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Tuesday, 16 December 1941


Mr HUGHES (North Sydney) (Leader of the United Australia party) '. - I shall say very little, because the time for words has passed and the time for action has come. Indeed, I should not have risen at all to-night were it not that the adjournment of the debate might create a false impression in other countries. The motion of the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) calls upon this House to approve of the action of the Government in declaring the existence of a state of war with Japan, Finland, Hungary and Rumania, and to pledge itself to take every step deemed necessary to defend the Commonwealth and the territories, to carry on hostilities' in association with our allies, and to achieve final victory over our enemies. To that motion, I heartily subscribe. The events of the last few days have created a situation in Australia which is without precedent in our history. As the Prime Minister reminded us this afternoon, for 150 years we went our rose-strewn way in a distracted, world torn by revolution and war.. We have indeed been a fortunate people. Nothing has ever happened to us. And although for over two years this war has brought ruin,, desolation and death to many coun-tries, it has not hitherto disturbed the even tenor of our way. But the entry of Japan into the war has revolutionized our situation. Australia is now confronted with dangers with which other nations have become only too familiar. We must face not only the position as it exists to-day, but also that- which it may soon become, and we must face it- calmly. There must be no lamentations,, no re. criminations,, and no destructive criticisms. To-day, "unity" a word but yesterday in all men's mouths', is pregnant with a new meaning. The tocsin has rung " Australia is in danger " and the young men are flocking to the standard. Last week, 5,000 of them presented themselves for enlistment. Australia will not lack men to defend it. But men of themselves are not enough. The hitter experiences of Britain, of France, of Australia - in Greece, Crete and the Near East - and within the last few days the tragic happenings to the naval forces of our allies in Pearl Harbour and to the great ships of the British navy in Malayan waters brings home to us the terrible lesson that without proper equipment victory is impossible. Equipment postulates unity in the community as the basis of effective organization of our man-power and industrial resources. The Prime Minister said recently that the time had passed when the organization and distribution of man-power of the country should be left to the multitude. He said that the Government had given a lead and the people must follow that lead. I agree with the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) that the workers in our munition establishments have wonderful achievements to their credit. Australia has wrought a veritable miracle of industrial organization and development, but something more is needed. Man-power in. our war industries must be supplemented. Labour must be diverted from non-essential industries to war industries, and that must be done without delay. This diversion may well lead to an economic confusion, but it is essential to tlie safety of the nation. Every day, evidence of the fearful power which mechanized destructive forces can unloose is brought home to us. Without armament, aircraft, guns, bombs, munitions and equipment of all descriptions, we cannot hope to achieve victory. The effective equipment of our armed forces demands complete organizaton of the man-power of this country. As the Prime Minister has told us, the man-power of Australia must be directed ; men must go where they are sent. The work which is most important must be given priority. I shall not enlarge on this subject, but I say to the people of Australia that whilst on the one hand we should not minimize the gravity of our situation, we ought not to exaggerate it. There are some faint hearted men who say that 7,000,000 people cannot defend a continent. But we can and must defend it. The honorable member for Boothby told us that there are 6,500,000 trained soldiers in Japan - that may be, but they are in Japan. Australia's total population is only 7,000,000, but I say to my fellow citizens that nothing is impossible for 7,000,000 people of our race. All we need is the will to resist - the resolution to press on regardless of any sacrifices we may be called, upon to make. There must be equality of sacrifice, and no one must be placed outside the operation of this law. To the people of Australia, I say: "Be of good cheer. 'The British race has thrived on adversity. We are where we are by. the grace of God and the result of struggles through which we have passed during the ages. If we but have courage and faith in ourselves, we shall win this waa- as we did the last war. Should the keepers of the gates in Malaya and the Middle East be overcome, we in Australia must be ready to defend ourselves and our liberties ".

That can only be done with an adequate supply of armaments. Therefore, it all comes down to this : It is the organization of industry that counts. We shall not lack for fighting men - we never have, and we never will. I do not agree in general with the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear), but I do say this: If danger threatens Australia, we must see to it that the number of fighting men available for the defence of the country does not fall short of the minimum required. That is our first duty - that, and the organization of industry and man-power, together with the firm resolution of the people to go on no matter what sacrifices are demanded. If this spirit spur lis on, then all will be well.







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