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Wednesday, 13 November 1935


Senator ARKINS - I do not suggest anything of the sort. I cannot understand how members of the Opposition at one moment uphold the League and profess their belief in all the League stands for, and then after the lapse of a few months crawl, as one honorable senator put it, into their funk-holes. If honorable senators believe in the League, they must believe in upholding treaties. Signatories to the Covenant of the League have undertaken to ' promote international co-operation and to achieve international peace and security - by the acceptance of obligations not to resort to war, by the prescription of open, just and honorable relations between nations, by the firm establishment of the understandings of international law as the actual rule of conduct among governments and by the maintenance of justice and a scrupulous respect for all treaty obligations in the dealings of organized peoples with one another.

The undertaking to maintain scrupulous respect for all treaty obligations is a vital principle of the Covenant and has been stressed as such over and over again. I propose now to deal with the League's Code, which contains the broad rules governing the conduct of League members : -

1.   The Peace of Nations. - Any war or threat of war, anywhere is recognized to be a matter of concern of tlie whole League.

2.   Renunciation of War. - Members may "in no case" resort to war until they have at least tried peaceful procedure and have then waited a further three months. In certain conditions, the obligation not to resort to war is unqualified.

3.   Peaceful Procedure and Settlement. - livery dispute " likely to lead to a rupture " must be submitted to peaceful procedure, either to a decision by the permanent court or SITe 1,11 arbitrators, or to inquiry and report by the Council. Certain kinds of dispute arc recognized as " generally suitable for legal decision ".

4.   Peaceful Change and the status quo. - The territorial integrity and political independence of members are to bc respected and preserved against aggression, and tlie Assembly may advise " the reconsideration of treaties which have become inapplicable " and " the consideration of international conditions whose continuance might endanger the peace of tlie world ".

5.   Collective Security. - Provision is made for collective action to coerce any State resorting to war in breach of its obligations. The contribution by all other members of the League to economic and financial pressure is obligatory; the contribution of naval and military force is a matter for recommendation by the Council, but it is assumed that members will co-operate loyally and effectively within the limits allowed by their armaments anil geographical position. These sanctions are not for the purpose of imposing the League'* decision but for preventing, and in the last resort stopping, breaches of the covenanted peace as quickly and with as little injury as possible.

These are five of the main rules of conduct. I point out that the Leader of the Opposition has repudiated this fifth duty. This rule prescribes that the nation shall take collective action to coerce any nation resorting to war in a breach of its obligations under the Covenant. This being so, how does the Leader of the Opposition square his opinions of the League to-day with those which he expressed some time ago? On a previous occasion, he suggested that honorable senators should examine the Covenant of the League and find out exactly what the League stands for. At that time he implied that many honorable senators were ignorant of the real duties and objects of the League. Apparently, however, the honorable senator himself was totally ignorant of what the League stands for. The League of Nations is not a League of words; it is not even a House of Parliament. It is an assembly of nations which contracted to do everything in their power to preserve the peace of the world. I repeat that the fifth rule of the League makes it obligatory on all members to contribute to collective action for the maintenance of peace. Apparently, the Leader of the Opposition knows nothing about that rule, and his speech on this matter must be regarded as a mass of wordy nothings. A little while ago, I characterized his utterances as platitudes; they are not even platitudes. When the honorable senator took other honorable senators to task, suggesting that they did not know what the League stood for, he himself did not. understand the objects of the League. Apparently, he had not read the rules of conduct, which the Covenant lays down for League members.


Senator Collings - Does the honorable senator agree with what I said on this matter a year ago?


Senator ARKINS - I am showing that the honorable senator knew nothing about the matter at that time. To-day, he opposed the imposition of sanctions, yet the fifth rule of conduct for members of the League lays it down definitely that in the interests of collective security, it is obligatory on members of the League to impose financial and economic pressure on any nation which commits a breach of the Covenant. The contribution of naval and military forces in any collective action taken by members of the League is a matter for recommendation to the Council. We are proud of the fact that, in spite of the dangers and difficulties involved in such a duty, Great Britain based sufficient naval strength in the Mediterranean, in order, first, to show its strength, and, secondly, to assist the League when the need for armed strength arose. Thus, at least one nation has stood by this rule of the League, and has been complimented by Germany on the fact that it had replaced France as the leading nation within the League. These sanctions have not been designed for the purpose merely of imposing the League's decision on members, but primarily with the object of preventing and in the last resort stopping breaches of the Covenant with as little injury as possible. That is the basic idea of the Covenant. It is not necessarily correct to say that sanctions mean war. The League holds the view that by the imposition of economic sanctions, it will shorten this war. Even if it were to fail on this occasion, on a future occasion it might, by the imposition of sanctions, avoid war. By such a method it seeks to stop trade in munitions, arms, ammunition, fuel of all kinds, and, in fact, all material likely to assist in the waging of war. No matter what authority honorable senators may quote in support of their attitude, I claim that economic sanctions do not necessarily mean war. The imposition of such sanctions is a means to be utilized by those nations which have covenanted under the League to bring about peace as quickly as possible and with as little injury as possible to any nation.


Senator Collings - Italy still marches on.


Senator ARKINS - Does the honorable senator suggest that Italy should be allowed to violate a treaty into which it has entered? He would not do so himself, but, like any other honorable man, would stick to an agreement to which he had placed his signature. The honorable senator has shown that he knows very little about the League of Nations. He takes his theories out of the political oven before they have been properly cooked. If he will give greater consideration to the ideals of the League, he will realize that ideals must be backed not only by words, but also by sacrifice. Nothing worth while in life has been won without some form of human sacrifice. Senator Brown referred to the White Australia policy. Does he not realize th at if Australia fails to honour its obligations to the League Covenant, it cannot consistently call upon other nations to defend the White Australia principle should it be challenged.


Senator Collings - The other nations would not stand by us in that event.


Senator ARKINS - If Australia were attacked, and the White Australia principle were endangered, I sincerely believe that the United States of America would come to our aid. Not many men will willingly dishonour obligations into which they have entered. It is said that an Englishman's word is his bond. Let it also be said that the word of the British Empire, and of Australia as a part of the Empire, is its bond ; that the people of Great Britain and the British dominions remain true to the best traditions of the race. Much has been said of the failures of the League of Nations, .but when we reflect that in this country, where only one flag flies and the one language is spoken, hatred and strife are only too prevalent, can we wonder that, among men differing in nationality, language and religion, there is not perfect unanimity in regard to the _ best way to abolish war? The problem can be solved only by strong men of resolute will, who are determined to stand by the obligations into which \hey have entered. The Labour party has failed Australia ; indeed, it has failed humanity, for not only Abyssinia but also every other small nation is involved in the present crisis. Australia is one of the small nations of the world; it is an outpost of the British Empire, occupying, as it were, the front trench of the white race. Should Australia ever be in great difficulties its position in the world will be stronger, if we are able to say that, when another small nation was attacked, Australia rang true. I hope that the war between Italy and Abyssinia will not spread, and that there will not be another world war. I am pledged to economic sanctions, because I believe-that they will be a potent factor in the preservation of world peace.







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