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Friday, 25 November 1938


Mr BLACKBURN (Bourke) . - Almost every problem that comes up for discussion in this Parliament sinks into insignificance beside the fact that the lives of very many Australian people and the security of thousands of others depend greatly upon events occurring in other parts of the world over which the people of Australia have no control. In the persons of at least four members of the Cabinet we have evidence of the supreme importance to us of world happenings. I refer to the Minister for External Affairs, the Minister for Commerce, the Minister for Trade and Customs and the Minister for Defence. Those Ministers are appointed to control departments which must exist because Australia cannot live to itself. Australia is part of the world, and is affected by what happens in other countries. There are three ties which bind Australia to the rest of human society. The first tie is the paramount fact that Australia is part of the world and cannot at will detach itself from the world. In fiction it is recorded that Lemuel Gulliver, in his wanderings, discovered the island of Lilliput, which was in the fortunate position of being able to detach itself at will from the world. But that island existed only in the imagination of Jonathan Swift, the satirist and author of the story. Australia, for good or evil, is part of a troubled world and cannot dissociate itself from its happenings. Australia is also a voluntary member of that great community of nations, the League of Nations, which, unfortunately, is not playing such an important part in world affairs as we hoped it would. Australia is also a member of another community of nations, the British Commonwealth of Nations. Doubtless every political party in. Australia stands for adherence to this community. The party to which 1 belong affirms its support of Australia's adherence to the British Commonwealth of Nations.

The obligations imposed upon this country by the first tie, by which it is bound to the rest of the world, are great, but they are moral and not enforceable. The obligation under the second tie are more ascertainable, but still undefined; they are more or less contractual, and whether or not they can be enforced is uncertain. But the obligations under the third tie are important and can be defined within wide limits. Australia is a member of the British Commonwealth of Nations and, as I have said, all parties agree that that membership should be continued. The Labour party is no less emphatic than any other in supporting that adherence. At Perth, in 1918, there was laid down a policy which now is embodied in the Statute of Westminster, declaring the fullest measure of self-government for Australia as a British community. Afterwards the phrase " British community " was expanded into the " British Commonwealth of Nations ". What does this mean? It means really, an association of the white self-governing nations within the British Empire - an association of white peoples, numbering about one-seventh of the British Empire, in partnership to control and exploit the subject peoples of the Empire, the Dark Empire. Great Britain has admitted the adult white children of the British Empire into partnership to assist in the administration and control of that Dark Empire, and to participation in any benefit derived from its exploitation. We have seen benefits from this arrangement in such proposals as the Ottawa Agreement, which gives to Empire dominions trade preferences not only in the markets of Great Britain herself, but also in the markets of the subject communities, which have no voice in the matter whatever.

Membership of the British Commonwealth of Nations imposes certain obligations upon us, but there always seems to be some conflict of opinion about the precise nature of these obligations. They can only be determined by examining the ties which bind members of that Commonwealth to ' one another. There are two ties. One, which formerly was more important, has now become of less consequence, and has thrown into relief the second tie, which formerly was less important. These tie3 are common subjection to the Imperial Parliament, and common allegiance to one king. As I have observed, the first tie has become weakened with the passage of time until now we have the declaration, contained in the preamble to the Statute of Westminster, which, at any rate, is the law in Australia, declaring that the Imperial Parliament shall not make a law for. a dominion without the concurrence of the dominion affected. The preamble to the Statute of Westminster does affirm the importance of the tie of common allegiance to one sovereign. Although that sovereignty is, in time of peace, more or less a symbol, at other times it is of great importance, because it is the tie of common allegiance - the legal tie that binds together people who are British nationals. When war is declared it is declared by the King, on the advice of his Ministers, or it is declared upon the King. Let us suppose that war were to be declared by Great Britain. The implications in the new dominion status are these: The King shall not declare war on the advice of British Ministers alone, but shall first consult the dominions, and cannot bind a dominion to take an active part in a war without the concurrence of dominion ministers. There exists, however, the possibility of war without a formal declaration, and the position in such a case would be very interesting. The Attorney-General (Mr. Menzies) said, in this House, that no dominion would be bound to render military aid to another dominion, or to Great Britain itself, should any of these countries be involved in a war. Such a war, however, would be of tremendous significance and importance to Australia, for this reason: The allegiance which the Australian national owes to the sovereign of the British Commonwealth of Nations would prevent him from giving comfort or aid of any kind to any one who was at war with

Great Britain. Australia would be unable to trade with Britain's enemies. That difficulty could not be resolved by a war-time declaration of neutrality. It seems to me unthinkable that people who have a common allegiance to one king should be able to declare themselves neutral in a war involving their sovereign.

Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 1.30 p.m.


Mr BLACKBURN - I regard as entirely unthinkable the suggestion that, in a struggle involving Britain, or any other member of the British Commonwealth of Nations, any nation should declare itself neutral, and at the same time declare that it continues its membership of the British Commonwealth. I can imagine that, in anticipation of a war, a member might say, "We have a right to secede from the Commonwealth basis, and we now break the tie which binds us to the Commonwealth cause. We shall reserve our right to declare ourselves neutral in the event of any war which involves the Commonwealth of which we were formerly a member ". But [ cannot imagine a nation claiming to continue its membership being also able to declare itself neutral in a struggle involving Great Britain. Apart from whether it could constitutionally or legally do so, if the question arose in Australia or New Zealand, the people would not stand for such a policy. I could conceive of the question arising in South Africa, with its mixed population, or in Canada, where the population of Quebec and half the population of the western provinces are not of British extraction. If we had a war in which Britain was involved, and Australia said, " Part of our policy is that we should not be bound to send forces beyond our own territory", Icould not imagine it going further and saying, " We shall consider ourselves free to trade with Britain's enemies, or free to accord to both belligerents equal rights ". This might mean allowing the ships of both to visit our shores to rest and repair here. Leaving aside all the implications of neutrality, could we conceive of Australia, in the event of a war in which Britain was involved, saying that it considered itself free to trade with Britain's enemies? I do not think that we could. If Australia attempted to trade with a country at war with Britain, the natural result would be that Britain, and those members of the Commonwealth of Nations which adhered to Britain, would treat Australia as having put itself outside the pale of British nationality. Australia, moreover, would be unable to continue trade relations with Britain or with the other dominions. Any war that takes place will probably be sufficiently large to involve practically all the great powers of the world, and, in the event of a war in which Britain was involved, Australia, by reason of its connexion with Britain, would be unable' to trade with Britain's enemies, and would not be able to secure the transport of its goods to Britain. So a war in which Britain was involved, whether one in which it took an aggressive part or one in which it was on the defensive, would have overwhelmingly important effects upon Australia. It would mean that Australia would be liable to attack by an enemy of Britain, and would be unable to trade with the rest of the world. If it made any effort to trade with Britain, it would at once invite attack by Britain's enemies. If it made an attempt to trade with countries at war with Britain, it would at once sever the tie binding it to the British Commonwealth of Nations. Any war which broke out in Europe would have great consequences for Australia. Even if we did not raise one man in Australia to take part in it, our whole life as a community would be transformed.

As our membership of the British Commonwealth of Nationsmakes international affairs and wars of such transcendent concern to us, it is unnecessary to ask what are the moral obligations imposed on Australia by our membership of the human family, or the contractual obligations imposed on us by our membership of the League of Nations. All parties, including that of which I am a member, declare that it is important that Australia should remain a member of the Commonwealth of Nations. It is sufficient to say that our membership means that we cannot turn a blind eye to international relations, and ignore what happens in other parts of the world. Therefore, the question arises, " What can Australia do to remove the causes of war " ? The causes are twofold - economic and psychological. The economic causes may be described as the seeds of war; without them war is impossible. They arise out of the rivalry between nations foi1 access to raw materials, for markets and for fields of investment. The psychological causes are the fears, hatreds and distrusts of the nations, divided as they are by differences of race and language. Lt would be impossible for a war to spring from economic causes alone. No seed will germinate unless it is ripened in a warm seedbed, and the beds which ripen the seeds of war are the antagonisms and mistrusts that exist between the nations. In that warm seedbed, there may grow a plant that will ultimately bear the blood-red flag of war and destruction. What Australia can do as a member of the British Commonwealth of Nations, and of the world community, is to try to remove or reduce the economic and psychological causes of war. I said earlier in my remarks that the British Commonwealth of Nations was a device to place the white minority of the British Empire in control of the subject peoples, enabling it to govern and exploit them. And it does govern and exploit them. The policy Britain has been pursuing since 1931 has been one of exploiting, in co-operation with its dominions, the imperial sentiment, and exploiting the whole of the Empire. Part of the Ottawa scheme is that subject nations, willynilly, shall open their markets to Britain and its dominions, and shall exclude the trade of other countries. Before 1931, Britain held its far-flung Empire on the basis of comparative freedom of access by the various nations. Nations saw that, after all, British control was not a very bad thing for them, "because Britain alone, of all the nations, would allow others to trade freely with its dominions. But, since 1931, we have abandoned that policy, and we are now trying to close the Empire to everybody but the British; to say that the resources and markets of the Empire shall be exploited by British nationals alone. That is one of the great causes of war, and, while it exists, we cannot expect that the danger of war will disappear. Since 1931, throughout the British Commonwealth of Nations, the economic causes of war have become more potent than formerly, and the seeds of war are more capable of producing the plant of war. The people of Australia are as much to blame as are the people of Britain for this position, and governments in Australia - in fact, each one of us - must take a share of the blame.

All we can do is to abandon the policy of exploitation, and take a stand for the internationalization of the undeveloped territories of the world. We should take a stand for placing them under international control, and we should make the first consideration the interests of the people who inhabit those territories, particularly the interests of the non-adult sections, and that the second consideration should be that there be preserved to every nation equal rights of access to those territories for the purpose of trading with them. Unless that be done, Britain must either fight for its far-flung Empire, or adopt the policy of distributing its territory piece-meal among other nations. Whether we decide to fight for our far-flung Empire or adopt a policy of appeasement, either policy will be fatal. The policy of maintaining a closed Empire must prove fatal. The policy of cutting it up into bits and giving it to different nations must also be fatal. That would he against the interests of the nations, and against the interests of the human race. If the League of Nations had remained a live, active force, and had not become a mere league of governments to keep the small nations in subjection, we could have looked to it to undertake the work of international trusteeship. ' But it is quite possible to do it without the League. We are members of the most imperialistic nation of the world, and other nations look to it for guidance. Portugal, which is a small nation, and Holland also, have colonial Empires. The members of the British Commonwealth of Nations could declare themselves trustees of the undeveloped territories for the use of all such nations as adhere to the system of trusteeship. That example, to my mind, would probably be followed by Britain, Portugal, Holland, the United States of America and France. It would attract Belgium, which has possessions overseas, and Scandinavian nations that have no empire. Ultimately, it would become a true League of Nations.


Mr Menzies - Would that prevent Great Britain from giving advantages in its markets to this country?


Mr BLACKBURN - Yes, I am coming to that. I say that definitely. I believe that the only justification which a nation can have for a policy of protection is its desire to develop within its own country a diversity of industries. A policy of protection becomes a policy of aggression once it becomes a policy to give to some nations advantages which are denied to others. We should make attempts to establish peaceful relations with all nations on a basis of reciprocal trade. We should not give to some nations, which are willing to trade with us, advantages that we will not give to other nations, which are equally willing to trade with us. The policy of Imperial preference should be abandoned and we should be willing to make tariff and trade agreements with other peop.es. The first, I should say, will probably be with the British dominions, New Zealand in particular, and the United States of America. But we should make it clear that those agreements are not based on the fact that we are fellow nationals or that we speak the same language, but are only the beginning of a policy by which other nations, which are willing .to trade with us, will be placed on the same footing.


Mr Menzies - Would those agreements be special to those countries?


Mr BLACKBURN - No. I believe that the policy of the United States of America in making agreements with any nation is right. That is the only attitude that is consistent with the maintenance of a protective policy. A country is entitled to maintain a protective policy in order to develop a diversity of industries and obviate its people being mere hewers of wood and drawers of water.


Mr Menzies - The honorable gentleman would have in his tariff a treaty column and a general column?


Mr BLACKBURN - Yes. We should make it clear that all nations that are willing to make treaties with us can make them on equal terms and that there would be no preference for or discrimination against any nation.


Mr Hutchinson - But there would be if there were two columns in the tariff.


Mr BLACKBURN - No, because every nation that was willing to establish freer relations with us would be able to do so on the same basis; but a nation which said, "We do not desire to have freer relations with you, and we shall not go one foot of the way towards meeting you ", would be subject to the higher rates of duty. The tendency to-day is for nations to be willing to make reciprocal arrangements. The nation which, though generous in other matters, stood for receiving everything and giving nothing in trade is to-day suffering as the result of its policy and has departed from it. In addition to this we should take positive steps by our conduct and language to allay fears and distrust that other peoples have of us. We should state our immigration policy in terms that are not likely to be misunderstood by other nations. It was the Labour Administration of 1905 which removed from the Alien Immigration Act the provision that alien immigrants must pass a test in a European language. The law was not substantially altered, but the amendment did remove an objection raised by Japan that its race was treated as an inferior. I do not intend to discuss these policies, except to say that they should not be framed and expressed in language capable of misconstruction, because it is perfectly obvious all over the world that what makes for war to-day is the distrust and fear that nations have of one another, small nations of big nations, small nations of small nations, big nations of big nations, and even big nations of small nations. This fear and this distrust are intensified by offences to racial pride. Everybody realizes that war to-day is a great gamble. No nation can be sure that the utmost preparations that it makes will secure its safety. The elements of accident and the unforeseen are important. It has been said that the Battle of the Marne was lost by Germany by a sheer accident. We know that the elements of accident and the unforeseen are much more important in wars to-day than they were. Not even the most powerful or the richest nation can be sure that it can guarantee the integrity and the lives of its men, women and children. It may be the opinion of honorable members that the suggestions I have made would not go very far towards diminishing the psychological and economic causes of war; but they would, in my opinion, go some way towards that end. They would be a gesture of peace. There is no peace to-day. As Henry Grattan said -

There is no peace. What we call peace is smothered war; we have sown the dragon's teeth and we are to reap the harvest of that sowing.

That is exactly what we have done. After the Great War, lasting peace might have been obtained if the victorious nations had been prepared to treat the defeated nations honorably, but they were not prepared to do so. An important change has taken place in regard to the psychology of war. Up to and including the eighteenth century, wars were made by the rulers. The people went to war because their rulers went to war. If a ruler changed sides during the combat, the people changed with him. They had no hatred of their opponents. If, as often happened, a German prince went from one side to the other during a war, his people went with him ; they were fighting, not because of hatred, but for their prince. When the war ended, everything was forgotten. To-day, however, in order to conduct a war, it is necessary to excite the minds of the people to a feeling of hatred, which cannot be extinguished as one can switch off an electric light. When war ends, the hatred, fears and detestations that were created in the minds of the people in order to wage it, continue as objective things that have to be reckoned with. When the rulers of the allied powers went to conclude a peace treaty with the rulers of the defeated powers at the end of the last war, they were not able to make a treaty which would have ensured lasting peace and harmony because the peoples whom they represented were still infused with hatred of the enemy. What would become of the Lloyd George Ministry if they did not '* hang the Kaiser " and what would become of the French Government if Germany were not placed under the French heel for ever? We must, therefore, remember that, with the growth of democracy, war becomes so much more dangerous, because the popular fears and hatreds that are deliberately generated continue after the ending of the war. Any nation that prepares for war cannot long remain constitutional and democratic. Fascism or dictatorship is a form of government which declares that the chief business of any country is to prepare for war because other countries are doing so. The dictator says, " If we are not ready to strike others, they will strike us. If we are to prepare for war there must be no dissident voice in the community, there must be no criticism, no opposition, nothing to break the harmony of the nation, nobody expressing dissent from the national policy. We must now repress opinion in this country in order that when war comes we shall be able to continue the repression". If the existing state of " smothered war " continues, we shall soon see the end of democratic institutions. In British countries wo may not realize at once that those institutions have ended, because the changes will have taken place in constitutional form. We may still feel superior to other nations which have recognizably broken away from democracy. When Augustus became Emperor of Rome, for a long time the people did not know that the old Roman Republic had ceased, because he observed the old forms and retained the old Roman offices; there was the Senate, the Consul, the Praetor, the Quaestor. But in turns he took the offices of Leader of the Senate, the Consul, the Praetor and the Quaestor, and when he relinquished each office his successor to it had only the name, but not the substance, of power. The old forms still existed but the spirit of the old republic was dead. And unless we are careful we shall be likely to see the death of real democracy and the birth of real Fascism under the constitutional forms so dear to the British heart. [Quorum formed.]







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