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Friday, 6 March 1942

Mr ANTHONY (RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES) -The honorable member's remark is in line with his interjection when the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) was speaking this morning. When an honorable member on this side of the House draws attention to something of which every body is speaking outside the House, he is immediately charged with spreading gossip. The fact is that, when we speak of these things, we are properly ventilating in this Parliament something which is already the subject of public discussion outside. I hope that the Government will not treat rhis matter lightly, because it can have very serious repercussions. We know that the fall of France was due largely to the divisions and disunity created in that country by the enemy, and to the mistrust of their allies which was so carefully fostered in the minds of Frenchmen. We can recall the propaganda of the Germans in1 940 that the English were prepared to fight to the last Frenchman, and so on. The Government should combat the suspicion which appears to be growing in the minds of some of our own people, that we ought to cut the painter, that England has let us down, that we have not had a fair deal, that we sent our boys away to fight in the deserts and in foreign lands when they ought to be here in Australia, that the Air Force was not what it ought to have been, and so on. That sort, of talk is widespread, and it has not been generated of itself. It has come from some source. It could not have sprung suddenly into being all over Australia without having some source of inspiration. I am not charging the Government with being responsible for it; that is the last thing I want to do.

Dr Evatt - Then why talk about it?

Mr ANTHONY - Because it is better to have these things spoken of openly in the House than to have them whispered from mouth to mouth. It is the duty of this Government, a Government which functions under the British flag, to counter talk of this kind in the interests of Australia and of the Allies. The enemy is seeking to divide us. He has been successful in his efforts in this direction in other countries ; let him not succeed here. Upon the Government rests the responsibility to do what is necessary to stop the spread of this feeling.

Mr Sheehan - The Government is not responsible for every rumour.

Mr ANTHONY - The Government is responsible for public morale, especially at a time when the enemy is at the gates. At this time, more than any other, we should keep our morale high. I charge the Government with having broadcast statements which have had the effect of infusing fear into the minds of the people, and of giving the enemy a wrong impression of the psychological state of the people at this time. I could easily give particulars of ministerial statements which were calculated to fill the people with fear, to lower their morale, and to inspire the enemy more than ourselves. What we need now is inspiration. We need courage, and the will to fight. We need to foster in the people a determination to resist the enemy. I believe that that will has been largely sapped by statements issued by responsible Ministers, both Commonwealth and State. In my electorate, police officers have made arrangements to slaughter cattle, evacuate stock and bum homesteads so that nothing of value will fall into the hands of an invader. Such preparations strike fear in the hearts of many people who, in the event of an attack, would become refugees and throng the roads. What could the visit of peace officers organized for this purpose create other than feelings of the utmost disquiet, thereby sapping the will to resist? The Government has not inspired people to resist.

Mr Duncan-Hughes - We lack the Churchill spirit.

Mr ANTHONY - Yes. Australians could resist the invader. If all our resources be mobilized, we are strong enough physically to do so. We also possess spiritual strength, which is even more important in putting up a stout, successful fight. But we must have the will to resist as well as the physical means to do so. Unless the Government gives the necessary inspiration to people, we are already half beaten. The Government can do much to strengthen our defences instead of calling upon Great Britain, Russia or the United States of America to come to our aid, though they will do so when they can. At present, their means and the transport facilities available to them are limited. In any case, when a call for aid is sent, it should not be broadcast to every part of the world. It should be made through the ordinary channels of government. The negotiations should take place between government and government, and Tokyo and Berlin should not be informed of our plight. Our first job before we ask other people to help us is to ensure that Australia has reached the -maximum state of efficiency by organizing the whole of our resources. Much remains to be done in that respect. Three months have elapsed since Japan entered the war, thereby exposing Australia to grave peril, but though I have brought to the notice of the Government various important matters, I have seen very little headway. Undoubtedly some foundation work has been performed, but the simple things which could be done have been neglected. By " simple things ", I mean the training of men in areas which may be the first to suffer attack. All men who live within 50 miles of the coast, from Cape York to Victoria, should be given some semblance of military training, even if it were only a few hours a day.

Mr Conelan - Is not that being done ?

Mr ANTHONY - Only a handful of men have been trained. The Government is responsible for making our defences as effective and efficient as our resources permit. Undoubtedly, we have every right to appeal to Great Britain and the United States of America for assistance. That right has been consolidated for us because we willingly sent our troops to operational theatres abroad, such as Libya, Syria, Malaya and Singapore. Our men were hardened in distant countries to make war agains the enemy. We have demonstrated that we are worthy of being given assistance and we have established a credit which should entitle us to all possible aid. In asking the United States of America and Great Britain for help, we request nothing more than our deeds entitle us to expect. I" fully agree with that attitude, but I also believe that we should, to the utmost of our capacity, organize the 7,000,000 persons in Australia. They are few enough to face the armed legions of Japan, which has an infinitely greater population.

Mr Mulcahy - The honorable member should not overlook the fact that 2,000,000 members of our population are babies.

Mr ANTHONY - We are opposed by a country with a population of 70,000,000, including babies. At first glance, it seems that 7,000,000 persons must resist 70,000,000, but that would be a very pessimistic way of viewing the situation. We are not facing 70,000,000 Japanese. Hundreds of thousands of Japanese troops are stationed in Manchuria in order to hold the line against Russia. Hundreds of thousands of Japanese are fighting in China. Others are stationed in Indo-China, Thailand and Malaya. Consequently, Australia will face only the residue which has not been absorbed in other theatres of war. For that reason, we have every reason to hope that if we organize ourselves properly we can make an effective resistance. But during the three months that have elapsed since Japan entered the war, we have not succeeded in adequately organizing our man-power. A good deal of talk has been heard about the determination of the Government to carry on a vigorous war policy, but, beyond that, our efforts have not gone very far. To the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt) I suggest that there is a means of utilizing more of our manpower. Along the coast-line particularly, and perhaps in the inland districts, business places could remain open from S a.m. until noon. At present they remain open until 5 p.m. and 6 p.m., and I ti ring a considerable part of the day trade is slack. The business people could be compelled to concentrate their activities within prescribed hours, and the remainder of the day could be devoted to the physical and military training of the men, who would thus be released. That suggestion is practicable. If the enemy strikes at Australia, we should have these men not as a rabble but with some knowledge of military discipline and of soldiering in order to enable them effectively to handle their weapons in the defence of the Commonwealth.

Mr Calwell - With what weapons would they train?

Mr ANTHONY - If they trained with broomsticks, as the Germans did years ago, they would acquire a knowledge of military discipline and formation, and would be making themselves physically fit for battle. If an enemy should land in Australia, men who can endure great hardship for more than a few hours will be required to delay his progress until effective military assistance arrives Naturally, I do not suggest that these men should be our first line of defence; but o»r coast-line is so long that in the event of a surprise attack, the men on the spot will have to bear the brunt of the first assault. Instead of being compelled to throw up their hands and surrender, they could be equipped in order to resist. So that the best use may be made of our man-power, every man capable of bearing arms should be given status to enable him to claim that he constitutes a part of the Military Forces of the Commonwealth. If he were captured, he would not then be treated as a guerilla, liable to be executed out of hand. At various conferences which I have attended, great confusion of ininti has existed among many of the delegates as to the part that the civilian population should play in an invasion. They asked whether civilians should resist thu enemy or wait until the Army arrived. Suggestions were made that if the civil population resisted, the Japanese would exact heavy reprisals. Consequently, status is a very important matter for the Government to consider.

Another matter I desire to mention is the internment of enemy aliens in this country. Statements by Ministers have appeared in the press. I think that the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) will know that I have made representations, not only to him, but also to other Ministers from time to time, and that so far nothing has been done.

Dr Evatt - What has the honorable gentleman in mind?

Mr ANTHONY - The internment of enemy aliens and the call-up of aliens for national service.

Dr Evatt - Internment is a matter for the Department of the Army. Aliens are being called up for service.

Mr ANTHONY - I have that impression, but I simply raised the matter so that the policy of the Government might be restated by the AttorneyGeneral. I am repeatedly receiving petitions from all over the country - from branches of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen's Imperial League of Australia and all sorts of citizen organizations - asking that some action be taken.

Dr Evatt - I understand that in Queeusland internment has taken place on a large scale.

Mr ANTHONY - I raised the matter so that publicity might be given to the statement of the Minister and so that the minds of many people might be reassured.

I do not intend to labour other matters I have in mind. It is extremely difficult to say in open session everything that one would desire to say. If one refers even obliquely to matters which one has at heart, there is considerable danger of giving away information. I should much prefer a secret sitting in order to discuss some of the things which I want to discuss. The principal point I make is that, if we are to win the war, as I am confident we can and shall, it will not be by the efforts of any particular nation alone; it will not be by the efforts of Russia, Great Britain, the United States of America or Australia alone; it will be by the combined efforts of all. We, therefore, have to work in such a way that we shall first retain the goodwill of other nations and, at the same time, maintain, within the British Empire itself, the cohesion which has existed right through the years. I believe that the British Empire is still the mightiest force for good in this world and the mightiest force for maintaining the principles of liberty and democracy. Anything done to weaken the bonds that bind us to Britain and other units of the Empire is a disservice to the cause that we all have most at heart, and, therefore, I urge the Government in its various proclamations to be particularly careful about what it says. I am not alleging that the Government is deliberately trying to weaken those bonds - that is the farthest thing from my mind - but some of its actions have tended to create in many minds the impression that it is. I realize that the Government members are as loyal and patriotic, and have as much at stake as have honorable members of the Opposition. If we lose the war we shall lose it completely. It will not be lost by the United Australia party or by Labour or by even Australia alone. It will be lost by the democratic peoples as a whole. We, therefore, all have the same vital interests at stake. I sincerely hope that we shall face the future as a united people. Those who can best unite the people are their leaders at the moment of crisis. A duty, therefore, devolves upon the Government to see that we remain united.

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