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Tuesday, 9 May 1939

Mr HUTCHINSON (Deakin) . - At the outset, I congratulate the Government upon the initiation of a debate on foreign affairs in this House. In the past, the Government- of the day has adopted what I might term " a hush-hush policy" on foreign affairs, with the result that time and again matters pertaining to foreign policy or the motions for the printing of papers dealing with "international affairs have been relegated to a very low position in the list of orders of the day. I believe that foreign affairs should assume in this House, as they do in the House of Commons, an importance possibly not second to any other subject which engages our attention.

Of late years the Australian people have been awakened to a great degree by the space which the press has devoted to foreign affairs, and also by the time allowed by the Australian Broadcasting Commission to speakers dealing with that subject. But even so, it still remains for this 'House to play a most important part in the education of the Australian people in respect of foreign countries and of foreign relations generally. I consider that, at the moment, the people of this Commonwealth are somewhat insular and narrow in their views concerning foreign affairs. On no other ground can one account for a policy such as that of isolation, for which the Opposition stands, being placed prominently before the Australian people. If we are to extend the vision of our citizens, we must endeavour to provide leadership and to form public opinion from within this chamber. It is for this reason that I congratulate the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) upon his intention to make debates on foreign affairs a regular feature of our proceedings.

One finds it difficult to choose out of the mass of information available to us which subjects to debate. The world stage is changing so rapidly that it may be said that every- day witnesses a new scene, and the world wonders what the final act of the play is to be. I shall commence my remarks by addressing a few words to those people particularly who would adopt a pacifist 'attitude in relation to the present activity in the manufacture of armaments in Australia and overseas. I would say to them that the Australian people, and British peoples generally, cannot judge foreign peoples according to their own standard ; there are such wide differences of view, of environment, and of civilization among the countries of Europe that we cannot regard as their standards those that we enjoy. This is borne out by the very fact that great and populous countries in Europe have been content to place themselves under what I might almost describe as the iron heel of one man. It has been stated this afternoon that the internal economic conditions of those countries are in the nature of a challenge to the economic conditions of Australia. I should say in reply that in some of the totalitarian countries unemployment has supposedly ceased to exist, only because of definitely low wages and conditions which would not be tolerated by the people of this country. According to the utterances of most of the leaders of the different countries of the world, rearmament is taking place in the interests of world peace. We have also the knowledge that whilst it is true that we are rearmingand I believe that we must - in the cause of peace, it is also true, paradoxical though it be, that a world in arms is definitely a factor contributing towards war. Thus the situation which faces us, from 'both points of view, is uncertain. We have to ask ourselves why such a situation has arisen. I believe it is chiefly because power politics, as we have come to know them, have 'been successful ever since the termination of the last great war. So successful have they been that when Germany and Italy came under the control of dictators, those dictators instantly adopted this policy as the one most likely to prove profitable for themselves.

Mr Beasley - All sides play that game.

Mr HUTCHINSON - Possibly the honorable gentleman is right. Power polities may be new to a large number of people to-day, but' they are old in the pages of history. The democracies cannot be absolved from blame, in that they have allowed the present situation to arise; from the incidents of Vilna and Corfu to the bigger one of Manchukuo they have stood quietly by and allowed the policy of force to succeed. Undoubtedly our attitude was that, as these incidents occurred far from our borders, we were in no immediate danger ; our self-interest did not dictate the making of any stand, and we have allowed the whole business to proceed.

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