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Thursday, 8 December 1938


Mr MENZIES (Kooyong) (AttorneyGeneral) . - I am sure that honorable members generally will join with me in expressing sympathy with the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) in whatever it is that is troubling him. As I listened to the honorable gentleman defending himself against something or other, I was reminded df an incident well known to lawyers, and, I am quite sure, well known to the honorable member. He may recollect the story of the young man who was charged at the Collingwood police court which, I believe," is in the honorable member's electorate, with having stolen a pair of boots. The evidence for the prosecution was conclusive, but the evidence for the defence was equally conclusive, consisting as it did of the evidence of ten clergymen, all of whom swore that the young gentleman was of unimpeachable character. The magistrate was a very wise man indeed. He said that he was quite satisfied that here was a very clear case. The evidence was conclusive, and showed that a yo'ung gentleman of unimpeachable character had undoubtedly stolen a pair of boots. I was reminded of this story as I listened to the honorable member, though I do not profess to explain why I should have thought of it.

I did not rise simply to make this short but genuine speech of sympathy. My purpose was really to answer certain remarks of the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) concerning the Port Kembla dispute. The honorable member, with warmth and spirit and a great deal of sincerity, attacked the position of the Government in relation to the dispute that has arisen at Port Kembla. He said that what we were doing was contrary to a great current of opinion, not only among the men concerned at Port Kembla, but also among many other people in the community. If he means that many people in Australia, on a casual view, think that the men at Port Kembla are justified in substituting their will on a matter of international trade for the will and policy of the Government, I agree that many people do entertain that view. Because it was felt that the view of the Government should be put with particularity to these men before any trouble occurred, the Government invited them to send representatives to Canberra, and I was deputed, as the Minister for Industry, to see them and to .put to them, in an informal fashion, the views of the Government on this subject. I did so. I think the very best way in which I can re-state those views to the House will be to read from the shorthand note that was taken of my remarks. It will be observed that these remarks were not couched in any set form, but were of an informal character. But they contain, as fairly as I can state it, the view that the Government holds on this very important matter. I said -

In the first place, your decision is apparently that you will not load pig-iron which is consigned to Japan, and as I understand it, your reason for that is that the Japanese arc engaged in a war against the Chinese of which your members disapprove, and that your members consequently are not disposed to assist in sending to Japan materials which can be used for warlike purposes. That, I understand, is the view you . have, and it is a view which has been expressed, of course, by a great number of people - not only members of the. Waterside Workers Federation. I have had letters from people offering a similar view, but I think that, properly considered, it is a wrong view and for reasons that 1 want to put to you..

In the first place, let me say this - that the Japanese Government, looking at what is happening in Australia, is not going to draw a distinction between what is done by the waterside workers of Australia, and what is done by the Government of Australia. We are dealing with a number of governments in the world which are accustomed to having done in their countries what they want to have done, and nothing else, and these countries find difficulty in understanding our system, under which governments propound laws and all sorts of individuals in the community have views of their own and many disagree with the government law altogether. That position is not clearly understood in other parts of the world, and it is no satisfying answer to say to the Japanese government, if it protests that Australia is refusing to send goods to Japan for which Japan has entered into contracts - "Well, it is not Australia, it is not the Australian Government - it ia a section of the Australian community, and it is not being prevented from doing it by the Australian Government." We have to consider this matter, therefore - we, the Australian Government and the people whose -Government we arc. We have to consider this in the first instance internationally. What is the effect of all this internationally?

Now it is quite true that Australia is a member of the League of Nations. It is equally true that the League of Nations as a body has not imposed sanctions on Japan in relation to China. As far as the League of Nations is concerned, it has made a protest. lt has taken no economic or military action in relation to Japan's Chinese expedition. Now is it suggested that although the League of Nations has not imposed sanctions Australia should? That is one of the very first questions we have to look at. Is it suggested that our country, the country which is most closely associated in a geographical sense with Japan - we alone of all the countries among the League of Nations should impose sanctions on Japan? If it is, then internationally we are a very courageous nation and it is to be hoped that our capacity for enforcing sanctions is as great as our will. Now I don't believe that anybody in Australia, seriously, with that question in front of him or her, would say that we ought to be the one country in the world to impose sanctions on Japan.

Well now, when 1 say that, somebody will say to me - " That is all right, but I am not wanting to impose sanctions - but pig iron is made into munitions - pig iron can be converted into steel in Japan - converted into bayonets and guns, and that is too much like providing Japan with materials of war ". Well that, I suggest to you, gentlemen, is a very limited outlook on the problem of war. The Japanese armies in China require clothing. They require food. They require arms. They require all three if they are going to carry on a war against China, and if we are going, in our limited way in Australia, to take steps to prevent them from carrying on a war against China, then we will have to prevent them from getting not only Australian pig iron, but from getting Australian wool - Australian wheat - all those raw materials which we, up to the present time, export to Japan.

Now suppose we were to say, " Well all right - we are going to send nothing to Japan that would conceivably help Japan in this war ". That would mean, in pretty plain language, cutting off exports to Japan altogether. I do not know whether any body believes that if we should cut off our exports to Japan altogether we would prevent Japan carrying on war against China. I believe that if we did that we would start a trade war against Japan, the end of which nobody in this room can see. You see it is a very good thing - an entirely good thing, to be in favour of peace, but it is not a very sensible thing to say that we are in favour of peace and then follow up a line of policy that must do more to provoke war than any other policy we could imagine. And of course the position at the present time is that we have representations made to us by the Japanese government. The Japanese government is in a position to say quite logically - "Look, has the Government of Australia imposed sanctions against us " 2 and the answer is " No, the Government has not ". " Has the Government of Australia prohibited the export of pig iron to us ?" " Wc have not ". " Then why can't we get the delivery of goods we ordered?" " Because a section of the people in Australia have decided you cannot". "Is that section carrying out the policy of the Government?" " No, it is not. It is substituting its will for the policy of the Government ".


Mr Rosevear - Who was the chairman of the meeting?


Mr MENZIES - I was. It was my speech, and I may say that it was listened to with respect. I continued -

Now what would you say if that was the position put to you? How would you describe the Government of Australia? Would you say " That is a fine democratic government " or would you say quite plainly " In that country, the government is a government that has no authority. It does not represent the people ".


Mr Rosevear - That is an unfair question.


Mr MENZIES - I proceeded-

Of course, gentlemen, I know what you think of us as a government. I am not asking you to say that you think we are a great government. . I have no doubt that you, being in. another party, think we are just as bad a government as could be found in Australia. You are entitled to think that. But you are not entitled to make yourselves the government of the country - but at the next election get us tossed out and get yourselves elected.


Mr Rosevear - There was some horse-sense about that.


Mr MENZIES - There was. I suggest that- the honorable member repeal it to the workers at Port Kembla. I proceed -

Wewon't ' complain. Nobody can complain in a democratic country. Suppose that to-morrow we had an election and the Lyons Government was thrown out on its ear, and a government that you really believed in came in. What do you think that government would do? I would just like you to put that question to yourselves. What would Mr. Curtin's Government do? Would it say: " Well, the Port Kembla chaps are not willing to send pig iron to Japan, and we are going to agree with that. We think it is the right course, and in order to make the whole thing regular, we are going to prohibit the export of pig iron to Japan and then, because we arc sensible people, we are going to prohibit wool because a soldier must have clothes to wear, particularly in a rigorous Chinese winter, and we are going to prohibit all these things ". I- know that if that were their policy, the defence bill we are going to introduce this week would be a flea-bite compared with the one they would have to introduce. Think that over.







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