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Tuesday, 9 May 1939

Sir CHARLES MARR (Parkes) . - I congratulate the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) upon the excellent speech he has just delivered. I also congratulate the Government upon making it possible for honorable members to discuss in the House these great questions which are of major importance in the world to-day. May I also compliment the Minister for External Affairs (Sir Henry Gullett) upon his first speech in his new ministerial office. At first I was inclined to think that the Government had adopted an unwise procedure in permitting discussions of international affairs in Parliament, owing to the variety of views held by honorable members.

The speeches made to-day have been largely a repetition of statements that have appeared in the press for some time past regarding matters which affect various countries of the world, including both the totalitarian and the democratic States. Some honorable members appear to think that such statements should not be repeated in Parliament; but surely if the international situation is to be discussed at all we should be at liberty to say frankly what we think. I agree with the Loader of the Opposition that, as Australians, we have no right to dictate the political views which other countries should adopt. The honorable gentleman went further and said that the policy of this country should brook no interference from other countries. Surely that is a fundamental principle. But I ask him whether we should not object to other countries foisting their policy upon the peoples of adjoining countries, and whether we should be justified in foisting our policy upon the people of adjoining countries? Our White Australia policy, for example, was not received enthusiastically by the people of some of the countries in the near East, though they did not object to our adopting it for ourselves. But if we attempted to extend that policy to certain countries which ' surround us they might well object. We have the right to adopt our own policy within our own borders, but not the right to dictate the policy for countries adjoining us. That is what the dictator countries are doing. If we object to the adoption of that course, two methods of procedure are open to us. First, we can protest to the League of Nations, which, however, seems to be non-existent to-day; secondly, we can protest on the platform of the public opinion of the world. I should like to believe that if we adopted the latter course the dictator countries would listen to the views that we enunciate, but I fear that our utterances would f.ill on deaf ears, or be received very coldly.

The totalitarian states have, in actual fact, foisted their methods upon nondictator countries. They have simply " walked in " on those countries, although the people affected were doing their best, within their own borders, to live peaceably with other nationals. We have the example of Abyssinia. We may not have fully approved of themethods of the former government of Abyssinia. We may even havebelieved that in some respects, at least, slavery still existed in ' Abyssinia.. But surely other methods than thoseactually adopted could have been used to convince the Abyssinian leaders of that time that a better system of government was available than that which they had..

It was improper for the people of another race to ride rough-shod over the Abyssinians and force another form of government upon them.

The proposal of the Leader of the Opposition in this regard may be described as educational. He says, in effect, that the people of democratic countries should be able to show that it is possible for such countries to govern themselves effectively. He advocated, of course, government of the people for the people by the duly elected representatives of the people. I do not think that any honorable member of this Parliament believes in the dictatorship practices in vogue in certain totalitarian states.We believe that our own democratic system of government is much to be preferred.

Mr Beasley - We have financial dictatorships in the democracies.

Sir CHARLES MARR - But surely if these are in fact present and undesirable the democracies could overcome them by democratic methods. The elected representatives of the people should be able to overcome any such disabilities if they exist. The ballot box is a power which our people always have at their command. The members of this House are definitely of the opinion that democratic methods are better than dictatorship methods. That is not to say, however, that we should seek to force the people of totalitarian states to discontinue their existing methods. They have a perfect right to adopt whatever system of government appeals to them. Earlier in this debate I heard an honorable member interject that it was now proposed to ally the soviet system of Russia with the democratic system of the British Empire. That is not to say that the British people would deny to the Russian people the right to live under their own system of government. The Russians have a perfect right to live under whichever system of government they choose. What is being said, in effect, is that as an effort is being made to force Poland to accept a system of government which the Poles do not desire, it is desir- able that the governments which believe in peoples having the right to preserve their own systems of government should combine to maintain those rights against other countries which would force a different system of government upon them.

The Leader of the Opposition said that if the British Empire got into trouble and war were declared, whether a war of aggression or of defence, the people of this country should have the right to say whether they would participate in it or not. I agree. This Parliament is the voice of the people. But I remind honorable members that, notwithstanding what may be written in the constitutions which so lightly bind the different parts of the British Empire together, if the British Empire is at war Australia is also at war. Whatever the nature of our Constitution, however light the bonds that unite us to the Empire, the fact remains that when the British Empire is at Avar this country also is at

Avar, no matter what our Parliament may say or do.

Mr Beasley -Howdoes the honorable member reconcile that with the statement of the Minister for External Affairs (Sir Henry Gullett) that not in any or every instance would we bo compelled to go towar?

Sir CHARLES MARR - I am now speaking of the British Empire in its relation to other countries. Of course, if the British Government had a little war of itsown with Ireland-

Mr Mahoney - Why Ireland ?

Sir CHARLES MARR - Well, let us say Tasmania, then. What I mean is, Britain might be involved in some war of minor importancewhich did not affect Australia, but if the Empire were at war and its existence threatened, then we, too, would be atwar just as much as Great Britain.

The Leader of the Opposition said that there need be no clash between the ideologies of the totalitarian States and the democracies as such, but surely there is something of even greater importance than systems of government, or even of empires, and that is the humanrace. Surely the atrocities that have been committed during the last few years must earn the condemnation of every decent man and woman throughout the world, of every one who has thewelfare of the human race at heart. Can any one stand by in a so-called Christian country and witness without protest the atrocities that have been committed in Germany?

Mr Beasley - What is behind Hitler ?

Sir CHARLES MARR - I do not know, beyond the aggrandizement of Hitler and the glory of the German people. As for the Germans themselves, we know that those who have come to this country have proved themselves to be excellent citizens, but we cannot remain unmoved in the presence of the atrocities which have been committed by the German Government.

Mr Brennan - What atrocities?

Sir CHARLES MARR - The honorable member will have an opportunity to speak after me.

Mr Beasley - Are they any worse than what has been happening in India and Palestine? The trouble is that when we make charges against Hitler he throws them back at us.

Sir CHARLES MARR - When I have finished the honorable member may talk about the atrocities which he says have been committed by Britain. Whatever may have been done in the British Empire is as nothing compared with the decimation of a race that has taken place in Germany during the last few years. In any case, whether or not we believe the press reports that have been published regarding occurrences in Germany it must be clear to every one of understanding that international affairs are in a very serious condition to-day.

Mr Brennan - What about doing something for Australia?

Sir CHARLES MARR - We can best strengthen Australia by remaining part and parcel of the British Empire. We can protect and develop Australia only by remaining true to the democratic system of government. It may be true that in social reform we have not ad vanced during the last few years as rapidly as we did during the early days of federation, but surely that is not the fault of this Government. It is the fault of all our governments. Legislation of various kinds which could and should have been introduced for the alleviation of suffering has been held up. Recently, a national health insurance scheme was introduced, but was opposed by the Labour party. One would have thought that the needs of the widows and orphans of Australia would have won their sympathy. The Leader of the Opposition devoted some time to pointing out the shortcomings of the democracies, but I remind him that if we assail democracy we assist dictatorships. Those are the only two practical systems of government operating in the world to-day. While the Minister for External Affairs was reading his statement I heard interjections expressing regret at the inclusion of certain sentences which they thought might be harmful to the peace of the world. I remind those honorable members who interjected that Herr Hitler has never troubled himself to be conciliatory. Surely we have a right to refute his insulting references to the democracies. We believe in democracy as the best system of government under which to live. The German people, for the time being at any rate, appear to believe that a dictatorship is the best system. I am not objecting to their choice of a system of government which they consider suitable for themselves; I am objecting to the attempts of Germany to foist that system upon other countries - to its attempts to subjugate other nations, and impose upon them its own dictatorship. The Leader of the Opposition said that if the dictatorship countries approached the democracies along peaceful lines, the democracies would be delighted to meet them. I agree with that statement, but I point out that no such approach has ever been made. The dictatorship countries have never invited the democracies to sit around the conference table to discuss the problems of the world. The democratic countries, however, have repeatedly asked the leaders of the totalitarian States to meet them in conference, rather than to continue their warlike 'courses. In 1929, a Labour government, under Mr. Ramsay MacDonald, supported by Mr. Arthur Henderson, fought hard to induce the nations of Europe to agree to a reduction of armaments. Every decent man will admit the sincerity of Mr. Arthur Henderson.

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