12 November 1918

7th Parliament · 2nd Session

The President (Senator the Hon. T. Givens) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.

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Armistice with Germany: Address to His Majesty the King.

Senator MILLEN:
Minister for Repatriation · New South WalesMinister for Repatriation · NAT

. -(By leave.) - In view of the news which has just been received in Australia, I submit the following motion, which, I am sure, will receive the unanimous concurrence of honorable senators: -

That the following address be presented to His Majesty the King : -

May it Please Youb Majesty :

We,Your Majesty’s dutiful and loyal subjects, the Members of the Senate of the Commonwealth, in Parliament assembled, desire in our name and on behalf of the people whom we represent, to express our unswerving loyalty and devotion to Your Majesty’s person and Government’.

At this stirring and eventful period in the life of our nation, we desire to render thanks to God for the triumph of Righteousness over the forces of Evil.

We rejoice with Your Majesty upon the signing of the armistice, involving, as it does, the surrender of Germany.

We congratulate Your Majesty upon the great sagacity and steadfast resolution of the statesmen of Great Britain and the Allied and Associated Powers, whose labours established and perfected the all-powerful alliance of free nations which has now effected the capitulation of an arrogant foe.

We tender to the British and Allied forces on land, sea and air, the profound and grateful thanks of a united people, for their stupendous efforts and patriotic sacrifices extending over four years of unparalleled carnage. Especially do we glory in the fact that the soldiers and sailors of Australia have, by their dauntless heroism and endurance, conspicuously assisted in re-establishing freedom andjustice.

In this hour of our greatest triumph we earnestly desire, above all else, to associate ourselves with Your Majesty in the sacred duty of paying homage to the memory of our dead heroes, who laid down their lives in the cause of humanity.

We devoutly trust that Your Majesty’s future reign may be crowned by order and good government throughout the British Empire, and that the nations of the world may ere long enter into the enjoyment of an honorable and lasting peace.

Before I venture to speak in indorsement of that motion it is my duty to read to the Senate a message which has been received by the Governor-General and transmitted here for the information of honorable senators. It is from His Majesty the King, and reads as follows : -

At the moment when the armistice is signed, bringing, I trust, a final end to the hostilities which have convulsed the whole world for more than four years, I desire to send a message of greeting and heartfelt gratitude to our overseas peoples, whose wonderful efforts and sacrifices have contributed so greatly to secure the victory which now is won.

Together we have borne this tremendous burden in the fight for justice and liberty; together we can now rejoice at the realization of those great aims for which we. entered the struggle. The whole Empire pledged its word not to sheathe the sword until our end was achieved. That pledge is now redeemed.

The outbreak of war found the whole Empire one. I rejoice to think that the end of the struggle finds the Empire still more closely united by the common resolve held firm through all vicissitudes, by the community of suffering and sacrifice, by the dangers and triumphs shared together.

The hour is one of solemn thanksgiv ing and of gratitude to God, whose Divine Providence has preserved us through all perils, and crowned our arms with victory. Let us bear our triumph in the same spirit of fortitude and selfcontrol with which we have borne our dangers.

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For four years Australia has been engaged in a deadly and often doubtful struggle. For four years we have, in association with the forces of civilization, been endeavouring, fighting and hoping, for that victorious peace which alone could give us a guarantee of national safety. We have been passing through the valley of sacrifice, of. great effort, of endurance and of death, and now when we emerge reaching the heights of our desire, when peace approaches us with such dramatic suddenness, we - at least I - am conscious of such thoughts and feelings that it is a little difficult to bring those thoughts into proper perspective, or to find words which are at once adequate and appropriate to the occasion. But we should be less than human if we were not conscious, above all else, of a great feeling of jubilation, of heartfelt gratitude to Providence, and of intense relief from dangers overcome. We are entitled also to say that our sense of national pride is stirred to its very depths.

Honorable Senators.- Hear, hear!

Senator MILLEN:

– We rejoice not only over a great victory achieved - and it is a great victory- but also in the knowledge that we have escaped the consequences of defeat, which would inevitably have overtaken us but for that victory. We rejoice, also, that the victory is not merely the triumph of the military forces of the

Allies over the military forces of the enemy, but that by the attainment of this victory we have secured the ends for which we entered the war, and admissions, not the least important of which is that contained in the declaration of the German Chancellor himself, that the cause for which we fought was right.

There is a very natural pride in the part played by the people of our race and blood in this titanic struggle. We pay all homage fully and freely, and without stint, to the efforts of our Allies. We recognise the dauntless courage with which Belgium faced the ordeal. All through we have been admiring sympathizers with the spiritual courage which has upheld France throughout this great struggle. We recognise the efforts of all those who have been associated with the forces of the British Empire. Still, I think we are entitled to say to-day, bearing in mind the part which the Empire to which we belong has borne in the struggle, that it is a proud thing to be a British citizen.

Honorable Senators. - Hear, hear!

Senator MILLEN:

– There are many pages in British history to which we may turn with gratification and delight, but no page has been written so far, and I doubt if any will ever be written, in which we can see more clearly set out those national attributes on which we feel we can rely with confidence and pride. Let us consider the achievements of the Empire. Four years ago, Britain’s military preparation and strength were represented !by what was then termed “That contemptible little Army.” But with stern resolution and clear consciousness of the issues involved Great Britain set to work and organized her resources, material, moral and spiritual, until to-day she stands possessed of possibly the greatest military machine in the world. This has been due, not to any desire for militarism on the part of Great Britain, but ‘to the recognition by her people of the great responsibility thrown upon them and the great danger which confronted them. The people of that country, the women as well as the men, rose to meet the occasion. If there was any moment during the last fateful four years in which British cour- age and resolution shone out more brightly than at any other, it was when it appeared as if the fortunes of war were turning against us. That steadfastness more than once proved the prop of those forces opposed to the German Empire and its Allies.

Passing from that I think, and indeed X am sure, that to-day we are entitled to refer with gratitude and with pride to- the part played by this country in this great


Honorable SENATORS - Hear, hear!

Senator MILLEN:

– Australia was eminently a peace loving nation, had no knowledge of wars, and certainly no desire to participate in them. Yet when the 4th August, 1914, brought its fateful message the people of this country responded to the call of their kinsmen overseas. I think, also, that the people of this country understood, if only by instinct, the vital issues which were involved. They grasped the significance of these issues, and, looking back over the history of the past four years, and remembering the facts to which I have referred,’ no Australian need be other than proud of the part which has been played by his compatriots in this great event. As to our men at the Front, it is not necessary to say anything. Their deeds, their achievements on the heights of Gallipoli, on the plains of Flanders, in Mesopotamia, and in Palestine, will speak more loudly, with more emphasis, and with greater duration” than any words which can be uttered, either here or elsewhere. They have established their own record, and all that we can do is to recognise ‘ its brilliance and pay homage to them.

N”ow, sir, this war, amongst other things, has made Australia a nation in a sense that it -was not before. It has given us a new conception of national life; it has brought us more closely into touch with the great international movements of the world, and, to that extent, it has thrown an. added responsibility upon the shoulders of our, people. The men who have done this - ‘the men of the Australian Imperial Force - we honour. We honour them for all that they have done, for all that they have suffered, for all that they have endured, and if we honour the glorious living, who, we hope, will shortly return to these shores, still more do we honour in a grateful spirit the glorious dead, who will never return. We extend our sympathy to their relatives, to those who sent them forth with a blessing, bidding them perform the task they had taken in hand - the task which they have so well and worthily discharged.

We are within reaching distance of peace. The news which has arrived of the complete surrender of Germany by the acceptance of the terms of the armistice, though justifying great jubilation, must not be interpreted as meaning that our tasks have ended. Those tasks, though different from the tasks we have been facing for the last four years, are still’ of great complexity, of great magnitude, and involve enormous consequences. Amongst these tasks I would like to make passing (reference to -that which will be involved in our attitude towards the beaten foe. The British have always - and rightly - possessed the reputation of treating generously those whom they have defeated in battle: I have no desire that the reputation of the British nation in that regard shall be weakened, but I fervently express the hope that those into whose hands will be intrusted the grave responsibility of adjusting the peace terms, will not be misled by any mistaken sentiment into refraining from discriminating between those who plunged this world into war and who for four years nailed humanity upon a cross, and those who sought to avoid it.

With peace there will come a new era both for Australia and the world. There will be new problems to be faced, new tasks to be undertaken. I hope - and I am entitled to believe, as I most fervently do - that we shall face them conscious of the strength developed by our last four years of war, with a sense of higher responsibility, with a sense of greater opportunity, and that we shall do so in the hope that the world has at1 last been rid of that great menace which has been threatening it for more than a generation. We may look forward, I hope, to a prolonged peace in the enjoyment of which we may confidently anticipate - if we address ourselves aright to our national problems - that we shall achieve triumphs even greater than those now placed on record in this address.

I submit the motion, and, in doing so, I venture to mention for your consideration, sir, that it is the desire of the Government that the other House shall adopt an address couched in similar terms. The other House, however, will not meet until to-morrow, and, as this motion relates to an address to His Majesty, and will, therefore, require to be presented to the Governor-General, I suggest that you, sir, should refrain from presenting it until the other branch of the Legislature has adopted the motion that, will be submitted to it, so as to permit of the two addresses being presented simultaneously.

New South Wales

– I rise with very great pleasure to second the motion submitted by the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Millen). I am “delighted at the maimer in which’ he has presented it, and, on behalf of honorable senators upon this side of the chamber, I desire to associate myself with all that he has said on the present occasion. There is no doubt that the news which has reached us during the past few days, terminating with the final acceptance of the Allied terms by the German people - and according to the latest information those terms have indeed been! accepted by the German people - has lifted from all true and faithful hearts a very heavy burden. There is no man in Australia whom. I know who has not always shared, the deep anxiety which has been felt by every section of the community during the fateful days of the past four years. Though in our political struggles we may use the different aspects of the war for party purposes, there has been during this prolonged struggle a display of firmness and willing sacrifice which have made every Australian heart beat with pride. We came into this war unasked, with the spontaneous wish of a united Australia, and after four years of tenacious struggle, a united Australia rejoices over the advent of peace. After all, our political divisions mark no serious division of public feeling. Political opinions may have differed, but public opinion generally has taken the form of a firm and consistent, demand that this war should be continued until a ju3t and honorable peace had been attained. We now have, the prospect of a just and honorable peace based on victory, and I am sure that this splendid achievement will be the cause of great rejoicing on the -part of every earnest heart throughout Australia.

With the Minister for Repatriation, I join in offering my sympathy to those who have been left behind as the result of the valiant sacrifices made by sons and husbands who have given their lives in a struggle which threatened the very existence of freedom throughout the world. My heart goes out to the wives and the mothers of those who have laid down their lives - over 55,000 of them, comprising the very flower of Australian manhood- fighting the battles of the Empire and of this Commonwealth. Not only should out sympathy be expressed here, but Australia and Australia’s Parliament must remember that the Government must now take the place, as far as it can, of the fathers of the children who have been left behind. The latter must lack nothing in education or in opportunities that . their, fathers could have won for them had they been permitted to return .to their native land. Parliament will be behind the Government to any extent in saying that these children shall not suffer because of the magnificent sacrifices made by their fathers.

I join with the Minister for Repatriation in recognising the generosity with which Britain is always prepared to meet her foes when she is victorious. .It has been well said by another statesman that Great Britain is always victorious _in the last battle. If a generous peace is now made, I am sure the British race will not suffer from it. Look back to the . beginning of the war and remember the term, “ The contemptible little Army!” applied by the German Kaiser to the first British Expeditionary Force - words which have now become words of praise’ beyond imagination.When we realize that British and French military statesmen considered at the time that that “ Contemptible little Army” would be sufficient to meet the German onrush should Germany attack France through Belgium, we can see how futile are the efforts of the human mind to prepare for future events.We can best prepare for the future now by determining a peace that will leave no lasting ill-will amongst the nations. If the instigators of this fight arc driven from their high positions in Germany, if the thrones that conspired against the freedom of the world topple to the ground, as they are doing now, we can well join in an effort to link together in a league of brotherhood all the free peoples of the world, keeping the flag of freedom flying over small nations as well as great.

I earnestly hope that we shall realize our duty of binding up our nation’s wounds, and of lending a helping hand to the dependants of those who have fallen for us. I trust also that, like good sportsmen, the fight having been fought with all bitterness and intensity, we shall forget the past when peace is signed and hands are clasped in a friendship that I fervently hope will last for all time.

Question unanimously resolved in the affirmative, honorable senators standing in their places and singing the National Anthem, concluding with three cheers. Cheers were also given (on the call of Senator Needham), for Field-Marshal Foch; (on the call of Senator Maughan), for . “ Our volunteer Army “; and (on the. call of Senator de Largie), for “ The conscript armies of our Allies.”

The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon T Givens:

– I shall refrain from presenting the motion to the representative of the King until a similar motion is ready for presentation by the House pf Representatives.

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Presentation of Address to the Governor-General.

Senator KILLEN (New South Wales shall possibly meet the wishes of the majority of honorable senators by moving

That the Senate do now adjourn.

It is theintention of the Government, subject to the adoption by another place of a motion corresponding to the one adopted here, to invite His Excellency the Governor-General to receive it by wiay of public presentation on the steps fronting this building to-morrow afternoon at 5 o’clock.

New South Wales

.- I trust that after the ceTemony at 5 o’clock to-morrow afternoon, the Government will not for a considerable time expect Parliament to settle down to business, in view of the news we have received, particularly as, after the passing of Supply, there is no business before us that cannot well stand over’.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Senate adjourned at 3.26 p.m.

Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 12 November 1918, viewed 22 October 2017, <>.