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Wednesday, 14 October 1914

Mr FISHER (Wide Bay) (Prime Minister and Treasurer) . - I ask leave to move a motion of which notice has already been given, dealing with the proposal to make a grant of £100,000 to Belgium.

Leave granted.

Mr FISHER - I move-

That, in the opinion of this House, the sum of £100,000 from the Consolidated Be venue Fund should be made payable as a grant in aid to Belgium, in grateful acknowledgment of the heroic services the citizens of that coun try have rendered mankind in defence of their national right to live in peace in their own country ; and that His Excellency the GovernorGeneral be invited to transmit this resolution to the Secretary of State for the Colonies.

In submitting this motion to the House, I shall be exceedingly brief. I do not propose to traverse the circumstances nor discuss the causes that have occasioned this step. Suffice it to say that, perhaps, when the history of the present war is written, its most outstanding feature will be the magnificent defence of their own country by the Belgian people - a defence that is all the more singular because the Belgians seem to have had the opportunity of saving their country by coming under the shelter of the Power that has destroyed them. That Power, Germany, though a signatory to a treaty which was to preserve the neutrality of Belgium against all foes, and a self-appointed guardian of that little State, had endeavoured to get it to make common cause with her. The Belgians, however, as a nation, had determined to remain a nation against all aggressors from whatever quarter; and, in consequence, have suffered all the unparalleled horrors of modern warfare. They drew their swords to maintain therights of their King, and their liberty, and their right to live in peace and enjoy the fruits of their own country. Their action has set an example to every nation and to all mankind.

It is a great privilege, indeed, for our young Dominion -not a sovereign State, but a Dominion which is free to govern itself under the British Crown - to have this opportunity of paying to Belgium a tribute of praise for the valour of its people, and the great sacrifice? they have made; and of asking the Belgians to accept from us a small gift, not that it may repair the damage that has been done, or the destruction that has been brought about by an arrogant foe; but that, in some way, it may heal the wounds that the people of that country have suffered through no fault of their own. During my term of office in this Parliament I have twice welcomed young Belgians connected with the Naval and Military Forces of Belgium who have visited Australia in their progress round the world to acquire knowledge for the benefit of the peaceful pursuits of their nation. Views of a most cordial kind were exchanged between us, and there were full expressions of the hope that the peace of the world would be maintained. Some of those who visited us have suffered by the war. I hope that when this trouble is over a great international council will sit with authority to deal with those who have brought about this international disturbance. I hope that that council will be of such a character, and be clothed with such powers, that, after the evidence has been heard, they will be able to adjudge as to those who have been guilty of bringing about this great international crime; and I trust that the civilized nations will join hands, not only in making the verdict possible, but also in seeing that the punishment awarded will be imposed by the strong hand of civilization. I have the assurance of the Leader of the Opposition that he will second this motion, which I now have the honour of submitting to the House.

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