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Wednesday, 17 September 1919


Mr J H CATTS (Cook) .- I have listened with a great deal of attention to the remarks of the two honorable gentlemen who represented Australia at the Peace Conference.We are all indebted to the Minister for the Navy (Sir Joseph Cook) for his very lucid explanation of the League of Nations covenant and some of the phases associated therewith; but the address delivered by the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) gave us no new information, and was a sore disappointment.

Both the Prime Minister and the Minister for the Navy have studiously, and apparently by a prearrangement, omitted to explain the most important part of the Peace negotiations and their results, so far as Australia is concerned; because to-day this country is in an infinitely worse position strategically than it was at the outbreak of war, and the burdens cast upon its people and the international difficulties confronting them are such as to make every serious student of the country's welfare pause and consider.

As a resultof the war, the peaceful waters of the Pacific have been turned into a boiling cauldron. The Prime Minister, mainly by means of a great press campaign engineered from Paris, and later, on his return, engineered in this country, has led us to believe that he put up a great fight at the Peace Conference for a White Australia and the safety of our shores.


Sir Joseph Cook - He certainly did so.


Mr J H CATTS - If the right honorable gentleman claims that, in regard to the disposition of the Pacific islands, the Prime Minister did anything at the Peace Conference, I can produce proof to satisfy every honorable member that he had no more to do with the matter than an infant child.

The Prime Minister would have us believe that the internal integrity of Australia would have been violated if he and the Minister for the Navy had not been at the Peace Conference, and that British statesmen were not to be trusted to watch the interests of Australia and its internal affairs.


Sir Joseph Cook - Who suggested that?


Mr J H CATTS - The Prime Ministersuggested that British statesmen could not be relied upon to represent Australia at the Peace Conference, and that British Ministers would have been inclined to throw overboard the interests of Australia as to its White Australia policy and its domestic affairs. If that is the position of British statesmen, it is surely time Australia began to take stock of itself.


Sir Joseph Cook - That is not the attitude of British statesmen.


Mr J H CATTS - Then if it is not the attitude of the British statesmen, the direct representation of Australia at the Peace Conference had absolutely no result except that we may have gained the nominal recognition of Australia as one of the nations of the world.


Mr MASSY-GREENE (RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for Trade and Customs) - The honorable member's argument, if it means anything, is that it was not worth while having Australia represented at the Conference.


Mr J H CATTS - That is so, except that we gained the nominal recognition of Australia as a nation.

We infer from the Prime Minister's speech that his presence was necessary at the Peace Conference in order to safeguard the internal affairs of Australia and its White Australia policy, and in order to save our barriers from being broken down, letting in the flood tide of Asia.

The Prime Minister gained nothing at the Peace Conference, seeing that the disposition of the Pacific Islands was determined in 1915, 1916, and 1917.

When our two delegates talk about covenants openly arrived at, why do they not give us the information for which we are asking in connexion with this Treaty? The British Delegation in Paris made the statement that the Fisher Government of 1915 enteredupon a compact with Japan and agreed tothe latter country coming right down to the Equator, and handed over to it the Caroline Islands, the Marshall Islands, and the Ladrone Islands, which are many times the area of the territory we have gained from Germany in the Pacific.


Mr LAIRD SMITH (DENISON, TASMANIA) - The honorable member was a member of the party led by Mr. Fisher.


Mr J H CATTS - But I knew nothing about this treaty of 1915. Ihave spoken to the Labour members whowere Ministers under Mr. Fisher, and they have told me that they knew nothing about it. I have submitted to the Prime Minister some questions in regard to this treaty.


Mr Tudor - Did he not say that he knew nothing about it ?


Mr J H CATTS - No. He said that he had not seen the statement in the press. He could not say that he knew nothing about it, because he does know about it, and the Minister for the Navy knows about it. When this House is making its first essay into international affairs, surely it ought to be in possession of the whole of the information. Honorable members ought to know all about this treaty of 1915, because the man, or men, who agreed to that compact committed the most traitorous act that ever occurred in the history of Australia. Yet the facts are concealed from us.


Sir Joseph Cook - Have the facts been concealed from the honorable member?


Mr J H CATTS - Yes.


Sir Joseph Cook - Then how is it that he knows them?


Mr J H CATTS - The Prime Minister and Minister for the Navy conceal the matter, but I have certain information that should be amplified and explained. I shall supply my authority and copies of the correspondence that passed between the variousGovernments, who settled the. matter long before the Prime Minister and his colleague went to the Peace Conference. The right honorable gentleman cannot deny what I am saying. I say to his face that he knows all about this treaty, and will not give the House the information.


Mr Higgs - The Minister does not reply to that statement by way of interjection.


Sir Joseph Cook - I was thinking of something else at the moment.


Mr J H CATTS - I wish to deal with a very important aspect of this matter, and that is in regard to the balance of. power in the Pacific and its effects upon the immediate future of the Commonwealth. I shall submit what occurred during the earlystages of the war, in chronological order, giving first the statements published in the newspaper cables : - 17th August, 1914. - Statement by Japan that she will stand by the Anglo-

Japanese treaty and seek no territorial expansion. 18th August, 1914.- Japanese ultimatum to Germany to deliver, by September, 1914, the entire territory of Kiaochau, for eventual restoration to China.

Statement that America fears Japan has aggressive aims, and will not restore the territories in the Pacific. 19th August, 1914.- President Wilson states that he has no doubt whatever as to the bona fides of Japan in her statement that Kiaochau will be returned to China. 24th August, 1914. - Japanese openness in stating that they have no aggressive designs in the Pacific has greatly relieved the position in the United States.

At this time, by arrangement with the Imperial Government, an Australian Expeditionary Force had proceeded to New Guinea, and after a few days' fighting the German Governor at Rabaul surrendered to Major-General Holmes. 11th September, 1914.- The whole of the German Possessions administered from Rabaul, comprising New Guinea, the Bismarck Archipelago, and the Solomon, Caroline, Marshall, and Ladrone Islands, were transferred by surrender to the Australian authorities.

Major-General Holmes set about arranging for his administrators to proceed to the headquarters of the various groups. 9th October, 1914. - Announcement that Japan had occupied Yap, in the Caroline Islands - a territory that had been surrendered to Australia. This statement caused some anxiety. 12th October, 1914, a statement was issued by the Japanese Foreign Office that Japan intended to relinquish the Marshall and Caroline Islands to Great Britain at an early date. 22nd October, 1914, we had an official statement by the Japanese Foreign Minister that the balance of the German islands north of the equator had been occupied by Japan - those islands which had been surrendered to an Australian force on the 11th September. 19th October, 1914, the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) published a statement that Australia was then ready to administer affairs in the Marshall, Caroline, and Ladrone groups.

But Japan would not surrender those islands, and has refused from that day onwards to give them up. Japan had said that she was ready to hand them over to Great Britain'. The Australian Government accordingly made arrangements for their administration, but Japan would not, and will not, hand them over.

The time at my disposal does not permit me to deal fully with the developments around the Pacific, although they are fraught with unfortunate possibilities for Australia in the future, but I remind honorable members of the demands made by Japan upon China in January, 1915, which, to put it mildly, did not take much account of the Anglo- Japanese Treaty ; of the ultimatum delivered by Japan to China in May following, which brought the dispute to a head, compelling China, by a threat of war, to capitulate and accept the agreement with regard to Shantung, where there are 36,000,000 defenceless Chinese who have been annexed and sold into bondage for the sole reason that they cannot defend themselves. "What is the position in regard to the Marshall, Caroline, and Ladrone Islands? They comprise upwards of 1,200 square miles of territory; they are situated immediately north of the equator. With these in the possession of Japan, that nation holds stepping-stones from Yokohama to Rabaul at intervals of not more than 500 miles. There is not more than twentyfour hours' steaming from point to point of Japanese territory between Yokohama and Rabaul.

The effect of the settlement that has been made in the Peace 'Treaty is that Australia has taken its frontiers northward to Rabaul, but the frontier of Japan has been brought southward 3,000 miles to the equator, until their front door and our back door almost adjoin-.

Mr. KeithMurdoch was the representative of the Sydney Sun at Paris during the deliberations of the Peace Conference. He was in close and sympathetic touch with the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes). I suppose there is ho journalist in this country who is so ardent an admirer of the Prime Minister as is Mr. Murdoch. It is even stated that he went to Paris to represent the Sydney Sun and the Melbourne Herald in consequence of representations made by the Prime Minister.

On the 23rd January, 1919, Mr. Murdoch said in a cable despatched from Paris -

Interviews given by Mr. Hughes to American journalists indicate his intention strenuously to oppose the Japanese annexation of the Marshall and Caroline Islands. Britain and Japan wish the line of the equator to divide the sphere of influence, Australia and New Zealand annexing the islands southward and Japan northward of the equator. Britain claims that Mr. Fisher's Government, in 1915, accepted this solution. It appears that Mr. Hughes does not agree to this plan.


Mr Higgs - Mr. Hughes was Mr. Fisher's adviser.


Mr J H CATTS - He was AttorneyGeneral in Mr. Fisher's Government.


Mr Higgs - I think he was also Acting Prime Minister.


Mr J H CATTS - I am inclined to believe that the compact could not have been made in 1915 without the then AttorneyGeneral being aware of it, but today he refuses to answer any questions upon the subject, and in the absence of such answers I hold him equally responsible with Mr. Fisher for this disposition of the islands of the Pacific, which is the greatest blow that the White Australia ideal has ever received.

On 9th July, 1919, in a cable message headed "The Mystery of the Pacific," Mr. Murdoch' wrote from Paris -

Some day Australian public opinion will compel British statesmen to explain why they gave the Caroline and Marshall Islands to Japan, and shaped their diplomacy in such a way that Australia emerges from the .war not only financially but strategically worse" off than when she entered it.

British statesmen when being pressed by Japan to agree to' this disposition of the Pacific Islands, consulted with the then Prime Minister (Mr. Fisher), who agreed to it. Mr. Murdoch continues -

Australian politicians can give no other explanation than that in 1915, and again, in 1917, Downing-street pressed hard upon them unquestioning acceptance of Japan's claims.


Mr Higgs - The papers must be in the Prime Minister's Department. Why not produce them 1


Mr J H CATTS - I have not the slightest doubt that the papers are there. Then Mr. Murdoch said -

Japan maintained throughout the war her traditional opportunism. Her Government used tlie traditional excuse when presenting its demands. " Public opinion compels us," or, " in view of the strong and excited feeling in Japan " - these were her reasons for going back on her agreement to withdraw from the Caroline and Marshall Islands, for securing the equator " Spheres of Influence," for demanding pledges from all the Allies that Kiau-Chau would be hers.

Whathas been the history of Japan in regard to territorial expansion during the last fifty years ? At the time of the commencement of the late war, Japan had increased her territory by 75 per cent. in half a century, and as a result of the Shantung and Kiau-Chau settlements she has now more than doubled her territory in fifty years.

Apparently an arrangement in regard to the disposition of the Pacific Islands had been made between the British and Australian Governments in 1915. Japan was pressing the whole time for advantages.

There were other concessions that I have not time to deal with, but which show Japan was strenuously urging her claims. 27th March, 1916, Japan's Foreign Minister at Tokio approached the British Ambassador there with a view to bringing about an agreement with the British Government in regard to the Pacific Islands. The British Minister cabled to his Government in London, and, after nearly twelve months' consideration and upon receiving instructions, wrote to Japan in the following terms: -







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