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Wednesday, 25 March 1942


Mr DUNCAN-HUGHES (WAKEFIELD, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - HUGHES. - The honorable member for Barker is not a bad man to have beside one. He holds definite views, and expresses them, and he is more often right than are a great many others who express their views. On the general question I am entirely with him, and I also approve of what was said by the honorable members for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) and for Boothby (Dr. Price) on a previous occasion on the subject of Australian-British relat ions. It is deplorable, at a time like this, that the Government of this country should adopt pin-pricking tactics in its relationswith the mother land of us all - the land which, whatever we may owe to the United States of America in the future, is the one which has enabled us to became what we are.


Mr Pollard - The honorable member willagree that we should be realistic.


Mr DUNCAN-HUGHES - We are. If the honorable member had been realistic with regard to the war years ago, as some of us were, we would be in a better position to-day. Remembering all the consideration that we have received from the Old Country for 150 years, people might reasonably be expected at this time, even if they thought that there was some cause for grumbling about details, topreservee silence. I cannot acquit the Prime Minister of having, by the speech that he delivered at the end of last year, started the ball rolling, and it has rolled merrily ever since, to the detriment of the whole country.

I do not propose to discuss to-day, although I might do so on some future occasion, the matter of the conflict between the Prime Minister of Great Britain and the Prime Minister of Australia, but I believe that the opinions expressed by Sir Keith Murdoch in the Melbourne Herald last Monday evening were very much to the point. I agree with those views. In this war, as in all wars, we should try to play our maximum part. Quite obviously, a man who holds a great post - an Empire post - will have an opportunity to play a greater part than he would if he held a great post in a dominion. That, I have not the slightest doubt, is one of the reasons that prompted Mr. Casey to reach his decision. Probably there are other reasons. One of them may be described as a feeling of insecurity of tenure, which is a source of anxiety to many people in many walks of life.


Mr Brennan - The danger is " the order of the boot ".


Mr DUNCAN-HUGHES - The honorable member refers to the " order ofthe boot ". That is the matter with which I propose to deal. Mr. Casey had a distinguished military career, but in 1924 the Labour party, including the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) voted against the Public Service Bill as a protest against the despatch of Mr. Casey to London as liaison officer. In spite of that opposition, Mr. Casey went, and he proved to be a first-class liaison officer. He was the first thorough-going diplomatist that this country has produced. It is quite fair to say, without disparaging others, that he is the greatest diplomatist that Australia has yet produced.


Mr Brennan - Nonsense ! His duties were not concerned with diplomacy.


Mr DUNCAN-HUGHES - Perhaps I may be permitted to give some of my reasons for thinking differently from the honorable member. I happened to be in London in 1924-5 and again in 1929-30. Through Mr. Casey, I met many people, some of whom had held senior positions in the Foreign Office, and 1 had an opportunity of discovering their opinion of him. As long ago as that, they had a great respect for his talents. When he resigned, he returned to Australia. I should remind honorable members that whereas Mr. Casey could have spent the rest of his life in London if he had so wished, he desired to serve his country in Australia and in the political sphere. I do not like the phrase " meteoric rise ", but every one must admit that he had at least an extremely rapid rise to the front rank, and that he was recognized in Parliament as being a man of great courtesy and ability. Later, he went to Washington, where, it is generally agreed, he proved to be a great success. However, such a measure of success is useless if one's .appointment is liable at any moment to be terminated. A diplomatist is not supposed to have an opinion different from that of the Government which he represents, but no doubt Mr. Casey had examined without much pleasure the personal views of the Government upon certain subjects, and, perhaps, the attitude of ihe Australian Prime Minister to Great Britain. As he looked back, he could see that other former members of Parliament, who had disagreed with the political views of the Government, were being retired from their posts.


Mr Rosevear - Who were they?


Mr DUNCAN-HUGHES - I have only to refer to the Army. General Drake-Brockman, General Rankin and Brigadier Harrison, all of whom had distinguished military records but had sat on a different side of the political fence from the Government, were retired from their positions.


Mr Calwell - Does the honorable member suggest that those retirements were actuated by political bias?


Mr DUNCAN-HUGHES - I say that when an action becomes a habit it would bc only natural for the man who was in a similar category to think that his turn might come next. Only a week ago, the former anti-Labour Premier of New South Wales, Sir Bertram Stevens, was notified of his recall from New Delhi, where he represented Australia on the Eastern Group Supply Council.


Mr Curtin - The honorable member has not the remotest idea of the facts. Sir Bertram Stevens informed the Government that it was impossible for him to carry on his work on the previous scale, and he asked to be recalled.


Mr DUNCAN-HUGHES - Have those facts appeared in the press?


Mr Curtin - The honorable member should find out the facts before he makes accusations.


Mr DUNCAN-HUGHES - One can ascertain the facts only from the press. The House meets so infrequently that honorable members have not an opportunity to learn the reason for various developments.


Mr Curtin - Why not inquire before making such an assertion?


Mr DUNCAN-HUGHES - I say that Sir Bertram Stevens is being retired whether or not at his own request.


Mr Curtin - The honorable member said that retirement of Sir Bertram Stevens was a lesson and example to some one else.


Mr DUNCAN-HUGHES - Apart from the instance of Sir Bertram Stevens, I have quoted other examples of the retirement of men who were the political opponents of the Government.


Mr Curtin - The retirements of the high army officers were made solely and exclusively on the recommendation of the Military Board.


Mr DUNCAN-HUGHES - In any case-


Mr Curtin - That is the only case.


Mr DUNCAN-HUGHES - Mr. Casey may even have read in Hansard that the honorable member for Batman said in December, 1940, that " Mr. Casey is now occupying a safe nook in a friendly neutral country". No soldier would ever make such a suggestion as that about Mr. Casey. Now, he will go from a country which is even more friendly but which is not neutral and is no longer a safe nook. His feelings of doubt about the future might not have been set at rest by the fact that the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt) was looming very near. I should like in passing to remark that I see no necessity for sending another Minister to Washington.


Mr Conelan - That opinion differs from the view of the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender).


Mr DUNCAN-HUGHES - That does not matter; it is my view. No doubt it was desirable to send some one from Australia to Washington; but, in my opinion, not a politician but a firstclass business man with full power to act was required.

What alternative courses were open to Mr. Casey? He could have waited in Washington until he was recalled.


Mr Curtin - Where did that suggestion emanate?


Mr DUNCAN-HUGHES - It was one course open to Mr. Casey.


Mr Curtin - Who put it forward?


Mr DUNCAN-HUGHES - I put it forward.


Mr Curtin - The honorable member is trying to manufacture.


Mr DUNCAN-HUGHES - The other course open to Mr. Casey was to accept an extremely high Empire position which had been offered to him and which would give him greater opportunities than any Australian possesses at present to serve the British Commonwealth.


Mr Sheehan - Why is the honorable member stonewalling?


Mr DUNCAN-HUGHES - I am not stonewalling. I rejoice in Mr. Casey's promotion, and so should every one else in the country who is not a "little Australian ".


Mr Rosevear - He was appointed because he occupied a particular post.


Mr DUNCAN-HUGHES - The British Prime Minister has appointed Mr. Casey to a position of the first importance, one of the leading positions in the Empire. He was appointed not because he held any particular post, but because of his personal merits. The Government, having lost them, is now beginning to realize the greatness of the merits which have attracted the attention of the Prime Minis ter of Great Britain. Had a. New Zealander been appointed to the post, I venture to say that every other New Zealander would have rejoiced that their countryman had been singled out for' such a signal honour. Many Australians have a similar feeling regarding the appointment of Mr. Casey. It is deplorable to suggest that he deserted his post, and that he is no longer a true Australian. From the narrower standpoint, Australia will have an extremely capable emissary at the centre of the European panorama: he will undoubtedly be of great assistance to this country. But. from the wider angle, it is refreshing that the Empire and its allies will have the advantage of his extraordinary combination of rare gifts - public service, bound less energy and wide experience of men and affairs.

M.r. Pollard. - Is this a funeral oration?


Mr DUNCAN-HUGHES - No. I am trying to dispel the impression that may have been created by the honorable member for Batman, who reminded me of the rhyme about Mr. Birrell : " He does his best to turn great faith to a little jest". Mr. Casey has a most extraordinary combination of talents. With those talents, he remains still a thoroughly loyal Australian. It would have been a great honour for Australia if any Australian bad been selected for such a high post, and we should be grateful to think that the one who has been chosen possesses so many fine qualities.







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