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Tuesday, 9 May 1939


Mr BLACKBURN (Bourke) .- I am very glad that this House has at last an opportunity to discuss external affairs. On very many occasions honorable members have asked for such an opportunity, but nearly always it has been withheld. 1 regard the position of Australia in relation to the other countries of the world as of tremendous importance. Indeed, 1 cannot conceive of anything that is more important. Domestic, political, and social reforms are all influenced by a state of unrest in the world, a state that will continue if this country, along with others, is to be committed to a policy of preparation for war. The expenditure necessary for that preparation must have the effect of postponing or side-tracking the social reforms which we all so much desire. We shall be told that it is impossible to provide money for the payment of old-age pensions, and for other desirable social services, when the immediate and pressing demand is to prepare for war. War is the bankruptcy of international diplomacy. If war comes, it will be because all the attempts of the diplomatists to avert war have failed. This is of the utmost importance to Australia,1 not merely 'because of its separate position in the world, but particularly -because it is a member of a society of nations - a member of the world community, so that nothing can affect the people of the world that does not' affect us. .It is important to us also because Australia is, by its own choice, a member of a national society, whether we call it the British Empire, as did the honorable member for Parkes (Sir Charles Marr), or the British Commonwealth of Nations, as did the Minister for External Affairs (Sir Henry Gullett) and the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin). The party to which I belong h..s registered its determination to remain an inseparable member of that society.' The ink is still fresh on the Federal Conference's declaration that. Labour's defence policy is based upon the fact that Australia is an integral part of the British Commonwealth of Nations. That means that we regard Australia's membership of that, society as permanent' and indestructible- It seems clear to me that what affects that society must affect Australia. We cannot sit by and say that what is done in Great Britain is purely a matter for that country, and cannot have any bearing on us. It is clear that although, in the event of war, we would not be, and could not be compelled to send troops overseas to join in the war, or even to defend ourselves, it still remains true that we must be affected by the fact that Great Britain, as the principal partner in the Commonwealth, is at war. We. could not go on behaving as if we were a separate nation. That position, as a matter of law, is unassailable, and is not weakened by the new internal relationship between Great Britain and the dominions as defined by the preamble to the Statute of Westminster - a preamble which is already law in Australia. In an article published in January of this year in the Canadian Bar Revieu.', Professor W. P. M. Kennedy, one of the most eminent jurists in the British Empire, sets down reluctantly certain conelusions as follows:-

The Crown, as far as Canada is concerned, is one and indivisible: as it was in 18(i7, so it is to-day.

When the Crown is at war, Canada is at war, and cannot be legally neutral.

Canada has no legal control over the prerogative of war; and as this prerogative is uncontrolled bv a British statute, Canada's relation to a declaration of war by the Crown or to a declaration of war by a foreign state against the Crown does not come under the doctrine of British Coal Corporation v. The King; i.e., there is no British statute governing or controlling the prerogative of war which Canada, can repeal.

Professor Kennedy apparently regrets to come to these conclusions. From these, it follows that Australia, like Canada, cannot exercise control over its external relations and at the same time remain inseparably a part of the British Commonwealth of Nations. If Great Britain is at war, Australia is affected. This country cannot continue to trade with nations which are at enmity with Britain ; it cannot act as if there were no war. It cannot allow the vessels of hostile foreign nations to revictual or undergo repairs at Australian ports, lu war, this country will suffer great economic hardships. Therefore, even from the selfish point of view of national security and well-being, it is of tremendous importance to us that we should do all that lies in our power to avert the possibility of armed conflict.

I do not believe that Australia is without blame for the state of tension existing in the world to-day. We should make a greater effort to understand the outlook of other peoples, to induce other nations to understand our view, and generally we should adapt our policies to encourage good relations with other nations. We cannot blame any particular party or section of the community for our shortcoming in this matter; we all have erred and gone astray. But I think that Australia, as a member of the British Commonwealth of Nations, can make an important contribution to world peace. I have spoken of this in this House on other occasions. The policy of the British Commonwealth of Nations makes for war. Prior to 1931, although Great Britain was then the chief colonial power, it permitted other nations to enter into the markets of its non-self-governing colonies on equal terms with British trade. It did not attempt to monopolize dominion markets. The governments of the several dominions, up till then, were free to exclude British goods, and did so. That British policy has been deliberately abandoned during the last nine or ten years. Since the making of the Ottawa Agreement, British Empire markets have, to a large extent, been closed to foreign nations. In effect, the Empire has been made 'a closed circuit within which Empire countries seek to trade only with other Empire countries, and within which the trade of the non-self-governing territories has been exploited, not merely by the people of Great Britain and Ireland, but also by the people in the self-governing dominions - in fact by all the constituents of the British Commonwealth of Nations. This is one of the things that tends to war, and it is important to remember that Australia has a voice in determining this policy. It should not be our design or the design of other dominions to monopolize trade with Britain and exploit British territories to the entire exclusion of the peoples of other countries. Britain should itself head a movement of colonial powers to place colonial territories under a system of international control, first with the object of protecting the interests of the native inhabitants and advancing those non-adult people a further stage towards mental adolescence, and secondly, with the object of securing for the peoples of all countries equal right to trade with these colonial territories. It is absurd to think that we can pursue a policy of a closed Empire and yet avoid war.

The Minister (Sir Henry Gullett) urged that we should invite other nations to confer with representatives of the British Commonwealth of Nations regarding the grave problems that confront all the powers, and went on to say that their representations would be dealt with in a spirit of generosity. I suggest with great respect to the honorable gentleman, that the only thing that we can do, if we expect our protestations of sincerity to be accepted, is to declare that we shall no longer regard ourselves as privileged to exploit colonial territories; we should, as I have suggested, be prepared, as members of the British Commonwealth of Nations, to abandon our position as an imperial nation, to give up those colonies, and place those territories which can govern themselves in a position to do so. The others, the nonselfgoverning, must be put in a position of tutelage under an international trust. If Britain adopted this plan, and invited the co-operation of the other principal colonial powers, France, Portugal and Holland, it is likely that the invitation would be accepted. Unless this be done, we cannot expect the other nations to believe that we ave anxious to do something definite in the cause of world peace. It is idle to talk about Great Britain being prepared to make peace overtures to other powers if the nation is not willing to make sacrifices in the cause of peace. It is all very well for some people to try to distinguish between what they are pleased to consider is the peace-mindedness of the British Commonwealth of Nations, and the non-peace-mindedness of countries that are seeking expansion. It should be remembered that Germany and Italy entered the family of nations in the latter half of last century, and found that nearly everything worth having was already in the possession of other nations. Does any one expect that the governments of those countries, which claim the right to share in the development of colonial territories, will accept for all time a position of inferiority? It is an axiom that if nations are to survive, opportunity must be given for the expansion of trade relations with other countries.

What now is the position? As the result of private ownership of the means of production, the world is divided into two classes - the comparatively small class which takes the lion's share of the product, and the large class which has to be content with what it cannot live without. Thus, in each industrialized country, the masses of the people were denied the means of buying and consuming their product. Thus, in each such country the owing class was left with a surplus over local consumption. The problem thus created was not acute before all the nations became as highly industrialized as they are to-day, because as exports or investments the surplus could be disposed of overseas. But since practically every country has, in more recent years, been endeavouring to become economically selfsufficient, the world's markets for imports have contracted, and in some cases have disappeared. What must happen in a country which cannot, without abandoning its social organization, feed its people ? Germany and Italy, like Britain and France, are wedded to the capitalist system of private ownership of production; and like Britain and France, the totalitarian powers can provide for the needs of their people in only one way, namely, by devoting a very large portion of their surplus funds to capital expenditure upon public works, and especially upon the preparation for war. Therefore, preparation for war becomes an essential part of the social and industrial life of the capitalist nations. Countries that are prepared for war will sooner or later go to war. That is inevitable. It is unfortunately true that most nations are to-day organized, not for peace, but for war. The causes of war, in my view, are produced in the present world economic system, but they can be made less potent, because wars cannot be made without men, or the co-operation of members of the human race, and the instinct of human beings, regardless of differences of race, religion, language or institutions, is to live at peace. The only thing that will distract men from the will to live at peace is the belief that they cannot live without war. The people of Germany have been taught that they cannot secure for themselves a place in the sun. Towards the end of the Great War their " will to war " was broken down by assurances given to them that if they overthrew their system of government and dethroned the Kaiser they would be readmitted to the comity of nations. They did so, but they were not re-admitted. The only sure way to peace is for the people of the British races to negotiate with the German people to-day, and to show a willingness to meet them on such terms that everybody will be able to live in security and enjoy the good things of this world upon an equal footing. The alignment of democracies against the totalitarian states does not worry the hungry man. He can be just as bungey, unhappy, . and miserable in London or Paris as in Berlin or Rome, or, for that matter, in Melbourne or Sydney; the system of government he lives under is not, to him, the allimportant consideration. No great difference' exists between democracies and totalitarian states. In the democracies of Britain, France and the United States of America the people have votes; but that system of government works within the limits of constitutions. The people governed by them move and have their being iu a political atmosphere that is created or de-natured by wealth. Everything that they hear and know is only what the wealthy organizations that control public opinion are prepared to let them hear and know. There is no great difference between Mr. Chamberlain and Herr Hitler. They are more in agreement than are the people they represent, because each is determined that his state shall have its place in the sun and that his power shall be paramount. Mr. Chamberlain is resolved that the power of the class which rules Great Britain shall be the maximum and that it shall not give up one shred, and Hitler is equally determined that Germany shall tear from weaker and decadent nations the things which those nations can no longer hold.

As constituent parts of the British Commonwealth of Nations, we ourselves' have, individually and collectively, some responsibility for the conditions that exist in this world. "We shall be able to justify these debates and help to make the world a better place if we make a genuine appeal for peace to the people of other countries. I believe that such an appeal would bear fruit, but even if the worst should happen, we should know that we were not entirely to blame, because, we had tried, even at the eleventh hour, to remove the causes of war.

The state of stifled war in which we live to-day, and there is no doubt that it exists, is an extraordinary danger to our representative institutions. When negotiations are in progress between two nations, one of which allows no minority to have a voice in its affairs and allows no questioning of its leaders whilst the other permits a minority to have an active voice, and its public men to be questioned by members of Parliament, it is obvious that a totalitarian nation has a tremendous advantage over a democratic country. So it seems to me that if the present state of war continues in the world, we shall find that Great Britain, the United States of America, France and Australia will preserve merely the outside semblance of representative institutions, for the real substance of it will have been taken away; minority opinion will be suppressed in France, the United States of America and Australia as really and as substantially as it has been suppressed in Berlin, Moscow, or Rome.- If we desire to make our representative institutions real things, if we have any real belief in democracy, we must be anxious for peace, and must be prepared to make sacrifices for peace. Unless the people of Australia are prepared to make sacrifices for peace and, as constituent members of the British Commonwealth of Nations, try to induce the peoples of that Commonwealth also to make sacrifices, I believe that there will be war, not necessarily to-morrow, but sooner or later. Every day, every hour .that we gain from war is a day or an hour saved, in which we may do something towards the pacification of the world.







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