17th Parliament · 3rd Session
The President (Senator the Hon. Gordon Brown) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– It has been stated in the press that the Government proposes to give up as a bad job its attempts to deal with the coal position, and to hand the control back to the States, in order to see whether they can solve the problem. Will the Leader of the Senate state whether there is any truth in that announcement? Does the Government intend to abandon its attempts to increase production on the coal-fields, and, in such an event, what is likely to be the position of States other than New South Wales with regard to coal supplies?
– It is not usual to divulge matters of government policy in reply to a question.
– Will the PostmasterGeneral consider the issue of a special stamp to commemorate the winding-up of the decadent United Australia party?
Question not answered.
– Answers are not to hand to various questions appearing on to-day’s notice-paper. The delay in supplying answers was noticed prior to the recent parliamentary recess, and I have taken steps to expedite the replies to honorable senator’s questions.
Debate resumed from the 13th Septem ber(videpage 5376), on motion by Senator Ashley -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- Last April a United Nations conference on international organization was held, and to-day we are privileged to debate in this chamber the text of an agreement signed at San Francisco on the 26th June, 1945. The future security and peace of the world will depend upon the interpretation which the common people will place upon this agreement, but so little is known of it by the great masses of the people that I wish that it were possible for the Government to publish this document so that it couldbe placed in every home in Australia and its contents read and discussed by all. Having read the agreement and the report of the Australian delegates, I express the view that the Charter now before us is the most important document that the world has ever seen. It is something which affects each of us, and therefore it is a document which we should study and discuss. That duty devolves not only upon the older men and women in the community but even more particularly on the younger generation. The agreement signed at San Francisco begins-
We, the peoples of the United Nations determined to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetimehas brought untold sorrow to man kind, and to reaffirm faith in fundamental humanrights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small and to establish conditions under which justice and respect for the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law can be maintained, and to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom, and for these ends to practise tolerance and live together in peace with one another as good neighbours, and to unite our strength to main tain international peace and security, andto ensure, by the acceptance of principles and the institution of methods, that armed force shall not be used, save in the common interest and to employ international machinery for the promotion of the economic and social advancement of all peoples, have resolved to combine our efforts to accomplish these aims Accordingly, our respective governments through representatives assembled in the city of San Francisco, who have exhibited their full powers found to be in good and due form have agreed to the present Charter of the United Nations and do hereby establish an international organization to be known as the United Nations.
All of us should endeavour to appreciate fully the value of the Charter. We must imprint indelibly upon our hearts the sacredness of human rights, truth. tolerance and humanity, and endeavour to translate those principles into our way of living. In the Charter lies the hope of the world. For this reason, .this bill is perhaps the most important measure that has yet been introduced into any Australian Parliament. During the last 31 years we have suffered the two most devastating wars in history. We know the horror also of the aftermath of war. The war of 1914-18 was followed by a depression such as I for one never hope to see again. We realize that the war in which hostilities have just ceased has involved not only armed personnel, but also civilian populations.
I shudder when I think of the possibilities of another war. Perhaps, the awfulness of another war may be the determining factor in the preservation of peace. The rocket bomb is still in its infancy, and just recently we witnessed the advent of the atomic bomb. To what degree those weapons may be developed surpasses our comprehension. However, all of us know that in another war our civilization would be totally destroyed, and with it our way of living which we believe to be noble. The common peoples of the world must be ever conscious of the fact that another war will destroy great and small nations alike. In such circumstances, self-preservation alone will make us strive to maintain peace. We are fortunate that two honorable senators had the privilege of attending the conference at San Francisco. .Such missions are invaluable to participants in helping to broaden not only their own outlook but also that of the peoples they represent in conference with the representatives of other nations. Such conferences destroy parochialism and encourage tolerance. [ am sure that Senator Wash gave of his very best at the conference. I can visualize him sitting at the various meetings from early morn until late at night, [f I do not misjudge him, there was very little that he missed. I express to him my own personal appreciation of the service that be rendered overseas. We also await with interest the return of the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay). J> was indeed gratifying to hear Senator N”ash speak of the happy relationship that existed between himself and the
Leader of the Opposition. If other honorable senators listened with as much appreciation as I did to Senator Nash’s speech, they will agree with me that the Senate was very well served by its representatives at San Francisco. As Senator Wash has said, the Australian party came into personal contact with men and women whose homes, cities, and fellow citizens had felt the full impact of a hostile nation, and who, for that, had an outlook somewhat different from ours. Even to-day in the liberated countries there are great troubles both internal and external. I am happy indeed to think that the future holds excellent prospects for goodwill between nations. Even to-day, with the diversity of opinions and interests amongst men, they have come together and signed the agreement which we now have before us. It is only to be expected that some differences of opinion Will occur. In paragraph 53 of the report, we are given several reasons why a bloc of smaller nations was formed. Ostensibly it was to offset what is called the inner group, consisting of the Five Great Powers. It is also very interesting to read, in paragraph 57, the proposed amendments to the Dumbarton Oaks text submitted by the Australian delegation regarding the right of veto. The report states that the Yalta formula was approved by 30 votes to 2. That suggests to me that Australia received very little support from the nations which actually fought in the war when one of its delegates attempted to twist the lion’s tail. The great mass of the Australian people believe that if any twisting of the lion’s tail is necessary it should be done within the family circle and not publicly.
The greatest force in world peace to-day is the British Empire, together with the other English-speaking peoples. Any one who speaks disparagingly of Great Britain and its statesmen is forgetting history. We would all be well advised to ponder occasionally upon the history of the British Empire. We are moving away from barbarism. The people who have done the. most for civilization in the last 300 years are the people of the British race. They have been the greatest factor in maintaining peace. They have distributed the necessaries of life, and have shown the world how to rule.
Britain’s system of government .is the best that has yet been evolved. I know well how British nationals, particularly in Australia, value their British citizenship. Some of the most vocal critics have not raised a finger to help maintain our way of life. They have sheltered behind those who were willing to die for what they considered to be noble ideals. Of many of these critics, i,t can be truly said that their names only are British. We believe that the British Empire is the finest Empire that the world has ever known, and we hope that it will continue to go «n from strength to strength. However, although other nations have systems of government different from our own, this fact should, not prevent us from working amicably together to protect mankind from future wars. The sole aim of the nations whose representatives were assembled a.t San Francisco was to save us from war. Since the Charter has been signed, the war in the Pacific has ended. Had the delegates at the conference been in possession of the knowledge which we now have, one or two additional items might have been embodied in the Charter. However, at the time of the conference, the delegates could only guess what might happen in the future.. At that time, the five great nations - the United States of America, Russia. Great Britain, China and France - were charged with the successful prosecution of the war. We looked to them, npt only to win the war, but also to maintain the peace of the world thereafter. Even to-day, nations are turning their eyes towards certain places which they consider to he important to their own security. Certain events have occurred in Europe, and Russia is seeking to extend its influence in Asia in the belief that the possession of some countries is necessary to its future protection. We in Australia also look towards certain countries that may have a vital influence on the safety of this continent.
Should another war occur, it is likely that the conflict will rage most fiercely in the Pacific area, The wealth of the world is concentrated around the Pacific Ocean, and more than 50 per cent, of the world’s population lives within 5,000 miles of the heart of Australia. For these reasons, it .appears to me that New Caledonia and Timor hay,e a vital place iti our future strategic plans, although the fortification .of those places is beyond our control. 1 mention this in passing because, much as I hope that world peace is now assured, we must :not remain blind to the fact that Ik ideal .of permanent peace may not be achieved. We .should not be too starry eyed; we mus.t provide for .our own defence.. The Charter lays down ia definite means :of checking aggressor nations. Should any nation transgress the way .of peaceful living, the United Nations will have a combination of forces which can be used to .punish tinoffender. Those forces will need to be well armed and at the immediate disposal of the Security Council.
– What about the atomic bomb?
– We cannot tell just what the results of that discovery will be. The forces will have to .be so ready that they will be in a position to strike as quickly as the aggressor. Unless the nations charged with the keeping of peace are better armed and have more power at their disposal .than the aggressor, I fa.il to see how the peace can be maintained. The aggressor nations must be kept in order by the peaceloving peoples, .and that cannot be done unless they possess between them more power than the potential aggressors. Under the Charter, a certain time would elapse before the forces at the command of the council could be assembled. Some time would pass before the military staffs would receive instructions as to what might be done. Every nation has the duty to be prepared, because any nation which is attacked has the right to defend itself. For a considerable time we shall not bc permitted to allow our own defence forces to fall in strength. We shall have to maintain adequate defence forces.
The British Empire is a world empire, dependent largely upon shipping. Its protection devolves upon the Navy. Sometimes I ask myself whether it is necessary for the world to have any navies other than those of the United States pf America and Great Britain. The questions whether armaments should be manufactured and whether nations should be allowed to traffic in them will have to be decided. We have no assurance that the atomic bomb will be the last scientific discovery of the kind. If these inventions could be controlled by the Security Council, it would be an excellent arrangement, because the council would then control one of the factors which could prevent wars.
– That would make war more difficult.
– Yes. No matter which has come before this Parliament claims closer attention than that of the prevention of war. I have seen h little of it. and we hope that our children will not have to suffer what wo have endured. That is probably the predominant wish in the hearts of the common people, and I use the word common “ in its noblest sense. Unless Mie. common people come together and <ay that there shall bc no more war, ihe possibility of war will always be with us.
As has been said in this chamber, there must be a change of heart among the peoples of the world, and the resources of the whole world must he made available to all nations. I interpret that as meaning that we are proceeding on the road to freetrade. I am unable to visualize just what the future holds for us. I am hoping that there will be no sudden change from our present way of living to the concept of freetrade, but that there will he a transition period. In our efforts to ensure full employment we should proceed carefully and slowly. I should not like to see the Charter stampeded into acceptance. If the nations practise tolerance and live in peace as good neighbours, uniting in an effort to secure international goodwill and security, there will be great hope for the world. As I have travelled through Australia and mingled with many men, I have been impressed by the fact that those who have led sheltered lives, and have been protected by the gallant sacrifices of others, are usually the most clamant in their advocacy of strife. It is strange to me that actual contact with the horrors of war breeds in men a love of peace of tranquillity. That leads me to hope that not only the members of the armed forces who have suffered through having been brought into direct physical contact with the horrors of war, but also civilians will cultivate a spirit of tranquillity, peace and friendliness. I hope that in every nation, men who have fought will be prevailed upon to enter the legislative halls, because they will be best fitted to lay the foundation of world peace. I conclude by urging that the men who are in control of enemy territory be not interfered with, but will he given freedom to administer affairs as they think best, because the men on the spot, who have had experience of the ways of our enemies, are the best judges of what should be done.
– If the objects of this Charter which we are asked to ratify are achieved the Charter of the United Nations will become the most important document which ever came off the printing presses of the world, but I see in it a picture of drowning men grasping at a straw. Scientific development wrongly used has brought the world to a sad state, and if peace is to be secured the United Nations must decide three things. They must answer the following three questions: first, what were the causes of the war; secondly, can war be prevented ; thirdly, can the United Nations bring more closely together the nations of the world with the object of preventing war? 1 have heard many different theories advanced as to the causes of the war which has just ended. Clearly, one cause is human greed - a desire to trade only in order to make profits. Another cause is lust for power, particularly on the part of some fanatic such as Hitler or Tojo. The down-trodden condition of many millions of people in the world is another cause of war. The United Nations must agree on the causes of war before they can provide a remedy. At present Russia is armed to the teeth, and is the greatest military power in the world, but 25 or SO years ago Russia was a down-trodden nation. Because of the restrictions imposed on Germany after the last war, that country had to fight its way. back to national strength, and, accordingly, its rulers set out to rebuild the nation. In that task they were assisted by financiers in Great
Britain and the United States of America. That British manufacturers did much to re-arm Germany for war is proved hy the fact that many shells which landed in Great Britain from German guns and aeroplanes bore marks indicating that they were made in Great Britain. The evidence is clear that sections of the British people helped to prepare Germany for war. The trouble is that wellarmed nations, like physically fit men equipped with boxing gloves, seem unable to resist the temptation to have a test of strength. Germany, armed to the teeth, had either to drop its aggressive policy and provide employment for its people in peace-time avocations, or go to war. The world knows that Germany chose to set out to conquer the world. Many years before war broke out in Europe in 1939, Japan, with its greater scientific development than any other Eastern nation, attacked China, and later joined Germany against the Allied nations. Different views are held as to the reason why Japan went to war with America. My view is that if Japan had not done so economic conditions would have led to Japan’s defeat in China. Japan had planned ahead, but the economic conditions imposed by the Allies forced a war before Japan expected it. That was to the advantage of the Allied nations.
There are some people who fear that the United Nations Security Council will be no more able to prevent war than was the League of Nations, but every effort within the power of the United Nations should be exerted to maintain peace. If there is one thing that the people of the world treasure above all else, it is peace, but, unfortunately, peace is not fully appreciated until it has been lost. If the peace which has again come to the world is to be preserved it will be necessary that all nations, not only the 50 which were represented at San Francisco, shall be brought closely together. That can be done only by agreeing to limit armaments and to improve social standards in every country. Conditions throughout the world must be such that people will be contented with their lot, and not envious of others who enjoy better standards of living. We must also ensure that the countries which have plenty shall go to the rescue of countries which are in need of essential goods. Unless we do that, we shall again head for disaster. ‘Some balance must be struck in international trade with a view to lifting the economic conditions of backward countries to at least a standard of ordinary decency. Can we visualize the maintenance of peace if China is to be left in the state in which it was prior to being attacked by the Japanese? At that time, China was in much the same state economically as was Russia prior ro the outbreak of the war of 1914-18. The war in which hostilities have just ended has at least awakened backward countries to modern methods of industrialization, and we can expect that China, with its hundreds of millions of people, will not be content to tolerate the conditions which prevailed in that country prior to the outbreak of the war. I prophesy that China will become a highly industrialized nation in the near future. We must remember that if the Chinese people cannot establish a decent standard of living, or if it be frustrated in that aim by other nations, its only alternative will be to force the issue. The same observation applies to India. When we scrutinize the nations which now make up the United Nations, we realize that by themselves they represent only a fraction of the peoples of the world. Countries with huge populations which are now in a backward state compared with western countries will probably develop as Russia has developed, and in time join the ranks of the most powerful nations. I can see no reason why all countries should not become highly industrialized with a view to establishing economic .security for their peoples. The job now before thb United Nations is to endeavour to achieve that aim by co-operation and discussion instead of by force of arms as Germany and Japan endeavoured to do. For this reason, the formation of the United Nations Organization should prove of great advantage to the world. In any case, their organization cannot be of any disadvantage, because if it cannot really do any good in the interests of peace, it will certainly not do any harm. In these circumstances, we should be very proud of the part which the Australian delegates played at the
San Francisco conference. Should the objectives of the conference be achieved, Australia’s contribution will reveal our delegates, the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde), and the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt), as two of the greatest statesmen Australia has yet known. Undoubtedly, they did a wonderful job in bringing Australia so prominently before the United Nations. Previously, Australia was practically unknown in a world sense. Some people are of opinion that Australia should be content merely to act as a “ yes “ man to Great Britain. I disagree with that view. I do not think that at the San Francisco conference our delegates twisted the lion’s tail. They did the job which not only we, but also the British delegates, expected them to do. They spoke their minds in the interests of Australia and in the interests of world peace, endeavouring to bring the nations closer together in the future. We should not allow Australia to revert to its status prior to the outbreak of the war when succeeding governments in this country were nothing more or less than puppets for the House of Commons. In those days, the Dominions had to do what Great Britain told them to do. The “ great “ Mi-. Chamberlan, in praise of whom honorable senators opposite have had so much to say, declared that if the worse came to the worst during the war just ended, Great Britain would first look after itself, secondly, secure its trade routes, and thirdly, go to the rescue of the Dominions. That meant that Great Britain was not concerned about the Dominions, but primarily to safeguard its own skin. That attitude was made quite clear by Mr. Chamberlain and his colleagues. They meant in effect that Australia must fend for itself, and could not expect any assistance from Great Britain, because Britain’s hands were more than full at the time in resisting German aggression.
– Does the honorable senator claim to be British?
– I am as much British as the honorable senator; and when I criticize a British leader who not only let down Great Britain, but also sold out on the British Commonwealth of Nations, I am not anti-British.
Honorable senators opposite charge members of the ministerial party in this Parliament with being anti-British merely because we criticize the failures of men whom they applaud as statesmen. The least said about the late Mr. Chamberlain the better. The Government which he led gave police protection to Mosley, the Fascist satellite of Hitler in Great Britain.
– The honorable senator is now becoming funny.
– I am giving facts. Eighteen months after the outbreak of the war, when Mosley staged his second parade in London, his party had trebled in strength, yet they were afforded police protection. It has since been proved beyond doubt that Mosley was no more than an agent and satellite of Hitler. I repeat that the least said about Chamberlain the better ; and I resent the charge by honorable senators opposite that I am anti-British merely because I point to the mistakes which he made. Australia had to fend for itself. We had to appeal to the United States of America for assistance, and had it not been for the aid given by that country we should not be sitting in this chamber to-day. I realize that we owe a great deal to Great Britain, but we are also deeply in debt to the United States of America and to Russia.
– And to John Curtin.
– Yes, to all the great leaders of the Allied Nations - John Curtin, Mr. Churchill, President Roosevelt and many others. I do not include the late Mr. Chamberlain, because in my opinion he did not act in the best interests of the United Nations. We must endeavour to raise world standards, and not to set nations at each others throats. There must be closer international, relationships. The United Nations organization may be able to play a big part in educating the people of various nations on international affairs. Possibly that could be done by the establishment of United Nations peace branches all over the world. Those branches could educate the people of all nations to appreciate the problems of neighbouring countries. There is a sad lack of knowledge of international affairs throughout the world to-day, and if the
United Nations organization can make a real contribution to the elimination of that undesirable state of affairs, it will have achieved something worth while. To that end financial assistance will have to be given by all nations. World confer.ences cannot achieve good results unless delegates attending them express the views of a majority of people in the countries which they represent. How many people who were represented at the San Francisco conference have any real, knowledge of what views were put to that conference on their behalf by their delegates? We in this Parliament have a good knowledge of the proceedings of the conference, and we know the objective for which our delegates wore striving ; but the man in the street does not. Is he to be content with the mere ratification of the Charter by this Parliament without having any real knowledge of its fundamentals? We must assist the ordinary citizen to understand the objectives of this new world organization. If the organization fails I shall be most fearful for the future of the world. It is useless to talk of what form warfare will take in the future, because nobody really knows what scientific developments will occur in say the next twenty “years. My own opinion is that science will dominate warfare even more than it has in the past. For instance, by the use of the atomic bomb or a weapon even more devastating, it may be possible for one of the smaller nations of the world such as Sweden or Norway to destroy the large nations overnight. Thus, any plan to preserve the peace of the world by the formation of a bloc of powerful nations, may be doomed to failure. The world can be preserved for the human race only by the promotion of a closer understanding between nations. People must observe the precept “ Love thy neighbour “, rather than “ Fight thy neighbour “, and must be educated to realize what undoubtedly would be the results of another war. Millions of people throughout the world do not have the slightest conception of the possibilities of the atomic bomb. Upon those people must he impressed the need for amity between nations. The danger is that unless this new world authority succeeds in promoting closer international understanding, a Fascist organization with a lust for power may be able to gain control of a nation as Hitler did in Germany, and, with immense scientific resources at its disposal, plunge the world into disaster. It is argued by some people that the atomic bomb and other scientific war developments should be placed under international control; but how could such control be exercised unless all nations were members of the world organization? If one nation such, as Germany or Japan, stood out, international control would not bc possible. Locking up the secret of the atomic bomb is not the solution. Every leading scientific country has been working upon the development of this weapon, and every country has agents in other countries endeavouring to find out what progress has been made. Failure of the United Nations organization will, in my opinion, result in a.n.other world war twenty years hence. We must endeavour l-o do our utmost to prevent such a disaster, and I am proud to bcin this chamber to-day to support the work of the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) and the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt) at the San Francisco conference, on behalf of thi? country. I hope that the next Australian delegation which attends a conference overseas, will stand up for Australia as these two right honorable gentlemen did, and will follow their example and work by co-operation with other members of the British Commonwealth of Nations in an earnest endeavour to secure future peace.
– I am impelled to speak on this subject by a certain spirit that was evident in the speeches of honorable senators opposite. We were privileged to hear a very fine portrayal by Senator Nash of the events at the San Francisco conference. He did not leave much to the imagination, and we could not help realizing that very valuable work had been done at that conference. I am concerned with the pessimistic note which was struck first by the Acting Leader of the Opposition (Senator Leckie), who, at the beginning of his speech, said that talking would not do much to promote peace. I contest that statement. Unless the representatives of the nations meet together to discuss their troubles, there will be little hope of settling them. Whilst we realize that the . agreement ultimately drawn up at San Francisco has many weaknesses, we must agree that it represents a great advance on anything previously done and offers the only possibility of lasting peace. We have to build on the foundations that were laid at San Francisco, and in so doing inculcate in the minds of human beings, irrespective of race, colour or creed, a desire to live in peace with one another. The alternative is too awful to contemplate. Scientists have just discovered an extraordinarily powerful instrument, which may be employed for the purposes of either destruction or construction. We must be prepared for the possibility of some other even more powerful agent being discovered. I recall reading a fantasia twenty years ago, when liquid air had only recently been, discovered. The book dealt with a maniac located on an atoll in the Pacific Ocean who, at a given date, would unleash the power of liquid air in such strength as to bring about the end of the world. The title of the fantasia was “ The Crack of Doom “. To-day, such things are not inconceivable. ‘Science is advancing by leaps and bounds, and we must look forward to the possibility that, in the not distant future, some force hitherto undreamed of will be discovered and used to destroy not only civilization but also the entire world.
It is strange that honorable senators opposite apparently have not realized yet that there is a vast difference between civility and servility. We are always prepared to give civility to the British Government, but Australia is a fully grown nation and it owes no servility to Great Britain. I say that as an Englishman whose forebears can be traced back as far as those of any other honorable senator. We have heard too much “lickspittling “ piffle not only in this debate but also in many other debates. Let us face the facts. Has England always been the champion of the small nations, the harbinger of peace, the upholder of righteousness and justice?
– The least said the better.
– I propose to tell some of the truth. I am an Englishman and I can afford to do so. I left England for my own good. Many years ago I realized that England was effete and did not offer to ambitious men the opportunities that existed in a younger country. I am glad to be in a country whose youth and virility encourage people of intelligence to make their homes in it. As long ago as 1880, Richard Cobden said that the maintenance of what is called “the balance of power” by the British Government had been more fruitful of war and carnage than anything known in the world’s history. I examined his political writings and found that he was quite right.
– What is the object of “the balance of power”?
– England has always believed in dividing and conquering. It seems to me that the conception of peace in the minds of honorable senators opposite is a peace dominated by some power stronger than any combination that can be brought against it. The discovery of the atomic bomb should be a warning to anybody holding such ideas. The Acting Leader of the Opposition and Senator Herbert Hays said that the hope of the world was in the maintenance of a strong British Commonwealth of Nations.
– I did not say anything of the sort.
– I made a note of what the honorable senator said, and that is what I have written down. I am in the habit of making notes of the words which are uttered. Although the honorable senator may not have used exactly those words, his meaning was the same. I made the note as the words fell hot from his lips. He believes that a combination of English-speaking races offers the only hope of maintaining peace in the world. When Senator Herbert Hays made a similar statement, I interjected that he apparently believed in the doctrine of preparedness. The honorable senator said that he did. The doctrine of preparedness has promoted war throughout the ages.
– Unpreparedness promoted the last war.
– The history of the last war gives the lie direct, or perhaps, as that is unparliamentary, I should say that it distinctly refutes the honorable senator’s statement that it -was the result of economic causes. Does the honorable senator deny that he said that?
– The germ of the war with Germany was in the Versailles Treaty. The war with Japan also arose from economic causes, as did many other
Kars. Some honorable senators opposite have not grown up. The Leader of the Opposition does not differentiate between servility and civility. Members of the Opposition want to be dragged round at the coat tails of Great Britain. But the Old Country has not been a clean potato in all of its operations. It was known in Europe for centuries as “ perfidious Albion “. Its operations in India were not very savoury. I recall the activities of the British India Company, backed up by the British naval and military strength. Britain’s operations in Burma have not been above suspicion, nor were its plans to keep Russia down. Its actions in Europe helped to prevent Czarist Russia from obtaining an ice-free port in the Mediterranean. Within 50 years, Britain fought against almost every country in Europe, and in the same period also fought on the side of those countries.
– To which period does the honorable senator refer?
– From 1810 to 1860.
– Is the honorable senator ashamed of the country of his birth?
– No, but I am ashamed of some of its actions. After living in Australia for 37 years, I am very proud of the country of my birth. It recently did what I have been waiting for it to do for 37 years. It has now reached the age of sanity and has elected a Labour government, which I think will help to make the world safe for democracy. The election of a Labour government in Great Britain will do much to promote world peace. I should have been as pessimistic as Senator Leckie, had a conservative government been elected, because its conception of future requirements would have clashed with that of both the United States of America and Russia, and would have sown the seeds of another world holocaust. Our great hope lies in inculcating in the minds of all nations the need for peace and the awfulness of war. The possibilities are catastrophic, if the peoples of the world do not live together as friends and neighbours. As .Senator Aylett has remarked, the smallest nation might well decide on a course of action which would precipitate civilization into oblivion. I believe we shall achieve our objective by education. We should try to propagate peace by example.
I am proud of Great Britain. All my people are there. I am proud that they took the V-l and the V-2 bombs, day after day, and then sent me a letter stating that apart from the noises everything was normal. It is that spirit of fight that makes me. being an Englishman, object to the lick-spittling “ attitude of servility adopted by some people. One of the leaders of honorable senators opposite practically won an election wilh the slogan “ Tune in to Britain “. The Leader of the Opposition does not seem to have realized that Britain has awakened. Its people have made a magnificent effort during the war. They have “ taken it on the chin “, and have come up smiling. One of the characteristics of the Cockney is that he will see humour under the most devastating circumstances. I believe that that quality has been bred in him by the appalling conditions under which the poor devil has been living. Jack London, in his People of the Abyss, stated that some day the Cockneys might come up out of their holes and bring about some kind of revolution.
The possibilities of the atomic bomb are so vast that they should act as a deterrent to any power contemplating war. Much as I respect and admire the people of the United .States of America, I believe that they have yet to experience either a bloodless or a forceful revolution in that country before the world can be safe for democracy. They must abandon the capitalist idea that financial gain is the only incentive to individual effort, lt is ridiculous to say that wars are not caused by economic factors. Wars are due to the desire of men to acquire wealth. That desire is bred in us because a fear of to-morrow is born with us. We try to save in order to make the evening of our lives secure, and that breeds in us a desire to acquire. Every individual should be entitled to economic security on one condition only, namely, that he leads a decent life as a lawabiding citizen. If we could educate the people of the rest of the world to that view, we should thereby abolish acquisitiveness, and thus remove the root cause of war.
In the results of the San Francisco conference lies the hope of the world. We must evolve from that gathering of the nations a means by which the peoples of the world can live in harmony with one another. The United States of America must put its house in order, and emerge from that commercial spirit which has dominated it throughout the last century.When it does that, and when we have educated our own people to treat coloured races as human beings, we shall promote in them respect for ourselves, without which the world cannot possibly be at peace. I had intended to spend a little more time in chastising those who appear so humble at the mere mention of the name of England, because I heartily deprecate their “ lick-spittling “ attitude. The bill before us has my blessing.
Debate (on motion by Senator Cooper) adjourned.
Royal Australian Navy : Mails - Standardization ofrailway Gauges.
Motion (by Senator Keane) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
.- On the 28th June last, I drew attention to the unsatisfactory way in which second-class mail matter was being sent to members of the armed forces in the northern theatres of war. I exonerated the Postmaster-General’s Department, being satisfied that it was not responsible for the condition in which these mails reached members of the combatant forces. I can now add that, in many cases, from three to four months have elapsed between the posting of second-class mail and the time of its arrival in northern areas such as Borneo. The Postmaster-General (Senator Cameron) said that the matter would be submitted again to the
Department of the Navy. I had complained about the casual manner adopted by the naval authorities in dealing with my request, and added that they seemed more concerned about finding a victim than providing a remedy. I was assured that a reply would be furnished, but no answer to my inquiry has yet been received. This is an affront, not only to me, but also to the Senate, seeing that this matter has been ignored for such a long period. I hope that the PostmasterGeneral will again call for an explanation by the naval authorities. Although the war has ended, they should not be allowed to get away with calm, considered insults such as that which they have levelled at this chamber.
– I shall again bring the matter to the notice of the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Makin).
.- I am pleased that Cabinet has agreed to appoint a committee to consider what sections of Sir Harold Clapp’s report on the standardization of Australian railway gauges should be accepted and what modifications or additions should be made, because I regard the standardization of railway gauges as one of the most urgent national problems to be decided. For that reason, I was greatly disappointed at the attitude of the State Premiers to this national work at the recent conference of Premiers. According to press reports, the conference decided to set up expert committees to consider how the standardization of Australia’s main railways should be proceeded with, and how the costs would be met. The committees are to report to another conference of Premiers in December or January next, when a decision will be arrived at. The decision to appoint the committees was made after all the Premiers had expressed the view that the Commonwealth Government should bear more than one-fifth of the cost of the first stage of the work, estimated at £76,000,000. It appears to me that the State Premiers have set out with the definite intention to shelve this important proposal. The report submitted by Sir Harold Clapp, which took many months to prepare, is a comprehensive document and deals particularly willi the defence aspects of the proposal. I regard the decision of the conference as an attempt further to delay this work. According to press reports, Mr. Dunstan, the Premier of Victoria, said that there is now no urgency about this matter, and that it should not be given priority over housing. He also said that the ‘Commonwealth Government did not appear to be enthusiastic about the undertaking, seeing that it proposed to pay only one-fifth of the cost. He contended that, as the Commonwealth Government was primarily responsible for the defence of Australia, it should bear the major share of the cost. There was no need to set up special committees, as that represents only additional expense to the taxpayers and might interfere with the provision of employment for ex-servicemen.
I agree with the statement of the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward) at. the conference that the Premiers seemed intent on shelving the proposal, and that every time the standardization of railway gauges came up for consideration other undertakings seemed to become increasingly urgent. With him, I believe that there is not likely to be a shortage of man-power; rather do I fear that the problem will be to find useful employment for persons released from the fighting services and munitions factories. The Minister for Transport also said that the Government was not adopting a hard-and-fast attitude as to its proportion of the cost. This important national work should not be delayed merely because of an argument between the Commonwealth and the States as to the cost. The Premier of South Australia, Mr. Playford, claimed that that State could not provide £5,000,000 for the scheme because of other pressing commitments, but Mr. Wise, the Premier of Western Australia, took the view that, as preparatory survey work would take some years to complete, there would be no threat to any housing programme or other high priority work. Although the States may say that they have heavy commitments, the fact remains that, in the final analysis, the cost of all these undertakings will have to be borne by the same taxpayers. The Parliaments of the States should take a wider view of national problems than they have adopted so far. One of the questions submitted to the electors at the referendum last year related to the standardization of railway gauges, and I point out thai in both Western Australia and South Australia a majority of electors voted “ Yes “. A. standardization of our railway gauges throughout Australia is a necessary defence safeguard. It may be argued that the war is over, but it cannot be denied that during the war transport problems arising from so many breaks of gauge added to the difficulties of the Government and jeopardized our national safety. The Minister for Transport told the conference that whereas it would take at least 36 days to transport one infantry division with necessary equipment across the continent under existing conditions, the work could be done in not more than eleven days if the railway gauges were standardized. Moreover, under existing conditions heavy expenses have to be met. because at every break of gauge station it is necessary to re-load goods, as well as transfer service personnel and their equipment. At one time during the war it was thought that it might be necessary to evacuate to the eastern States the whole of the population of Western Australia. That would have presented an almost impossible problem because the railways could not have done the job. Notwithstanding that the war is over, and that we have had before us this week proposals designed to ensure the future peace of the world, we must still safeguard our own territory. That necessitates an efficient railway system. When in the United States of America recently, I travelled from Chicago to San Francisco, a distance of 2,200 miles, in the same railway carriage, and on other railway systems on the American continent I had a similar experience. I contrast with my experiences there the necessity to travel in six different trains between Perth and Canberra. In the United States of America and Canada, the network of railways is such that freight cars can quickly transport passengers and materials to almost any part of either country. In the matter of transport Australia has not progressed far beyond the stage coach era.
Senator Keane__ Under the American system, the same vehicle can travel practically from the.’ Arctic Circle to Mexico.
– The carrying out of this important national undertaking should, no longer he subject, to. the dillydallying of State Premiers. The people of this country have a. right to see that effect is. given, to their desires. Foi too long have the people of Western Aus, tralia suffered from lack of quick transport, and therefore, the first link of the standard railway to be constructed should’, in my opinion, be the section between Perth and Kalgoorlie. Should the State Government not be prepared to co-operate with the Commonwealth in this matter, the Commonwealth should get. on with the job and construct its own independent line between those places. I hope, however, that the State Government will act wisely and will co~ operate in carrying out this essential undertaking. For some- time there hasbeen only one passenger train each week between Western Australia and the eastern States, although I understand that a slight improvement has recently taken place.
– Moreover, no shipping service, was available.
– That is so. One wonders who is behind the opposition to the standardization of our railwaygauges. Are certain vested interests actively opposing this national work? Some people may say that air- transport will accomplish what I propose shall be done by the railways, but I reply that railways will never be displaced as the general carriers of the goods and commodities of a country. Whatever may. be the capacity of airborne transport - and much development has taken place in this sphere since the war began - most people forget that in time of war transport is carried out regardless of cost. Transport by air is not always an economic arrangement. I refuse to believe that it will be possible for air transport to carry heavy goods as cheaply as they can be conveyed by rail. Western Australia is principally a primary producing country, and much of its produce is perishable. The inauguration of a. fast refrigerator train service over a standard railway gauge-, with speeds up to 50: miles an hour for freight trains, would enable much of the produce of Western Aus? tralia, to find good markets in the other States.- where the major proportion of the population, o£ Australia resides. But, to-day, that goes by the board, because adequate railway, or shipping facilities are not available. I hope that all the Premiers,, or whoever is responsible for the State governments’- present attitude towards this project, will take a really Australian view of this most importantmatter. I quote the following from a broadcast made by the Minister- for Transport (Mr. Ward) last month.
Man-power required by the railways to Carr out the work, in addition to their existing staffs, is estimated at 103,000 man-years, spread over the eleven-year period referred to. The maximum number directly employed in any one. year would be 18,000 men, and” it is estimated that a further 18,000 would heemployed indirectly.
In this respect it might be said that some-; thing like 890,000 tons of steel would be required tor rails and fastens, steel sleepers, rolling-stock construction, &c, as well ar 12,000,000 timber sleepers.
Those figures give some indication of the economic value of this work apart altogether from its urgency in the. national interest. Therefore, I hope that- all the Premiers at their next con* fference will take a really Australian view of this, proposal.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The. following pa.per was presented : -
Food Supplies to United Kingdom - Ministerial Statement, 12th September, 1945.
Senate adjourned at 12.17 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 14 September 1945, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1945/19450914_senate_17_184/>.