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Wednesday, 26 November 1941


Dr EVATT (Barton) (Minister for External Affairs) . - by leave - It is by no means easy to present a picture of the international situation which will be fair, accurate and valuable. There are almost daily changes of some kind on the diplomatic as well as the military front. Even while I speak fierce fighting in Russia and in Libya may turn the balance of decisive battles. In time of war strategy and diplomacy necessarily go hand in hand. In both fields we have sustained setbacks and reverses. But the great thing is to destroy the spirit of complacency and over-confidence, to learn from our setbacks, to be resolute until we achieve our final objective. lt would be interesting to indulge in speculative debate on the war in general and on our relations with this country and with that - interesting, but unsafe. I do not intend to suggest any inferences where the knowledge that is necessary is incomplete. All I attempt to do is to refer to significant features of the international position, especially those in which Australia has a direct concern.

At the outset I take the opportunity to state that the recent change of government in this country does not imply any vital change in Australia's foreign policy. Indeed, through the instrumentality of the Advisory War Council, continuity of external policy is assured to a substantial degree. All political parties in this country, every member of this Parliament, all of our citizens, are determined to resist Germany's mad ambition, which is nothing less than that of governing the entire world by either force or the threat of force. Those who have read Hitler's Mem Kampf will be strikingly aware of the fact that its author has finally abandoned the deceptive modesty of his claim for a revision of the Treaty of Versailles and for a reasonable amount of living space for all those of German blood. His present ambitions parallel the desperate attempt of Napoleon to bestride both Em-ope and Africa. His plan, as Mr. Sumner Welles has said., is one " for universal conquest, for the cruel and brutal enslavement of all peoples, and for the ultimate destruction of the remaining free democracies".

That this is Germany's objective has become clearer as the theatres of war have extended. We are far better able to form a just judgment to-day than we were a year ago. Even then Hitler seemed to have subjugated a large part of Europe. British strategy was almost entirely on the defensive. The first air battle for Britain had gone well, but almost everywhere else the strategic initiative seemed to lie with the enemy. On the political and diplomatic side also there was much uncertainty, much ambiguity. Few then appreciated the extent of the resolve of the people of the United States of America to defend the western hemisphere against Nazi aggression, either direct or indirect. The countries of the Middle East were doubtful in their sympathies. The Pacific situation had not crystallized. Above all, the intentions of Russia were shrouded in the mystery of propaganda and counterpropaganda.

We are far more certain to-day of the intentions of the countries which doubted and which hesitated. I think we have come to see our own dangers far more clearly; we know far better where our enemies are; we are more certain of our friends. As a result, we are able to handle our external relations with a greater degree of assurance and responsibility than was possible twelve months ago.

What are Australia's responsibilities? They are measured by its powers. Of recent years there has been a far greater understanding and appreciation of the status which the self-governing British dominions have attained, not only in their internal affairs but also in all their external relations. Most other countries have recognized that status to the full. Perhaps its most striking public recognition has been the exercise of the right of legation, which is a mark of sovereignty in international law. Within the- past two years this country has been, accorded full diplomatic representation in the United States of America, in Japan and in China, with reciprocal representation here by distinguished Ministers from all three countries. In this way the Commonwealth has attained the means of intervening directly in all matters affecting our contacts with the powers concerned. This right of direct intervention is now exercised by us not occasionally, but from day to day and every day. When the history of this war comes to be written, it will show that recent interventions by this Commonwealth in international matters have played an important part in decisive phases of the struggle.

Whatever it may be in point of legal form., the British Commonwealth is in fact an association of free nations possessing equal status in every aspect of their internal and external affairs. So much has been declared by authoritative imperial conferences. But the recognition of status is one thing. The practical problem, of effective co-operation is another. Even in peace-time, when .common action is required, difficulties arise because of the constitutional status of tb

Without doubt, the outstanding feature of the war in 1941 was Germany's sudden attack on Soviet Russia in June last. This act of aggression merely added Russia to the long list of European victims. But serious miscalculations as to Russia's power of resistance were made, not only by Germany, but also by so-called experts throughout the world who forecast that the Panzer divisions would occupy Moscow within two, or perhaps three, weeks. Mr. 'Churchill did not share the opinions of the apostles of gloom. He immediately offered military and economic assistance to Russia. Shortly after, Britain made an agreement with Russia by which the two countries became allies for the purpose of prosecuting the war against Germany. It was a further condition of the alliance that neither side should make peace without the consent of the other.

Mr. Churchill'srefusal to accept Germany's opinion as to Russia's power of resistance has been borne out by subsequent events. Russia has been pushed farther and farther back, but the resistance of the Russian armies and the Russian people will prove to be one of the epics of modern history. One of the chief features of the defence of the country has been the adoption of what is called the " scorched earth policy ". In principle, such a. policy is self-explanatory. Its application, however, depends upon whether a. nation is prepared to prefer its liberty to its property, and to sacrifice for liberty all the material possessions within its territories. One of the most striking features of the battle of France was the decision of the vacillating French Government to declare Paris an open city. This meant, in effect, that a great bastion of freedom, a great centre of industrial production was to be surrendered to the enemy without a blow. The people of England refused to follow this example. Similarly, the Russian policy has been the exact reverse of that of France. Its policy is based upon the postulate that nothing whatever matters if an alien dictator is to be at liberty to impose slavery and serfdom. As was well stated by Dr. W. G. Goddard at Brisbane on Armistice Day -

Wi! seu in this "scorched earth" policy the sign of the determined will and spirit of the Russians. Cities can be rebuilt, gardens can bc remade. But this spirit rises triumphant over all, and like a hero facing material ruin, defies the threat of the invader. This defiance is a voice that will ring down the ages, and brave mcn will hear its echo in the time to conic, and hearing it will take fresh courage. . . . It is not any " ism " that inspires this courage, but an essential human will to be free. . . Tt is humanity aflame and alive.

I make no attempt to forecast the capacity of the Russians to maintain their resistance in the future as they have maintained it during the past five months and more. Stalin has declared his belief that Russia will resist at any rate right throughout the winter until the months of spring. Let us hope that he is right. A duty devolves upon our country and upon us all to do all we can to assist our ally. "With our own heavy commitments there are many difficulties in the way, but we are doing our best to overcome them. We are providing certain medical equipment, and permission has been given to raise funds for Russian relief. Our predecessors contemplated an exchange of consuls with Russia, and the present Government has had under consideration the advisability of despatching a small delegation to Russia. Inquiries were made as to the feasibility of the proposal, but advice has recently been received from the British Ambassador in Moscow which recommends that, owing to the intense concentration of Russia in its fight to the death against Hitler, the despatch of a mission from this country might better be deferred for the time being. However, I place this on record as evidence of the great importance which we attach to our alliance with Russia in the present struggle.

Russia is also at war with Finland, Hungary and Rumania. It is now established that, on the northern front, Finnish troops have gone far beyond the frontiers as they existed between Finland and Russia prior to 1939. In short, Finland is helping the Germans in operations, the object of which is a complete severance of the supply line which runs into Russia through Murmansk. The strongest representations were made to Finland both from the United Kingdom and the United States of America, urging that country to make a separate peace -with Russia upon the basis of the frontiers of 1939. These representations have been treated with something like contempt, and indicate that the large concentration of German forces in Finland before Germany invaded Russia in June last was part of a joint plan of attack. The subservience of Hungary and Roumania to Germany in the war against Russia has been even more complete. Hungary and Roumania are not only fighting against Russia, but for months before the present war, allowed a free passage through their territories to German troops, giving the bland explanation that they were partners in Germany's " new order " in Europe. It is a strange feature of the present struggle that, while we are allies of Russia in the fight against Germany, we are still at peace with these three eager satellites and accomplices of Germany.

Illustrations from other quarters support the opinion that, under certain conditions, strong and decisive action is the only common-sense method of preventing deterioration of diplomatic and political relations. First I take Iraq. Over a year ago the Prime Minister of that country, while continuing to pay lip-service to the British connexion, embarked on a policy fundamentally opposed to British interests. He continued to intrigue with the Axis. He refused to break off diplomatic relations with Italy, and was about to resume diplomatic relations with Germany. German gold was freely spent by German agents and, finally, Rashid Ali seized power .by a coup d'etat, while still impudently professing loyalty to the alliance embodied in the Anglo-Iraqi Treaty. The usurper finally ordered his troops to attack the British forces. Fortunately, the strongest action was taken, the deposed Regent was reinstated, and the new Prime Minister and his Government are faithfully carrying out the treaty with Britain, having severed all diplomatic relations with governments whose loyalty to Great Britain he suspects.

Syria is another illustration of the success of a firm policy. The local French authorities increasingly complied with Germany's wishes. There was marked evidence of German infiltration into the country. Its aerodromes were used by Germans to assist Rashid Al i', revolt in Iraq. Attempts to convey Great Britain's protests to Marshal Petain through diplomatic channels had no result. Finally, it was evident that the French in Syria were ready to acquiesce in the use of Syrian territory by the Germans for the purpose of their Middle East campaign. In this impossible situation, the only satisfactory course for the protection of our own fighting forces was to occupy Syrian territory. Despite courageous .resistance, the campaign succeeded in a little over a month. As the result, the military situation in the southeast of the Mediterranean littoral immediately improved. Satisfactory guarantees have been given by Great Britain as to the future independence of Syria and Lebanon, together with a declaration that we have no wish to detract from France's predominant position as against other European countries.

The third example of drastic, but timely, preventive action has occurred in relation to Persia. A large number of Germans had entered this country in the guise of technicians. Without a doubt, their real purpose w.as fifth column action. In July, the Governments of the United Kingdom and Russia jointly requested a drastic reduction of the number of these so-called " technicians ". Diplomatic pressure did not succeed. The United Kingdom and Russia immediately concentrated forces on. the Persian frontiers and entered the country in AugustIn September, the Anglo-Soviet terms were accepted. Subsequently there was a deliberate breach of the terms. Teheran was at once occupied, the Shah abdicated, and the Crown Prince succeeded him. All that was done was in substantial accordance with the firm treaty obligations of Persia to Russia. It is expected that an Anglo-Soviet-Persian treaty of full alliance will shortly be signed. Had it not been for this bold but necessary action the situation in Persia would have become out of hand. As it is, we are now at liberty to organize measures to counteract the serious dangers likely to result from German penetration of the Caucasus. The consolidation of the position in Persia will be of incalculable value if Germany violates the neutrality of Turkey. Further, the clearing up of the Persian position has opened the way to the passage of essential supplies into Russia itself.

The great political line of the Middle East includes not only Persia, Syria and Iraq, but also Turkey and Egypt. Axis pressure upon Turkey has become stronger since the beginning of the year. German military successes provided the requisite backing for subsequent diplomatic pressure in the Turkish capital. However, it is clear that Turkey did not expect that Russia could resist Germany for any length of time, and the spirit of that resistance should have .some effect in encouraging Turkey's determination to defend its territories against any German invasion.

Something should now be said about the position of France. Nearly eighteen months have elapsed since Germany dictated the conditions of the 'German and French armistices. On the evening of the signing of the armistice, Mr. Churchill said that His Majesty's Government had heard "with grief and amazement " that the terms dictated by the Germans had been accepted by the French Government, then at Bordeaux. "They cannot feel",, he added, "that such or similar terms could have been submitted to by any French Government which possessed freedom, independence and constitutional authority." None the less, the very obscure and difficult international position created by the Bordeaux Government, which subsequently became the Vichy Government, has been faced by the British people with forbearance and patience. Similarly the policy of the United States of America towards France has been based on its special and traditional sympathy with the French people. Indeed, .the United States of America has done everything possible to demonstrate its practical friendship with the French people. Food and medical supplies have been sent to unoccupied France, and to the North African colonies which were administered by General Weygand, who refused to become a willing tool of the Axis. Point by point, however, the French Government has yielded, or been compelled to yield, to the insatiable demands of Germany. French industries and commerce have been regimented into the German economy, and many Vichy administrators have connived at the importation into France, from the French colonial territories, of commodities known to be destined for Germany, thereby helping Germany to evade the British blockade. In May last President Roosevelt pointed out that Marshal Petain had assured the United States of America that it was not intended by Vichy to agree to any collaboration with Germany extending beyond the requirements of the armistice agreement. This was, said the President, " the least that could be expected of a France which demanded respect for its integrity".

The attitude of the United States of America towards France has been governed not only by its deep sympathy with the sufferings of the French people, hut also by the primary American policy of protecting the western hemisphere against any Axis aggression, whether direct or indirect. As late as the 27th May last, the French Ambassador assured the Under Secretary for State in Washington that the French fleet would never be surrendered, and that France would not allow Germany or Italy to occupy any French base in North Africa or on the Atlantic seaboard.

It now seems possible that some of these solemn undertakings will be broken. The post of Delegate-General, occupied in North Africa by General Weygand, has been abolished by Marshal Petain. It seems certain that this action is the result of the threat that German forces will march into the French possessions of North Africa. Weygand seems to have done his best to keep to the letter and spirit of the undertakings of the Vichy Government, but the pressure on that government has been powerful and unscrupulous. It is pitiful to reflect upon the pass to which the great people of France has been temporarily reduced. In truth, history has no parallel to this sort of defection on the part of a great and long-standing ally which has been defeated by the common enemy. The increased burden thus imposed upon Britain has been incalculable. I need nol stress the significance of the present Libyan offensive in relation to the French and Spanish possessions in North A'frica.

I now turn to recent events in the Pacific. A year ago Japan entered into formal association with the Axis powers, proclaiming ite national policy as the establishment of a "co-prosperity sphere " in greater East Asia.. Early in the present year it signed a. non-aggression pact with Russia. In July it made a fateful military incursion into French Indo-'Ohina. Both the United States of America and the British nations regarded this incursion as an unequivocal act of aggression which directly menaced their vital interests. They at once took counter measures against Japan in the form of stringent economic and financial restrictions. Next came the intervention of President Roosevelt after his return from his Atlantic talks with Mr. Churchill. It was then proposed that both IndoChina and Thailand should be neutralized under the joint guarantee of the Pacific powers, provided that Japan withdrew forces from Indo-China. What was called a. " moratorium " period then commenced, and preliminary conversations between Japan and the United States of America took place. They have been continued at Washington, and are now known as the Hull-Kurusu talks. It should be emphasized that the talks are confined to the United States of America and Japan, although, of course, they are of very great concern to the British, Australian. Netherlands and Chinese Governments. We are content to allow the leadership and initiative in this matter to be retained by the United States of America, which is very directly affected by any armed aggression in the south-east corner of the Asiatic continent. At the same time, I must express the hope that the talks will result in an agreement. If so, a new chapter might commence in the history of the relations between tinleading Pacific powers. It is to be remembered that the occasion of the imposition of the economic restrictions upon Japan was that nation's military advance into French Indo-China at a time when the Government of France was under the direct domination of the Axis. I do not see why it should be impossible for Japan to retrace its steps and make possible the easing of the present economic restrictions, while Japan restores the status quo by withdrawing its fighting forces and equipment from French Indo-China. But all this would be of no avail if aggression in one particular quarter were to be abandoned only to be succeeded by aggression elsewhere. Obviously, Great Britain could not look on with equanimity if Japanese forces attacked Russia in the north-west Pacific, or if the pressure against China were to be redoubled in intensity. But an honorable arrangement with Japan might be of value to all

Pacific countries as an augury of a long period of peace.

This Government's objective is to preserve the peace of the Pacific, if that can be done without sacrifice of principle, without prejudice to national security, and without endangering the solidarity of the democratic powers. Within the limits of this broad objective, there are many difficult problems as to the manner and form of approach. In all of these respects the Commonwealth is ready and willing to co-operate to the limit of its powers. lt is essential to bear in mind that our attitude takes account, not only of our own interests, but also of those of other Pacific countries, such as the Netherlands East Indies, Thailand, and the far eastern provinces of Russia. There is solid basis for the dictum that the peace of the Pacific must be indivisible. In all these matters we arc in daily contact with our diplomatic representatives in Washington and Tokyo, and we have had the assistance of Sir Earle Page, and especially that of Mr. Bruce, the High Commissioner in Great Britain, who has given us valuable advice. In these very difficult times, I consider it to be my duty to pay tribute to the frank and friendly attitude of the Japanese Minister in this country.

I desire now to make several shorter references. First. there is Portuguese Timor. The Commonwealth Government has a very direct concern in the preservation of the complete political independence of Portuguese Timor. Indeed, Portuguese Timor may fairly be regarded as one of the main points of entrance to the Commonwealth. The capital town, Dilli, has been made a regular stopping place on the Empire Airways route from Darwin to Singapore. At Dilli we have now an official representative of the Commonwealth Government. It if. proposed to confer full consular rank upon him, just as Japan has been represented at the same town for the last few weeks by a career consul. It, is obvious that Australia cannot regard with equanimity any development which threatens the integrity of this portion of the Portuguese empire. I am certain that Portugal, as Britain's " ancient ally", shares this view.

In recent months our relationship with the Netherlands East Indies has become closer because of the obvious need for consultation and collaboration in the problems of mutual defence. The Netherlands East Indies Administration immediately came into line with Great Britain and the United States of America in imposing economic restrictions upon Japan, and the Netherlands Minister in Washington is being kept informed of the progress of the American talks with Japan. We have had visits from several important delegations from Batavia, and the value of these visits is appreciated by the Commonwealth. There has been unavoidable delay in completing the arrangements for an exchange of Ministers between the Netherlands Government and the Government of the Commonwealth, but an agreement has been readied in principle. This agreement will ensure adequate representation of Australia in the Netherlands East Indies, and the appointment of a Dutch Minister at Canberra.

Australia has a supreme and special interest in preventing forcible aggression in the Pacific. The Commonwealth Government has recently, had valuablediscussions with Mr. Duff Cooper, a member of the Churchill Ministry, who was specially appointed to Singapore. In consultation with members of the Advisory War Council, the War Cabinet discussed with Mr. Duff Cooper ways and means for improving the political organization of the defence effort which is centred at .Singapore. Experience shows that the Commonwealth has a great and increasing interest in that organization, and that it is entitled to join, on a footing of equality, with the United Kingdom in any body which is constituted to deal with political matters of Pacific concern. We were impressed with Mr. Duff Cooper's appreciation of the nature of the problems of Pacific defence. His recommendations will shortly be considered by His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom, and will subsequently he considered by the Commonwealth Government.

The increase of inter-dominion consul- tation on matters of war policy has brought the Commonwealth into closer contact with the Union of South Africa. Mr.Blackwell, a member of the South African Parliament, has recently visited us, and we hope that it will be possible, early next year, to send a small mission to represent the Commonwealth on a return visit to the Union.

Australia is, at the present time, without representation in South America, whereas the Dominion of Canada has recently established legations at Buenos Aires and Rio de Janeiro, and the Union of South Africa has a consul-general in Argentina. Australia has a number of important problems in common with Argentina, and we are about to consider the desirability of an exchange of consuls-general with that country.

In mid-Pacific, the Government of the Commonwealth, in collaboration with the Governments of the United Kingdom and New Zealand, have continued to assist the French colonies which have adhered to the Free French cause.

At this difficult time in our history, Australia is fortunate in having the friendship and co-operation of the President and the people of the United States of America. The policy of that country has been governed in the main by its determination to safeguard against all forms of aggression in the Western Hemisphere and its important Pacific territories.

But something more than the doctrine of self-defence emerges from President Roosevelt'sgreat speeches and declarations. Of course, he has realized from the first that German dictatorship, if supreme over Europe, must extend its thrall throughout the world and make it impossible for free democracies anywhere to live in peace and quietness. But he has gone further, and in the Atlantic charter he and Mr. Churchill have suggested, not obscurely, the necessity for all free countries of the world to cooperate in the post-war period. Already this positive ideal is being realized in one important sphere of internationalcooperation. Australia was represented at the recent conference of the International Labour Organization in New York, and a resolution sponsored by the American delegation was adopted. That resolution foreshadowed further conferences with the object of rebuilding international relationships on a basis of improved labour standards, liberal economic adjustments, and social security.

Thus, the objectives of the United States of America and Britain are similar. In both countries there is a sure and certain hope, first, that in the long run it will not be possible for Germany to impose permanent serfdom upon great nations and great peoples such as France, Holland, Belgium, Norway, Poland, Greece, Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia, and, secondly, and more positively, that international peace can be maintained only through international justice, and that the four great freedoms - freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom from fear, and freedom from want - are meaningless unless they be enjoyed, not in one or two or three countries, but, as President Roosevelt insists, " everywhere in the world ".

I lay on the table the following paper : -

International Affairs - Ministerial Statement. and move -

That the paper be printed.

Debate (on motion by Mr. Fadden) adjourned.







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