an opinion. These attempts to cloud the issue will not pre vail. The fact is, that conscription has been introduced behind the backs of the people. The country expects the Prime Minister to do whatever is demanded by circumstances. This great principle, which divided the country during the last war in a way in which nothing ever has done before or since, is not affected by geographical areas or military commands. We believe in liberty, and liberty comes from the people. It is not something to which we are born ; it is the gift of the community. The community is in great peril, and in the face of that peril the rights of the individual must give way to the needs of the community. Because of that, we are content to point out what the position is, and leave it at that.
– I never expected to have to speak in this Parliament with such a sense of shame as I do to-day. I am ashamed that such an un-Australian proposal as that in the bill should be sponsored by an Australian government. When the Japanese made their attack on Pearl Harbour on the morning of the 7th December, 1941, the war, which up till that time had appeared remote to most of the people in Australia, was suddenly brought right on to the doorstep of this continent. As the Japanese consolidated their positions after the first onrush, they moved further south, and the threat to Australia became graver and graver. Prior to that, the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) had made his appeal to the United States of America. I shall deal with certain aspects of that appeal later, but for the moment I wish to refer to one statement in it which supplies a complete answer to the question so often asked in this House, not only by private members but also by the Prime Minister himself, as to why previous governments had not taken steps to amend the Defence Act to enable Australian Militia troops to bc sent beyond’ the prescribed limits. The Prime Minister, in his statement of the 27th December, 1941, said -
Australian internal policy has undergone striking changes in the past few weeks. In the first place the Commonwealth’ Government found it exceedingly difficult to bring the Australian people to a realization of what after two years of war our position had become. Even the entry of Japan, bringing a direct threat in our own waters, waa met with a subconscious view that the Americans would deal with the short-sighted, underfed, and fanatical Japanese. They awakened in the somewhat lackadaisical Australian mind the attitude that it was imperative it* we were to save ourselves, to enter an all-in effort in the only possible manner.
Although. Australia was in as deadly peril when France fell as it was on the entry of Japan into the war, the Australian people never realized that fact. When France collapsed had the Prime Minister of Britain and the British people failed to carry on the fight against Germany, or had Britain succumbed to the German attacks, then Germany would have been the first naval, air and military power in the world. It would have controlled the first, third, fourth and fifth navies, and would have possessed in Great Britain one of the finest workshops in Europe. Britain then stood alone between Hitler and’ world domination. Neither the United. States of America nor the Soviets could have withstood his forces. Our fate in Australia would have been sealed. It is owing to the tenacity and resistance of the British people in 1940 that we are still living in a free Australia ; but the conflict was so far distant from our shores that, as the Prime Minister has pointed out, it would have been impossible to make our people realize the perils facing the Commonwealth, and consequently impossible to have got the people to agree to anything in the nature of conscription.
Prior to the fall of the Bataan Peninsula, the United States Government had sent General MacArthur to Australia at the request of the Commonwealth Government as Commander-in-Chief of the Australian and United States forces in this area. Under the directive issued toGeneral MacArthur the Prime Minister stated -
In the case of the South-west Pacific Area, which includes Australia, the Government, with the concurrence of the Advisory War Council, agreed to a set-up under which General MacArthur is the Supreme Commander. . . The directive issued to General MacArthur, and agreed to by the Australian Government, specifies the objectives which his operations will be designed to accomplish. In fulfilment of the commitments accepted under this directive, the Australian Government assigned to the command of General MacArthur the combat forces of the Australian Navy, Army, and Air Force.
That statement of the Prime Minister is plain and clear. The combat forces of the Australian Navy, Army, and Air Force include the Militia. A3 stated by the Prime Minister, the directive was issued early in April, 1942, but it was not until the 17th November that the Prime Minister took steps to honour the commitments which he had undertaken. Eight months elapsed before this Government decided even to take steps to honour its obligations. Then what took place? One would have thought that the Prime Minister would have brought the matter before his Cabinet, before the Advisory War Council, and finally to Parliament as the one sovereign body which could amend the Defence Act to enable the undertakings of the Commonwealth Government to the United States Government to be carried out. But the Prime Minister did nothing of the sort. As a delegate, not as Prime Minister, he submitted his proposals to the federal executive of the Australian Labour party, so that those proposals would become the policy of the Labour party, and so that he, as Prime Minister, could reply to critics that he was only carrying out the policy of the party. What a tortuous course for a man, who is the leader of a nation in arms, to follow ! At the conference the Prime Minister, as a delegate from Western Australia, is reported to have moved -
That having regard to the paramount necessity of Australia’s defence, the Government bc authorized to add to the definition of the territories to which the Defence Act extends the following words: -
And such other territories in the Southwest Pacific Area as the Govenor-General proclaims as being territories associated with the defence of Australia.
At that conference the Prime Minister does not seem to have been frank enough to have told his supporters that the Government was already committed to the Government of the United States under the directive in wider terms than even the motion itself. The honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), who was present at the conference, has stated that the Prime Minister said, “Gentlemen, there is no argument against one army
In his statement to Parliament on the 10th December last the Prime Minister said -
When the Australian Government agreed to this unique set-up, under which it surrendered a part of its sovereignty and placed its defence forces under the control of a commander of ii.ii allied nation, it did so, of course, on the dear understanding that its action would facilitate the achievement of two results. First, there would be unified direction of the operations in the South-west Pacific Area under an American commander and, secondly, the Australian Government, having placed iti military resources under this commander, would have made the maximum contribution of which it was capable towards the achievement of the objectives laid down in the directive for the South-west Pacific Area. Having done so, it would have every right to expect that any additional strength required would be furnished from other sources.
According to the right honorable gentleman, there is no limitation on General Douglas MacArthur as to where he shall use his naval and air forces, for he draws special attention in his statement to the co-operation given in the South Pacific Area by Australian aircraft and by the presence of H.M.A.S. Canberra when that vessel was sunk in the vicinity of the Solomon Islands. Until this sitting of the Parliament the South-west Pacific Area had not been disclosed to members of the Opposition. Last week a map was shown to honorable members with that area and other command areas in the Pacific and Indian Oceans delineated on il. Although honorable members were asked to treat that information as a matter of secrecy, the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) has pointed out that the eastern boundary of tho South-west Pacific Area and the extensions to the north were published in the Christian Science Monitor last year, whilst the full area has been published in the Sydney Daily Telegraph and the Century this year. However, what the people of Australia should know is that the extent of the South-west Pacific Area is far larger than the area envisaged in flic Government’s present proposals under this bill. I invite any Australian citizen to look at the map in the Christian Science Monitor and the area covered by these proposals and judge for himself. The proposals in the bill are embodied in clause 3 and are as follows: -
Tn this Act the South-western Pacific Zone menus the area bounded on the west by the 1 10th meridian of east longitude, on the north by the Equator and on the cast by the 159tl meridian of east longitude.
There is a vast difference between these proposals and the original ones. The first set, though long delayed, were in some measure a carrying out of Australia’s commitments to the United States of America, but these ‘proposals are a definite repudiation of the undertaking given. 1 a3k the Prime Minister if he regards solemn undertakings between sovereign states as scraps of paper to be torn up at the will of one of the high contracting parties, or as obligations to be faithfully carried out by both parties. .
After the Prime Minister had submitted his proposals to the Australian Labour party executive in Melbourne, they were referred back to the State bodies. Later, after much delay, the proposals were considered by the State executives, and it was announced by the press that a majority of the State executives supported the Prime Minister’s proposals and that they would be approved at the resumed meeting of the federal conference on the 4th January. Later it was stated in the press that the Prime Minister’s proposals had been agreed to. However, on the 8-th January the Lang newspaper, the Cenfury, published an article entitled, “ Curtin’s Secret Commitments on Conscription - “What Happened Behind tha Scenes “. In that article it was stated that certain undertakings were given by the Prime Minister. Among them were the following : -
Such areas not to extend north of the Equator. That excluded the Philippines, notwithstanding Curtin’s previous speeches on the subject.
The article said, “ The restrictions arc such as to almost nullify the amendments as a practical military consideration “.
Although that statement was published in the Century on the Sth January, Parliament was not called together until the 27 th January, over three weeks after the alleged secret undertakings were given, whilst the amendments to !the Defence Act were not presented to Parliament until 49 days after they were submitted to the Labour executive in Melbourne, notwithstanding that Parlia- ment is the only body which can implement them. I put it to the House and to the people of Australia that the Prime Minister has failed his country, for, despite the fact that at a press conference on the 20th November last, he said, “ that one ‘army, under one command, was now a military necessity because of the bitter handicap imposed by factors hindering military mobility “, he has now agreed that there shall be no merger. All other considerations have been set aside in the interests of political expediency.
Moreover, under the bill the Prime Minister has completely fallen in with certain elements of Labour as stated in the Century ; he has broken faith with the United States of America and has whittled away almost to a negligible area the portion of the South-west Pacific in which the Militia may serve. I agree with the honorable member for Batman that this proposal within the area designated is “conscription, stark and unashamed “. But the danger to Australia is so great and the need of assistance from the United States of America so paramount that we must have conscription in order to save our country and obtain the necessary aid from the United States of America under our agreement with that country. The Prime Minister has wilted under pressure as he never wilted before. In essence, these proposals mean, first, hat. our Militia cannot be sent to New Zealand,- New Caledonia, New Hebrides, Guadalcanal, the Philippines or the Netherlands East Indies in their entirety and, secondly, it can be sent to only portions of Java, Borneo, the Celebes and Dutch New Guinea. The Prime Minister has let down not only his own country but also our allies. How must the Dutch people feel when they know that our military resources will only be fully used to enable them to get back a part of their territory? How cheered the New Zealanders must be to know that whilst we are willing to accept all aid from thorn in the South Pacific Area - and wo arc as vitally interested there ns in the South-west Pacific Area - wo will permit only certain parts of our Army to go to their assistance! Why has the Prime Minister done this thing? ls it for fear that the political party of which he is head may bc split in twain?
Has he considered that his actions may imperil Australia’s very existence ?
From this bill and from some speeches delivered in this House, one would imagine that Australia could be saved from destruction by means of forces fighting in some of the islands adjacent to the Commonwealth. The Prime Minister himself seems to hold this view because at the press conference on the 20th November last, he said, “Australia was now being defended on an outer screen running through New Guinea, the southern Solomons, the New Hebrides, New Caledonia and Fiji”. Even if this were true, which it is not, the Prime Minister does not propose to defend large parts of that area with the Militia. The only defence of Australia lies in the destruction of the Japanese navy and army. General von Clausewitz, who is regarded as one of the most famous writers on military matters, said -
War is an act of violence and its object is to compel our opponent to comply witu our will. Of all errors in war those which proceed from a feeling of benevolence are the worst, for they prolong the state of war. It stands to reason, therefore, that, other tilings being equal, he who uses force unsparingly must’ guin his objective. The next axiom is the necessity for crushing your enemy for miti] lie is crushed he may always turn the table on von.
That is where the ultimate defence of Australia lies, hut. the present proposals of the Government will only tend to prolong the struggle. They will prolong also the Coin in on weal th’s agony. In the first place, they break many of the principles of war. The late. Marshal Foch, in his book on war, said -
There is then, such a thing as a theory of war. That theory starts from a number of principles, the principle of economy of forces, the principle of freedom of action, the principle of free disposal of forces.
I say deliberately that the Government’s proposals break every one of those principles of war. There is no economy of forces if only part of the supremo commander’s forces can operate over the whole combat area. There is no freedom of action for the CommanderinChief in the use of his forces, for it means that if General Douglas MacArthur had to reinforce troops in the South Pacific Area, unless he had Australian Imperial Force men available, the troops in that area would perish because we have limited the freedom of action of the supreme commander over the troops under his command. There is no free disposal of forces for the CommanderinChief either within the area of his own command, or as I have shown, to go to the assistance of other commanders. Napoleon said -
The art of war consists in always having more forces than the adversary, even with an army weaker than his own on the point where one is attacking or being attacked.
How can Australia be defended when our troops are hindered by the fetters placed on them by this Government? The mistake - an awful one perhaps for the Commonwealth - that the Prime Minister and the Government make when they place such reservations on the use of our troops, is that they are regarding the defence of this country in the terms of the ancient exploded formula that territorial gains mean victory and not that the only defence is the destruction of the enemy. They turn to the war of manoeuvre and not the war of destruction. That was the policy which crushed France in this war, and, if it be allowed to continue, will ruin Australia, placed as it is behind a barrier of islands. 1 should like to say something now about the effect that the Government’s proposals will .have on the prospect of this country receiving aid from overseas. In his book, My Struggle, Hitler wrote of the British nation as follows: -
Tims, the British nation will continue to be considered as the most valuable ally in the world, as long as tho world looks to the leadership and spirit of its people for the ruthlessness and tenacity which is determined to fight out a struggle, once begun, by every means and without regard for time and sacrifice right on to the victorious end.
In effect, what he says is that it has always been a tradition of the British people that once they have entered upon a struggle, they will fight to a finish with all the resources within their power, r recall that in 1914 Mr. Winston Churchill, as he was then, said that it was an act of Providence that the snout of the British bulldog was sloped backwards so that once he got a grip on a person he would hold on and never let go. That has been the tradition of our race from its beginning. But <l/r. Abbott. that is not the attitude of this Government. Despite all the Prime Minister’s assertions about a 100 per cent, war effort, global warfare, and other things, the Government, by refusing to permit dome of Australia’s soldiers to be used without restrictions in the Pacific basin as are the soldiers of the United States, New Zealand, and the Netherlands East Indies, imperils the existence of this nation. The Chicago Tribune is reported in to-day’s press to have said in a leading article: “What Australians can say, Americans certainly are privileged to say. We reiterate that, when America sent great numbers of drafted sons to protect Australia from invasion, Australia was surely obligated to do as much for the Empire.”
That is an example of what the United States is thinking to-day; but suppose that the United States were to argue that the key to the defence of the Americas lay in the control of a series of islands in the Pacific, and that behind that ring of islands the continental areas were inviolate from attack, so that there was no valid reason for shedding the blood of American soldiers in defence of a continent which although held by an enemy, did not imperil the defence of the United States. Suppose also that the people of the United States asked themselves this question, “ Why should we assist people who will not assist themselves even to the extent that they ask us to assist them; a people with a Prime Minister and Government who ask us to send our conscript youths to their aid over as many thousands of miles as they refuse to send their conscript youths hundreds of miles to our assistance?” The Prime Minister put this to the United States as plainly as possible in his New Year message of December, 1941. He said: “We know, too, that Australia can go and Britain can still hold on.” That is equally true of the United States. Probably neither the United States nor Great Britain would allow this to happen, .but if a choice had to be made by the United States between a people who were willing to make a full effort and another people who refused to do so, it is quite clear where the assistance would go. If that were to occur, God help Australia, for we would soon see scenes in our cities like the rape of Nanking. The reason why aid was forthcoming for the people of Greece when their country was invaded is quite plain. It was obvious that Greece could not be held, but in view of the valorous stand that the people of that country made, no one who admired courage could have refused to send every possible assistance. If we put up the same courageous fight we too will receive assistance.
No doubt many honorable members have received letters from mothers opposing the introduction of conscription. Naturally, they hate the thought of their sons being sent outside Australia to fight for their country ; but consider how much the mothers of conscripted American sons must detest the thought that they are being sent thousands of miles to fight for a people who will not send their conscripted youth to help those American sons when they are in peril in areas adjacent to Australia, other than territories included in the microscopic zone defined in the bill. The Government is playing with fire. Isolationism is not dead in the United States, and if isolationism, reinforced by the support of the mothers of the United States demands that American soldiers be withdrawn from the South-west Pacific Area, such a. demand might he hard to resist. Let there be no mistake about that. These matters are discussed even among American troops here.
At, a meeting of the Federal Executive of the Australian Labour party the Prime Minister stated : “ Gentlemen, there is no argument against one army.” That is quite true; there is no argument against it, and every argument for it, but at the first breath of the wind of resistance to his proposals the Prime Minister surrendered. Jomini said: “ War is a dreadful and impassioned drama.” That is true, and in the wars of to-day the dreadfulness of the combat raises the passions of the soldiers. Under the strain of what they suffer they become highly strung. There is a passionate explosiveness created in them which may break out at any moment. Clausewitz says, with reference to friction : “As long as we have no personal knowledge of war we cannot conceive where these difficulties lie.” Members of the War Cabinet come within that category, so that it is impossible for them to realize the devil’s brew that is fermenting in parts of the Australian Army and which may play havoc with the troops. It is useless for the Government to attempt to withhold this state of affairs from the knowledge of the people. Let the Government discuss it with the men of the Australian Imperial Force; let it study what has been happening in Brisbane; let it talk to the soldiers of the Australian Imperial Force returning from the New Guinea area - not only high officers who may say only what they think the Government wants to be said. Senator Sampson has drawn attention pointedly to this matter in the Senate. Ite has quoted letters from returned Australian Imperial Force men. Friction exists because the men of the Australian Imperial Force who have fought in the Middle East are now being asked to carry the greater part of the burden of the fighting in Papua and New Guinea, because they can be sent anywhere whilst there is a strict limitation on the services of the Militia, In his speech the Prime Minister stated that when the time came for the United Nations’ armies to advance in the South-west Pacific Area, there would be a lot of garrison and occupation duty to be done. Presumably, this would be done by the Militia, while the Australian Imperial Force, which has already borne more than its share of the war, would be sent forward into the combat areas to engage in the final conquest of Japan. If this does not encourage friction amongst the troops, nothing will.
There is also dissatisfaction in the Australian Imperial Force with regard to promotions. Men who have fought are being retarded in their promotions by the men who stayed at home and gained advancement, not on the field of Mars. Now,- at the eleventh hour, they arc permitted to transfer into the Australian Imperial Force carrying their Militia rank over the men who have been fighting. Von der Goltz said: “Whatever is done within an army must always aim at increasing and strengthening its moral force.” What is being done in our two armies must inevitably ruin their moral force.
I conclude try saying that it is the bounden duty of lie Prime Minister and of the Government to do what they set out to do in December last, namely, to fulfil the undertakings given to the Government of the United States of America, to make the combat forces of the Australian Navy, Army, and Air Force available to General MacArthur. The Prime Minister has wilted under pressure. He has surrendered to a section of his party, as he fears that Labour may become disunited. To prevent that, he is ready to risk the fate of this country; he is willing to jeopardize our chances of aid to this theatre, as the people of the United States of America may consider us to be a people unworthy of assistance. Yet he has filled the ether with his wails for help. Compare his attitude with that of another Prime Minister. In 1940, in Britain’s blackest hour, Mr. Churchill determined to carry on the fight; he planned the Mediterranean campaign. The British forces in the whole of the Middle East at that time totalled 90,000, whilst the Axis had 560,000. The Royal Air Force had 168 machines in Egypt and 4 at Malta. On the Sudan frontier, there were 100,000 Italians, whereas our total force, including the Sudan Defence Force and native levies, was 7,000 men. “Was there any “squealing” for help? No, the British attacked the Italians, and bluffed them into thinking that far greater forces were operating against them. The Prime Minister’s “ moaning “ over the air to the United -States and his failure to implement the binding contracts made with the Government of the United States are acting against the diversion of assistance to this theatre of war. Despite all its faults, and heaven knows they are many, I shall vote for this bill, because, though it is tragically disappointing, it does establish the principle that the Militia Forces may be sent outside the Commonwealth and the territories under its control. The introduction of this measure represents a conversion of members of the Labour party from their former beliefs. It establishes the principle that Australian youths may be conscripted for service overseas, and in doing so it gives to Australia an opportunity to do far more towards the war effort of the
United Nations than it ha3 been doing. I am reminded of the old fable of the fisherman and the little fish. The little fish, which had been caught by the fisherman, said to him: “I am only a small fish. Why don’t you return me to the sea? I will then grow into a big fish so that when you catch me again you will have a much better fish than you have now ! “ This bill is only a little fish, but if it is rejected by this House, we may never see it again. If it bc held up it will only cause delay in the limited extension of territory in which the Militia may be used. Also, as the Prime Minister has wilted so far on his initial proposal to carry out the arrangements with the Government of the. United States, if there be delay in giving effect to this measure he may somersault completely and abandon the principle to which I have referred. To avoid this I intend to vote for the bill.
.- There have been many famous retreats in history. There was the famous retreat of Napoleon’s forces from Moscow, the retreat from Mons in the war of 1914-18; and the recent retreat of Field-Marshal Rommel’s forces 1,300 miles across the Libyan. Desert. But when the political history of this period is written, there will be no retreat comparable with that of the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) from what he declared he would do in November last and the proposals in this measure. In November last the nation was keyed up by the announcements in the press that the Prime Minister had determined to assert himself as the real leader of the governing authority in this country, and would do the things which he considered should be done in the light of the knowledge that he possessed after his consultations with our military leaders. On the 27th November the Prime Minister announced to the people his intention to amalgamate the Australian Imperial Force and the Militia. This afternoon the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) stated that the Prime Minister was misrepresented by the press, and that radio commentators did not correctly interpret what he had said. Nevertheless, intelligent people who can read a newspaper and understand commentaries over the air believed that it was then the Prime Minister’s intention to amalgamate those forces, and to use the consolidated force in the South-west Pacific Area in accordance with the advice of our military leaders. For that reason the people acclaimed him. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Hughes) in a press statement at the time paid great homage to the Prime Minister. He declared that it was a triumph for democracy that the Prime Minister was able to do what he proposed. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Fadden) also paid him generous tribute for what he, and all of us, believed that he intended to do. However, a few days later, after the press as a whole had acclaimed the Prime Minister, he heard wee, small voices from the trades and labour councils and unions, and other organizations upon which the Labour party depends for its existence. Those small, but potent, voices said something different. They said to ‘the Prime Minister, “What you have said is political heresy so far as Labour is concerned. Did you say, Mr. Prime Minister, that you were going to amalgamate the Militia and the Australian Imperial Force ? “. The Prime Minister then came forward with his next statement, to the Australian Labour party in Sydney. It was his first retreat - his retreat from El Alamein. He then said, “ No. I never intended that the Australian Imperial Force and the Militia should be merged. That was quite foreign to my mind. I only meant that the area of service of the Militia should be extended to embrace the Southwest Pacific Area “. Unfortunately, this measure will not rectify the Government’s failure to unite the Australian Imperial Force and the Militia. That proposal has been thrown overboard. However, the measure submitted represents an advance in this matter on the part of the Labour party, because it provides for the use of the Militia Forces beyond Australia. New Guinea and Papua are comparatively small territories. The bill proposes that our Militia may be used by General MacArthur in additional portions of the area under his command. That at least represents an advance. The Prime Minister met the Labour conference again on the 4th January, and later, on the 26th January, he met the
Labour caucus in Canberra. We now find that the area in which the Militia is to be allowed to serve has been whittled down to a much smaller area than that under General MacArthur’s control. Few political retreats in history are comparable with that made by the Prime Minister in connexion with these proposals between November and last night when he moved the second reading of this measure. However, we shall be well advised to take the little that is offered, because I believe that the Prime Minister, if given the opportunity, would retreat still farther. I am confident that even now the Prime Minister would withdraw the bill if he were given an opportunity to do so, with, the result that the conditions governing service by the Militia would remain as they are to-day. I do not propose to give to the Government any such opportunity to escape, and I intend to stand right up to this measure. Regardless of any amendment that may be moved, I shall not be deterred in my resolve to compel the Government to go on with, the bill. Although the measure is something of which we cannot feel very proud, nevertheless it establishes an important principle. It breaks the 27-year-old tradition of the Labour party of opposition to conscription for service overseas. Consequently, for future governments, whether they be Labour or anti-Labour, the question as to how far the Militia can be used will be only a matter of degree. The principle of overseas service will be established ; therefore, I shall do all in my power to ensure the passage of this measure in order to prevent that principle from being scrapped. I believe that many honorable members opposite would like to see it scrapped. Several important considerations are involved in the measure. First, there is the security of Australia. How can we best defend this country? We have been told by Ministers whom one would deem to he responsible by virtue of their office rather than by their utterances that had it not been for the Labour party’s tenure of office during the last fifteen months, this country would have been forced to surrender to the enemy. The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Ward) has proclaimed that when the present
Government assumed office it found in existence a plan which contemplated the surrender of the northern part of Australia in the event of our being attacked. The Minister for Munitions (Mr. Makin) has smugly stated in this chamber that but for the fact that Labour has been in office for the last fifteen months we should have found ourselves in a serious position had Japan attacked us. Labour has been in office for only fifteen months. Yet these Ministers have the audacity to claim that in that period the Government has so organized the production of munitions, the Navy, the Australian Imperial Force, and the Air Force that it has transformed our position from one of dire peril to one of comparative security.
– Is that not true?
– No. Let us examine the Government’s record in order to see in what plight this country would have found itself had Labour’s policy been given effect to, and had Labour been in office when the war broke out. At the outbreak of war, the very first action of the party of which I was a member was to raise an expeditionary force for service overseas. ‘We believed that we had a common obligation to a common cause, and that our troops ought to serve wherever the fight was raging instead of waiting until the fight was brought to us. We believed that we should strike the enemy wherever we found him. Consequently, we raised an expeditionary force of several divisions. Did we receive support, from honorable members opposite when they were in Opposition in raising that force, or in sending it abroad to gain experience ? It gained us prestige, and a great name overseas. It won for us the right to demand from our Allies, when we ourselves were in danger, that they come to our assistance; but this is what the Prime Minister said in this House when he was Leader of the Opposition on the 10th November, 1939, two months after the outbreak of the war -
I am opposed to an expeditionary force leaving this Commonwealth for overseas.
And contrast his recent statements about the meritorious services of the Royal Australian Air Force with the following statement which he made on the same occasion -
More .particularly do I object to the sending overseas of men who are trained or who are to be trained for the Air Force.
On the same occasion, when the party to which I belong believed that in the interests of our security we should have every man of military age and physique trained to bear arms in the defence of this country, what did the present Prime Minister have to say? He said -
With regard to compulsory training I say that we are against it. I see no justification for it.
After the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) interjected, “ Yet the honorable gentleman just said we need our full man-power “, the Prime Minister reiterated -
I say there is no justification for compulsory training. I see no necessity for it.
The Prime Minister spoke at that time for honorable members opposite who, today, are telling the world that during the last fifteen months - hardly sufficient time in which to organize a circus - this Government has transformed Australia’s defence position from one of insecurity to one of comparative security. What has been the harvest from the policy of the previous ‘Government? The Prime Minister, who opposed the despatch of an expeditionary force and the introduction of compulsory training in 1939, recently broadcast au appeal for assistance to the people of the United States of America. He said -
Australia has been a constant contributor to the very maximum of its resources to the cause of liberty in the far-flung fighting fronts of the world.
I remind the House that in 1939 the right honorable gentleman objected strongly to the despatch overseas of any Australian soldiers. He proceeded to describe to the world with justifiable pride, though his Government would not have been able to make the claim if the policy of the Labour party had been given effect three years ago, the heroic deeds of the Australian Imperial Force. He said -
Australian soldiers have fought in Europe and Africa. Their’s was the bitter retreat from Greece and Crete. Their’s was the glory of Tobruk. Their’s was the spearhead of General Montgomery’s drive against Rommel.
Every word of that statement is true, but not one word could have been said if the policy of the Labour party had been adopted at the outbreak of the war. If Australia looks to the United States of America, in particular, for assistance, the Commonwealth Government must demonstrate that this country is “ pulling its weight “ in the struggle. The great tragedy of this debate is that misunderstanding will be created in the United States of America.
– The honorable member hopes that misunderstanding will be created in that country.
– That is untrue. Until the Japanese launched their treacherous attack against Pearl Harbour, there was a strong isolationist bloc in the United States of America, and its influence has not been entirely dissipated. The bombing of Pearl Harbour destroyed the complacency of the isolationists, and caused them to support President Roosevelt because perforce they had no option. I direct attention to an article reprinted from the Chicago Tribune, the arch isolationist journal, which informed the American public that Australia was not doing its fair share, because of its reluctance tointroduce all-out conscription. The article added that if Australia expects to receive American aid, this country must play a bigger part in the prosecution of the war. The Australian Imperial Force and the Citizen Military Forces at present are doing everything within physical limits to play their part. Our soldiers in Papua and New Guinea, both Australian Imperial Force and Citizen Military Forces, have done every thing that could be expected of them. They could not have done more, even if this Parliament had passed a measure providing for conscription for service overseas. Such legislation would not have placed another soldier in the field. Even if the Parliament were to accept the principle of general conscription and agree that Australian troops should serve in Java, China, or any other part of the world, it would at present be physically impossible for us to despatch them to those theatres of war, because of the resistance of the enemy. Consequently, the sphere of operations as outlined in the bill is probably the limit within which Australian soldiers can be sent at the moment, and no debate or recriminations in this chamber as to whether they should or should not be sent to Malaya, or to the whole or a part of Java, will alter the position. Therefore, no valuable purpose will be served by debating whether our troops should operate on the Chinese or Malayan coast. The ultimate strategy of the war will determine that matter. But the great damage which is being done to the reputation of the country as the result of the action of the Government may be reflected in an unwillingness on the part of our allies to assist us when we make appeals for help. We are not yet out of the wood. Strong enemy forces still oppose us. If the allied naval forces suffer some set-back, which can easily occur, Australia will face the invader. The spectre of invasion always confronts us.
– The honorable member seems to consider that Australia is capable of combatting Japan without
– The honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) seeks to put into my mouth words which I. did not use. The Minister for Labour and National Service, the Minister for Munitions and others declared recently that had the Labour party not been in office when Japan entered the war, Australia would probably have been invaded.
– That is so.
– That interjection shows that the Minister has no sense of responsibility. We have a population of 7,000,000 people, our continent covers 3,000,000 square miles and our coastline is 12,000 miles long. To defend this land, we have practically no navy and a small air force. Our safety and security depended not upon whether a Labour, United Australia party or National Government was in office, but upon the protection afforded to us by the United Kingdom and the United States of America. That fact should be borne in mind by Ministers before they make foolish statements. But the Minister for Labour and National Service is unrepentant, as his interjection a moment ago revealed.
This bill is only one step along a long highway. It violates a great Labour principle. One has only to look at the glum and gloomy faces of some honorable members opposite to realize how this legislation has shaken them. I sympathize with the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan), the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) and the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear), who will be compelled to support the bill because they have been coerced into doing so. The Minister for Labour and National Service will be crucified. The only thing which prevents him from resigning from the Ministry and opposing conscription at every stage is the fact that his action would cost him £2,000 a year by the loss of his ministerial allowance. The bill, inadequate as it is, has broken an iron-clad tradition of 27 years of Labour anticonscription policy, and the Opposition would be foolish indeed to give to the Prime Minister any excuse for withdrawing it. I am convinced that if the right honorable gentleman were offered any means of escape, he would again retreat. In those circumstances, the Leader of the Opposition has been very wise in announcing that he did not propose to move an amendment to the bill. I shall support the measure.
– The honorable member is “ squaring off “ now.
– I shall do my utmost to see that the bill is passed and I shall get considerable .education from watching the Minister for Labour and National Service vote for it. I have said enough - more than enough for some honorable members opposite - but I shall conclude by uttering a warning to members on the Government side of the House. The time will come when they will be compelled to swallow everything that they have said in the past in opposition to merging the Australian Imperial Force and the Citizen Military Forces. There will be no escape for them if Australia is to play its expected part in the war. They will have to swallow every word which they said in opposition to the proposals to permit Australian conscript troops to be sent to Java, Malaya, the Philippines or elsewhere. It is indeed most illogical to expect conscripts from the United States of America to defend New Guinea and
Australia when we refuse to send our conscript soldiers to assist in the recapture of the United States territory in the Philippines. Under the bill before the House, the Philippines are excluded from the regions in which our militia forces may fight. The Government will bc fooling itself if it believes that the people of the United States of America will accept that policy indefinitely. It will also be underestimating the common sense of its President and his military advisers. I repeat that the time is not distant when honorable members opposite will have to swallow every word which they have said against conscription for overseas service, and my advice to them is not to say too much at present, but to maintain the policy of silence, which they have so effectively adopted this evening.
.- This House has listened to more bathos and bunkum from the Opposition benches in this debate than is usually the case when a measure comes before it. We have heard the putty Caesars, the secondrate Napoleons, and all the other military geniuses, the kerbstone field marshals, and the arm-chair vice-admirals telling us just what this country ought to do at this particular moment. We have the spectacle of honorable members opposite, who solemnly pledged their word to the electors that in no circumstances whatsoever would they dare to flout the traditional policy not only of the Labour party but also of the country if they were successful in the general elections in 1940, rising in their places in the last few hours to protest that they have been conscriptionists all along, that what the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) proposes to do should have been done months and even years ago, and that now that the bill has been brought down it cannot be passed through this Parliament too quickly. There is a ring of insincerity about it all. They said in 1940 that they were anti-conscriptionists because they felt that the people of Australia would have dealt severely with them at the general elections if they had dared to say otherwise. For political expediency they respected the opinions of the people.
– The electors of Swan sent me here on1 that policy.
– The honorable member is a sort of election afterthought. He came here only because the Labour candidate who opposed him at the Swan by-election was not the right one. He might not have been here if we had had a little more sense, and had made a better choice. However, we take him, as a man takes his wife in marriage, for better or for worse, and we will keep him until this Parliament has run its course.
– I have never had to switch on my principles yet.
– The honorable member has told us that he came here as a conscriptionist. That is the first time I have heard that conscription was an issue at the Swan by-election. I thought that everything else under the sun was an issue there, but not conscription.
– The honorable member was not there.
– No. It was lucky for him that I did not go to the Swan electorate, because had I gone West he would have “gone west” also but in another sense. I suggest that the bill is not needed for military reasons at all. This country cannot take the offensive for many months to come. The Prime Minister has told us that we have to fight a holding battle for the next six months and that the volume of assistance that we are getting from Britain and America is only a trickle. In those circumstances how can this country wage an offensive war? How can we retake Borneo, Amboina, Celebes, Timor, Java and Sumatra ? How can we go to northern New Guinea ? The leaders of our forces would undoubtedly like to retake all those territories, but how can 7,000,000 people defeat a nation with a population of 80,000,000 people? That is what the whole position boils down to. All that we can do, as the Prime Minister has suggested, is to hold this country until further aid can come to us. The right honorable gentleman has protested that we must not be left here as a nation of caretakers, and that something is due to us as well as something being due from us to our Allies. Honorable members opposite have talked about our obligations to our Allies in this conflict, but there are obligations which our Allies owe to us for the fight which Australia has waged ever since the war started. Australia did not start to fight only when Japan came into the war. Australian troops have served on at least fifteen fronts since the war started. If honorable members opposite had had their way, some of the Australian divisions abroad would not have been brought back to this country when this Government brought them back. If the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron), in particular, had had his way ten divisions would have been sent out of this country at the beginning of the war. If ten divisions had been sent- away from Australia, more Australians would have been killed, wounded or lost in Greece, Crete and Singapore through the lack of air support. We should have had a far bigger casualty list and the task of the Japanese in successfully invading this country would have been made much easier.
– There would have been no Rommel in North Africa if I had had my way.
– I am sorry that General Douglas MacArthur has not so far discovered those great qualities which the honorable member, with his customary modesty, so proudly proclaims himself to possess. I believe that even if the honorable member for Barker had been abroad with ten divisions of Australian troops there still would have been a Rommel in North “Africa. All I am sorry for is that we have had such losses abroad, and that the serious defeat at Singapore occurred. However, when this Government wanted to bring back men from abroad in order to defend Australia from invasion, honorable members opposite, particularly those on the Advisory War Council, were not so solicitous about the defence of Australia as they have proclaimed themselves to be to-night.
– Honorable members on this side were never consulted.
– In that respect the honorable member is in much the same position as myself, because I am rarely consulted by the Government about anything. The introduction of this bill has been dictated by political reasons. The insensate clamour which certain honorable members opposite have set up over the past twelve months, and the support that has been given to them by the
Murdoch press in particular, have helped to create that atmosphere which unfortunately compelled the Prime Minister to change his point of view. The arguments that we have heard quoted, and have read in the press, after being cabled back to us from America, have appeared first in the Australian press and have been deliberately sent to America by certain people in this country of fifth columnist mentality who are eager to embarrass the Commonwealth Government. They are particularly anxious to use the echoes from America to intimidate the Government into a course of action upon which it previously refused to embark. I hope that even at this late stage the Government will drop the bill. There is, as I have pointed out, no military necessity for it. The powers that are proposed to be given cannot be used for, at least, another twelve months.
Mir. Ryan. -What about the moral necessity?
– If I want to seek moral or ethical reasons for a course of political action, I shall not look to the Opposition benches for them. There is no moral obligation upon Australia to conscript its manhood at this particular time to send it elsewhere. The duty of the Commonwealth Government is to use the Australian Army to defend Australia. Is not that what the British Government does with the British Army in carrying out its responsibility to Great Britain? The great bulk of the British Army is still in Britain. We read about the First Army in North Africa, the Eighth Army in Libya, and the Ninth Army in Syria, but we never hear anything about the Second, Third, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth and Seventh Armies. I presume that they are in Britain, and that the British High Command considers that that is the proper place to keep them. I do not quarrel with its decision in that regard. If, however, honorable members opposite had their way, ten of our Australian divisions would be fighting not under General MacArthur’s command, but under General Wavell, thousands of miles away from these shores, and the defence of Australia would be left to old men, women and children. The right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies), who engaged in a lot of mental gymnastics and prided himself upon having made a telling speech, was one of those who, in 1940, pledged himself against the introduction of conscription. He then lead the army of the United Australia party; he led the Government. The Australian people were asked to “ trust the man who gets things done “. I could show honorable members full-page advertisements in the daily press in which that slogan appeared. He was an anticonscriptionist then. He was an anticonscriptionist when France fell, when Russia was still neutral so far as we were concerned, when America had not entered the war, and when the battle for Britain was being fought so gallantly by the small Royal Air Force, and the whole of the odds were against us. Now, when America is on our side, when Britain has had a chance to re-arm and re-establish itself, when Russia is in the second year of the struggle, and when Japan is pressing at our very gates he says: “I abandon the cause of anticonscription; I have become conscriptionist. Scatter the Army to the four winds of heaven.” Does he consider that that sort of argument appeals to the Australian people? If honorable members opposite want an election, let them challenge the Government on this issue, and we shall see whether the Australian people are as silly and purblind as they believe them to be. I am confident that if the Australian people were given an opportunity to decide as between three propositions - anti-conscription, in which I always have believed, and always will, believe; the qualified form of conscription which the Prime Minister supports; and the full-blooded conscription which honorable members opposite want - the great majority of them would vote for anti-conscription. The right honorable member for Kooyong did not say that the people should be consulted upon this matter, by way of either an election or a referendum, despite the fact that he came into this Parliament as a pledged anti-conscriptionist. What right has any member of the Parliament to disregard the pledge that he gave to the electors, without consulting them? Is that democratic?
– What right had Japan to attack Australia?
– That fact does not give to any member of the Common-wealth Parliament the right to change his view upon any matter, without consulting the people. We knew in 1940 that Japan would attack Australia. Was there any member of thi3 Parliament who did not know it? As soon as this war broke out, we knew that ultimately we would be fighting Japan. We knew that there was a military alliance between the Axis Powers which was binding on every member; that after Germany attacked Poland it was only a matter of time when Italy would come into the war; and when it did, that it was only a matter of time when Japan would become a belligerent. The Japanese attack was only a surprise because of the manner in which Pearl Harbour was bombed. Its inevitability was recognized. Before the actual attack upon Pearl Harbour, every body in Australia realized, from the time when Japan’s special envoy set foot in America, that a conflict was approaching. Therefore, the protestations of the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. McDonald) and his fellow members do not read with such sincerity as they would wish.
It is said that America is sending conscripts to our shores. We have to face that issue. The fact is that the American Government is doing with its troops what the American people allow it to do. The manner in which America disposes of its forces is its own business. I remind honorable members opposite that when America does as much as Australia in the way of mobilizing its forces for war and raises an army equivalent proportionately to that of Australia, it will have approximately 1’2,000,000 men under arms. To date, it has 1,000,000 men outside its shores; 800,000 are in North Africa and Europe, where probably they are not wanted so much, and 200,000 are in the South-west Pacific Area. Therefore, the comparison which honorable members make is faulty.
– Is it right that the honorable member should use the figures he has given?
– They have already appeared in the press of the world and in the American press in particular. They have been republished in the press of this country. The Prime Minister has stated, and his remarks have been published in the press of this country, that America’s contribution on Australia’s shores is as one to five compared with Australia’s own contribution. All those honorable members opposite who make comparisons between American and Australian conscripts are fomenting the discord between this country and America that they pretend to deplore. America has done a magnificent job for Australia, and nobody in this Parliament should offer any criticism that may help the so-called isolationist cause. In any event, if there is an isolationist cause in America, who created it? Was it not those who in this country and in Britain squealed about the war debts after the last war, until they made numbers of Americans say, “If that is the way in which they are going to reward us for the services we have rendered, we shall keep out of European struggles forever.” It was only the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbour that brought America into the war. But for that attack, the chances are that America would not now be in the war. It was those people who, after receiving American aid in the last war, became critical of America, who helped to create the isolationist bodies. The isolationists are not, as honorable members opposite suggest, anxious to withdraw American troops from Australian soil. All Americans are anxious, as are all Australians, that Japan shall be defeated.
– We were getting lendlease goods from America before Pearl Harbour was attacked.
– We certainly were. President Roosevelt had a very difficult task in securing the passage of legislation through the American Congress empowering the giving of aid to Great Britain, ourselves and other allied nations before America had formally entered the war. We are certainly grateful for the assistance we have received.
I could, had I the time, deal with the arguments presented by the honorable member for New England (Mr.- Abbott), whose immaculate presence has disappeared from the chamber. He brought General von Clauswitz up to date, misquoted Napoleon’s military maxims, and finished an historical review with quotations from Hitler and Winston Churchill. What he had to say had already been said by lots of other honorable members. He uttered a lot of truisms, but they were insipid. He has now finally won for himself the reputation of being the greatest platitudinarian in the Parliament. One could not quarrel with lots of the things that he said ; but he distorted them, in order to give them a conscriptionist twist.
I now turn to the subject of food production in Australia. If honorable members opposite had their way, and all members of our defence forces were sent abroad, who would produce the food required in Australia? Some men must serve in the Army, some in the munitions factories and some on the farms. An article published in the Melbourne
Herald of the 3rd December last, and despatched from Canberra, had the following headlines, “Allies may help solve labour problem on food “. In the course of the article it was stated that even coloured labour might be imported for food production. It was the duty of the Government to repudiate that statement if it were untrue, or to explain it if it were true. One of Sir Keith Murdoch’s myrmidons in Canberra may have been merely flying a kite, but the article suggested that the importation of coloured labour would be a natural corollary to conscription for overseas service. I mention the possible importation of coloured labour as an additional reason why this House should not pass a conscription bill. We are told that the battle for the Solomons has reached a critical stage. Yet honorable members opposite think that this is the right time to denude Australia of its manhood, and, strangely enough, they believe that the people of Australia will agree with them. I do not consider that in our hour of greatest danger the people desire the Parliament to authorize the despatch of our small and insufficient army to any part of the world that may be decided on.
The Opposition parties asked the people of Australia to vote for conscription on two occasions - in 1916 and in 1917.
– Those parties have their revenge now.
– They certainly have, but that is not the fault of the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn), myself and certain other honorable members. I believe that ultimately the Labour party will become ant].conscriptionist again. I am hopeful that, even if this bill be passed, the Government will not put it into operation. I trust that if it reaches the statute-book it will become a dead letter.
– Will the honorable member vote for it?
-I shall not vote for the amendment submitted by the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron), nor for the amendment foreshadowed by the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Coles). I am, as I always have been, an anti-conscriptionist.
– But the honorable member will vote for the- bill.
– I adopt an Asquithian attitude and say to the honorable gentleman, “ Wait and see “.
– The honorable member will be a member of the House of Lords if he keeps on giving replies like that.
– I have such a sublime faith in the munificence of Providence, and in the sturdy common sense of at least 51 per cent, of the electors of Melbourne to think that I shall remain a member of this Parliament as long as did my illustrious predecessor.
– The honorable member does give some credit to Providence.
– Unlike the honorable member, I give all credit at all times to Providence.
In the last war the right honorable member for North Sydney was compelled, against his own wishes, to take a referendum on the subject of conscription. He said that he consulted the people, but he was conscripted into consulting them. The Labour caucus would not accept his proposal, and the referendum was the plan devised to satisfy the majority of the members of the caucus. “When the right honorable gentleman was defeated on the first conscription bill he did not wish to go to the electors in May, 1917, but he tried to pilot a bill through the Parliament which would have enabled him to petition the British Parliament to prolong the life of Parliament to the end of the war. He needed one additional vote in order to have the bill passed through the Senate, and the late Senator David Watson, of New South Wales, alleged that the right honorable gentleman, who was then the right honorable member for West Sydney, tried to bribe him to secure the passage of the bill. The late senator refused to break his pledges, and after that we had the mysterious disappearance from the Senate of Senator Ready. He was a Labour senator from Tasmania, and he disappeared at 6 o’clock one evening, after tendering his resignation to the then President of the Senate. The latter sent the resignation to the then Prime Minister, who in turn forwarded it to the Governor-General. Then the GovernorGeneral sent the resignation to the Governor of Tasmania, who referred it to the Premier of Tasmania. The last mentioned called a meeting of his Cabinet, which allegedly deliberated on the choice of a successor to Senator Ready. The Cabinet decided to appoint Mr. John Earle in place of Senator Ready, and the decision was conveyed by the Premier of Tasmania to the Governor of that State, and through him to the Governor-General. The Governor-General forwarded the decision to the Prime Minister, who sent it to the President of the Senate. At 9 o’clock on the morning after Senator Ready’s disappearance, Mr. Earle was waiting on the doorstep of the Senate to bc sworn in as a senator for Tasmania. That was the method employed by the right honorable member for North Sydney to try to avoid an election in 1917. But the late Senators Keating and Bakhap, two other Tasmanian senators who were Nationalists, would have nothing to do with the filthy and immoral business. They told the then Prime Minister that they would not vote for his bill. In that way the right honorable gentleman was compelled to go to the electors in 1917. Unfortunately for Australia the anti-conscriptionist vote of 1916 was not an a-nti-nationalist party vote. Many people voted against conscription in 1916 in order to save their hides, but when the 1917 elections took place they voted with the party representing vested interests, in order to protect their economic interests. That is the portion of the story of the 1916 con.scription campaign and the 1917 election campaign which the right honorable gentleman did not tell us to-night.
I hope that this bill will be defeated, and as I have already said, if it does become law I hope it will be a dead letter. If it does not become a dead letter, I hope that in a few months the Labour party of Australia, in conference assembled, will revert to the attitude which it formerly adopted in regard to conscription. When that occurs I believe that honorable members of the Labour party in this Parliament will do their utmost to maintain the traditional policy of the party, which is not only a good policy for Labour, but also the only safe and sane policy for the Australian people, in the circumstances in which we find ourselves in the world to-day.
.- I was able to hear only the conclusion of the speech of the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), but I am glad that I heard so much, because I heard him say that he hoped the bill would be defeated. I propose to inform the House why I intend to support the bill; I feel that there is a keen desire among certain honorable members of the other side that the bill should be defeated, or at any rate sidetracked by the passing of an amendment.
I support this measure, first because it establishes the principle that the Citizen Military Forces may, if necessary, be sent into areas beyond the shores of this continent in order to defend Australia. I also support the bill because it is a foundation upon which a better structure may be erected, thus enabling the Australian Militia to be sent anywhere, during the course of this war, for the protection of Australia. I do not propose to support the hill because of any intrinsic value. As a matter of fact, it possesses very little merit, apart from the fact that it does go some way along the road which we would like to see the Government follow. Poor as it is, however, I cannot assume the responsibility either of voting against it or voting for an amendment to it. I believe that the Government, harassed by its own supporters, and worried by the trade unions, already regrets that it ever introduced the measure, and I believe that, at the first opportunity, the Government would drop it, and then blame the Opposition for having compelled it to do so. If the bill does not pass, Australia will be so much the poorer, just as it would be so much the richer if it were a better bill. However, the Opposition has no control over the nature of the measures submitted to the House. It must take the bill as it finds it, or accept the risk of moving amendments that might result in the loss of the measure altogether. My attitude is that I cannot take the risk that several opponents of the bill on the other side of the House might cross the chamber and vote with the Opposition to defeat the measure. I do not think that they would, because they are well disciplined to thinking in one way and voting in another. Still, there is a risk, and I do not propose to take it merely because the bill does not go as far as the Opposition and the country generally would like. Neither can the Opposition support the amendments because the measure would then become unpalatable to the Government, and would be dropped. The Opposition must support the bill in the hope that, from a poor beginning, it will grow into something better as time passes. It is better to get this measure, imperfect as it is, than to lose everything, as might well happen unless the House agrees to it in the form submitted by the Government.
The honorable member for Henty (Mr. Coles) has stated that, in the committee stage, he proposes to move an amendment that will have the effect of altering the whole character of the bill, but what right has the Opposition to take any notice of the honorable member for Henty? How does the Opposition know that the amendment has not been drawn up in collabora tion with the Government in the hope that the Opposition might support it, thus giving the Government an opportunity to drop the bill ? The honorable member for Henty had an opportunity on the 2nd May last to vote for an amendment emanating from this side of the House which contained provisions very similar to those of the amendment which he has foreshadowed. The honorable member says that he did not vote for that amendment because he did not think that the Opposition was sincere.
– When the Opposition pulls Mr. Speaker out of the chair to vote in a division I shall believe that it is sincere.
– What justification have we for assuming that the honorable member for Henty is himself sincere? When he had the opportunity to vote in support of the principles which he now enunciates he declined to do so, but voted with the Government against the amendment. Now he says that he doubts our sincerity. Does he pretend to be the only sincere man in the House? I am not prepared to accord him his self-appointed position of sole patriot in the Parliament. I am just as patriotic as he is, and joist as anxious that Australia’s fighting forces should be used in the proper way, and in the proper places. I am prepared to support at the proper time any proposal for extending the area in which our forces may be required to serve, but for the time being I am going to support what is practicable. If the Opposition were to support the amendment foreshadowed by the honorable member for Henty, I am convinced that within a day or two the bill would be dropped. Therefore, I shall not have anything to do with the foreshadowed amendment, any more than I shall have anything to do with the amendment of the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) unless it can be shown that, by supporting one of those amendments, we would really be able to achieve our purpose. My purpose in speaking now is to define my position. I intend for the reasons I have stated to support the bill and to oppose the amendments.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Forde) adjourned.
The following paper was presented : -
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired for Commonwealth purposes - Pascoe Vale, Victoria.
House adjourned at 10.40 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
– The Minister for War Organization of Industry has asked me to answer the questions as they involve the administration of the Man Power Directorate.
With regard to questions 1 and 2, no estimate has been prepared of the numbers of female employeesthat may be made available for war work as a result of the restriction of employment of domestic servants. Applications for permission to employ more than one servant are at present being considered by all Deputy Directors-General of Man Power.
The answer to questions 3 and 4 is “ No “. I may add for the information of the honorable member that the numbers of applications to employ more than one domestic servant already received are as follows: -
Mr.Calwell asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
What action does the Government propose to take to secure the position of the irrigation settlement in the Murray Valley by adding an additional 750,000 acre feet to the catchment area of the Hume Reservoir, thus completing the original scheme of 2,000,000 acre feet as the size ofthe dam?
Summer Uniforms for Volunteer Defence Corps.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 4 February 1943, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1943/19430204_reps_16_173/>.