Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Full Day's HansardDownload Full Day's Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Wednesday, 14 October 1914


Mr ANSTEY (Bourke) .- I suppose that we all deplore this great war in Europe, and recognise that the fight for the possession of Australia is now taking place on the battlefields there. There is no doubt that it is a question as to which flag and what king Australia is to continue to exist under. We have, therefore, a personal interest in what is now taking place, and to that extent it becomes our duty to furnish all the aid we can, whether in arms or men. And when we say that this is our duty, in regard to men, we must not forget that under our Defence Act we have provided that we are to be exempt from any contest from which we consider it necessary to be exempt. But a thing worth voting for is a thing worth dying for and fighting for - not merely worth talking about, but, if need be, worth going to where the contest is, where the cannon are roaring, the rifles cracking, and the bayonets flashing. To that extent I question whether there is any one who disagrees as to die proposition, and who is not equally loyal, whether the cost be reckoned in thousands or millions, or whether or not our own homes may be in danger. But £100,000 ! What for? Will some one tell me? Not a word. Has the Prime Minister mentioned what this money is for? Not one word; I listened in vain. I have heard that it is to be a recognition of our appreciation of the heroic defence by the Belgians.


Mr W Elliot Johnson - Because the Belgians need this money, and much more.


Mr ANSTEY - The King has been mentioned by the honorable member for Angas, and by the Prime Minister.


Mr W Elliot Johnson - The money is for the widows and orphans. °


Mr ANSTEY - Has the King become the recipient of our sympathy ? I did not hear the Prime Minister say one word about the widows and orphans. Are the widows and orphans confined within the boundary lines of Belgium ? I read yesterday that Rheims is in flames, and that other places are smouldering ruins or reduced to dust; the boundary lines of misery ar© not in Belgium. Are we asked to believe that Belgium has continued this struggle without aid for ten weeks against the power of Germany ? Has not Belgium had the aid of England and France, who are participants in the glory ? But where is the £100,000 to go? Who is to distribute it? Is it a gift from the Aus tralian people to the Belgian Government? Where is that Government? The Belgian people are now in such a position that they cannot escape the German yoke under which they are today ; and it is Germany who controls their lives and destinies. To whom will this money be given ? To the half -million men and women who have gone into Holland ? No ; we do not provide a single penny for those men and women. You would present it to a Government that exists only in name.


Mr W Elliot Johnson - Surely the Government of the country is the right authority to control the distribution of the money?


Mr ANSTEY - The Government of the country has no control of its territory. What authority has it in Belgium ? Are those of the moneyed classes of Belgium who have already fled to Great Britain to be intrusted with the distribution of these funds ? The honorable member for Angas spoke about the heroic King of Belgium. The other day we read in the newspapers that this king - -who in the profits that he reaps from the horrors of the Congo which were left to him by his predecessor possesses enough to keep all his people in food - stood on a balcony in Brussels and told the populace, " I will be with you to the last. 1 will fight in the trenches, and will be shot in the last ditch." A day or two later he added, " When the first German shot falls into Antwerp I shall shoot Prince Adelbert, who is my prisoner." But did he wait for a shot to be fired ? Did he wait for the ring round Antwerp to be completed ? No. We read last Saturday that he was scuttling like a rabbit for Ostend. His action reminds me of a hero who kept asking for the enemy, but who thought it better to have it said of him, "There he runs" than "There he fell." It is to this king that we propose to hand £100,000, without a word conditioning a guarantee for the expenditure of one single penny of it upon the relief of any suffering individual in Belgium. In 1910, when the miners of Charleroi were being shot down by the maxim guns of their Government, we of the Labour party here in Australia had not a penny to offer, nor a word of sympathy to say, on their behalf. We were told then, " We must leave these matters to a selfcontained Government to deal with." In those streets in which lie the dead today lay, three or four years apo, the bodies of miners who had been shot down, leaving behind them suffering wives and children. For them we had no expression of sympathy, no recognition of their great struggle, not a penny of help. It was said that, as a Labour party, we had to be modest and discreet. Now, however, we are waving the flag, and voting £100,000 for the Belgian Government to do what it likes with. Where is the seat of government in Belgium ? That is a question that remains unanswered. We have heard a great deal about the glory of civilization and the easy path which Belgium might have taken. What was that easy path? We are told that Belgium might have allowed Germany to march troops through her territory. Had she done so what would have happened ? Would the British and French nations have permitted that to be done? Would they have allowed Belgium to be a highway for Germany? No. They would have ravaged the country, and the Belgians would have found themselves in this ignominious position : that their territory was being made a theatre of war and a field of slaughter, English, French, and Germans meeting there in common conflict, despite her absurd neutrality. The Age to-day points out that Holland is now occupying the position that Belgium lately occupied; that Holland cannot permit Germany to infringe her neutrality without running the risk of being assailed by the forces of the Allies. Belgium could not have permitted her neutrality to be infringed without running the risk of being assailed by the Allies. She was between the devil and the deep sea, and had to make a choice. The path which lay open to her was the path which she took. She had to make the sacrifices which she has made. That being so, why should there be this recognition of her bravery? If this money would go to the relief of the starving poor of Belgium; if there were any guarantee that the greedy, welltodo classes would not get it, there might be some excuse for sending it, but not one precaution is suggested for making that possible. I smile at the talk about civilization in connexion with the present war. The scalping knife and the tomahawk of the savage were humane weapons compared with those which modern science has forged for this conflict. You read of men being caught in electrically charged barbed wire entanglements. The entangling wires stretch out like the tentacles of an octopus, seizing one victim after another, and holding blackened corpses in their embrace. Do you call' that civilization ? We read, too, of funnel-shaped pits into which men fall, and fish hooks which catch them and rip out their bowels. We hear of shells which explode and dismember bodies, blowing arms and legs in all directions. We hear of other shells from which escape poisonous fumes which leave men dead on the fields, their mouths open, but their limbs unscathed. What a mockery to call this curse of war the upholding of civilization ! We, the Labour party, should take the opportunity to point out to the masses of the people that this war is the product and the outcome of the domination of trade and commerce, and the greed of wealth. It is the outcome and the product of the capitalistic system, and all we do is to vote £100,000 to the King of the Congos. Little children's fingers have been nailed to trees, and men and women have been torn and maimed, in order to bring him wealth. Rothschild is rich, Vanderbilt is rich, Pierpont Morgan was rich, but the King of the Belgians, with his enormous wealth, is as rich as the three of them put together. In 1912, in Johannesburg, the Government was using maxim guns, rifles, and bayonets against strikers, and the streets of the city were running red with blood. Widows were weeping for their husbands then, and orphan children were crying for their fathers, but did we vote £100,000 for their relief? We did not vote a penny; we did not even express our sympathy. Whenever the matter was raised, we were told that it was our duty not to interfere in the affairs of a self-governing community. It was upon that ground that we shirked our obligations. In Melbourne, and throughout Australia, there is a vast amount of unemployment, and it is constantly increasing. We are told that there is no poverty so great, no misery so awful, as that produced by war. I say that the poverty and misery which arise from industrial disaster are equally great. Capitalism has no solution for the present trouble. It has been paralyzed by the war, and we, the Labour party of Australia, have no solution booffer for the evils that confront us. We know not what the next few weeks may bring forth. The one outstanding fact is that thousands of men in every city of Australia are without means for supporting their wives and families. Swift death upon the battlefield is not more awful than hunger and misery. Carlyle wrote that to die is a small thing; the awful thing is to live without knowing what to-morrow will produce. There should not be a penny voted for the relief of destitution abroad - and this money is merely a presentation to the Belgian Government- until we have devised a scheme for relieving the misery, destitution, and hunger within our own borders. Those are my views. The speech of the Prime Minister amounted to a declaration that what is proposed is a present to the Belgian Government, a Government responsible for horrors which have not been exceeded by those of Russia itself, a Government cursed with the barbarities of the Congo, where unlimited blood was shed in order that Belgian Royalty might acquire wealth. I should not do what I thought right did I not express the opinions which I hold on this subject, and did I not vote against a proposal which, in my opinion, has nothing to justify it.







Suggest corrections