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Thursday, 16 November 1939


Mr BRENNAN (Batman) .- We have had a feast of technical knowledge from the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) and the honorable member for . Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron), and I yield to them all the respect that is due to their craft, whilst entirely rejecting as pagan and futile their philosophy of life. Since I last spoke in this chamber, events have moved with fair rapidity, so far as my salient is concerned, and that is the prosecution of the peace. I leave to others the business suited to their taste, and accepted by them, of prosecuting the war. I was much interested in the reading of the departmental compilation submitted to this House by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), and I extracted from it three items of supreme interest to me. One was that a great deal of discussion was occurring, in both belligerent and neutral countries, on the possibilities of peace, and the terms upon which peace could be obtained. That is all to the good, and it agrees entirely with my own reading of the case. The right honorable gentleman, however, answering, if not intending to notice, a question I put to him two months ago as to the war aims of the Government, stated that the first, and paramount aim is victory. If it, be true that a great deal of discussion is proceeding in belligerent countries and others, as we believe it is, making for the end of war, it is a little unfortunate that the Prime Minister thought it necessary to couple with that statement a. general declaration that the first and paramount aim of the Government is victory. The two objectives mentioned, of course, are not entirely consistent, and I think it is necessary to say in a few words what my view is on that aspect of the matter.

The Leader of the Labour party (Mr. Curtin) has pointed out, in the course of his comprehensive and admirable speech, our abhorrence of war, and the fact that we have rejected it as a means of settling international disputes, substituting for it counsels of reason expressed through the process of arbitration. That, I may say, amounts to an outlawry of war, and that is precisely what was done many years after the Labour party had done it, by what is known as the Kellogg Pact. But there is a striking difference between the standard of the Labour party so expressed and that of the Kellogg Pact in that the Labour party stands firm by its policy, whilst those responsible for that pact have run away from theirs. We have accepted this policy of ours, not alone because war is a painful and cruel thing; not alone because at least many regard it as unchristian; not alone because it is wasteful and destructive; not for those reasons altogether, or for any of them alone, but because, in addition to them, it is ineffectual to achieve any useful results for the masses of the people in. any of the countries involved. The Labour party, therefore, does not favour recourse to war for any purpose other than that of clear defence, and the clear defence of this country is always obvious from its insular position and its distance from other possible theatres of war. I cannot, therefore, accept conquest in this war as either an immediate or ultimate war aim, believing, as I do, that it is, in the first place, harmful to the interests of those who sent me here, and, secondly, harmful to humanity as a whole. That is the case, whatever the technical or formal result of the war may be. I am strengthened in this view toy the special advantages which always accrue and are now accruing to certain favoured individuals during the currency of. and as a result of, war. These are sufficient reasons to account for the fact that I declare emphatically against any expeditionary force proceeding overseas to wage war in Europe. Not only do I object to soldiers ' being enlisted, equipped and sent overseas, but I also object to their wearing the uniform of Australia in conflicts on foreign battlefields, because the consequences must necessarily be the embroilment of Australia in a spirit of ill-will with countries with which we have no quarrel. Victory and compulsory military training are the inspirations, if they are not the subject-matter, of this address. I shall go to the basis of the subject. I have raised it before and I shall raise it again. I address honorable members on these lines because they seem to take it for granted t]] at we are properly and rightly involved in this conflict. That I deny emphatically. When, may 1 ask, did the Prime Minister, insecure as he ia at the head of 7,000,000 inhabitants of this isolated continent, receive a mandate to make war upon 85,000,000 persons in central Europe; a war not for to-day or. for to-morrow, but for an unlimited period and to an unlimited degree? When did the United Australia party embrace in its impressive programme the duty of stabilizing unstable countries in Europe? What are the claims of the Prime Minister - this Colossus amongst generals, this modern Pilsudski - to undertake the part which he has so lightly undertaken? Who authorized him to pledge the lives of my constituents, and even of my family, in this comprehensive scheme of conquest to which he now sets his hand? That is what he has done. I should like him to explain to me if it is the policy of the United Australia party, hitherto undisclosed, to stabilize any old State, however unstable in central Europe. When he gently declared on the 3rd September last that because Britain was at war therefore we were at war was he stating Government policy or the legal position that arose from the fact that he had failed to give effect to the promises and undertakings, which he had made repeatedly, to adopt certain portions of the Statute of Westminster? The course which he has taken vitally affects me and everything I hold dear in this country. I am a battlescarred veteran. I have come safely through two wars, at least so far. I have reached the stage in life when, according to all forecasts that were made in the years between 1914-18, my lineal descendants should be saying to me, "Daddy, what did you do in the Great War ? " Instead of that being the case history is so perverted and so inverted that the old man is found saying, " Sonny, what part has Mr. Menzies allotted to you in this funny war ? " The forecast is entirely different from that with which we were familiar in the last war. I do not wish to be accused of being personal in th, slightest degree beyond what is necessary for an honest examination of this case in its military bearing and having regard to the responsibility involved. The Prime Minister must realize that he has had the good fortune to miss the Great War and this war. He has explained to us that he took v the view that it was a matter for a man's own conscience whether he did or did not enlist. In delivering a broadcast on the subject, I said it might be surprising to my listeners to learn that I entirely agreed with the right honorable gentleman on that point. I also said if it were true that the Prime Minister was likely to become the compulsionist by introducing compulsory military training, and I in his position were confronted with my utterance in this chamber, I would be shrivelled with shame at the fact that I had gone back upon my public declaration in which I had excused my failure to enlist in the last war, and that I was bringing compulsion into operation in this war after my speech had served its purpose to get me out of a most difficult situation with the Country party. He missed the first war for conscience sake and because of his firm belief that it was a matter for the individual decision of each man. In this war we find that he cannot be spared. He is again exempt. He is too valuable to his country to serve in a military capacity. He should have been the very first man to don khaki if any man is to fight for the stabilization of portions of central Europe. The gentleman who committed Australia to war should be the very first to lead the way as an inspiring example, but I apprehend that he is likely to be the last. .Like the minor heir to a throne, who has to be carried about in a glass case for fear that the succession will be endangered, tlie prime ministership must not be endangered on the battlefront. But there are quite a number of aspirants ready to succeed him in his present position at a moment's notice; some upon my left, some on your right, sir. If we look long enough and far enough we shall see that that thrice battlescarred veteran - the hero of conscription of 19.14-18, the proudest noble of them all - also is ready. In the contest that has already taken place for that high office the Attorney-General was only a half-head behind. At any rate, if he does not get to the front, if he does not present an impressive target for foreign bullets, he still remains -commander-in-chief of the legion that never was listed and is still a member of the immortal " Would to God Brigade ". I read in the newspapers of a German general who was shot in the course of the ruthless invasion of Poland, and propagandists eager to explain the occurrence said that, although many thousands were killed, he was shot in the back by his own people. It Avas explained that General Fritsch Avas not likely to be engaged personally and that generals do not get shot at Avar. There are many persons who do not get shot in a military sense. In fact I have a. list of some of those Who do not get shot in a military sense, but who frequently do so in a social sense. Generals do not get shot, and I. know of one Prime Minister who does not get shot in any sense. Patriotic radio commentators 12,000 miles behind the lines do not get shot. -J Judges, and especially chief justices, do not get shot. Company directors do not get shot - in a military sense. Holders of large parcels of shares - yielding, as do those in the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, for instance, 22-J- per cent, - do not get shot, in the military sense. Shareholders in chemical industries and makers of various commodities - at 22J- per cent, dividends - such as poison gas, and other lines of trades in death, do not get shot.







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