Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Friday, 1 May 1942


Mr ARCHIE CAMERON (Barker) . - The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Ward), who has so eloquently addressed the House, has said a few things which call for some reply. First of them as they come into my mind is the question of the Burma Road. The honorable gentleman's heart bled over what happened to the Chinese armies because the road was closed. Only by the sending of Australian troops to Burma could the road have been kept open. Since there has been some talk from the other side about an appeal to the country, I tell the Government that there can be no appeal at present unless the full truth about the present position of the Burma Road is told to the people. The same Minister, who talks so eloquently about the effect on the Chinese of the closing of the Burma Road, only this week has said that our " gallant Chinese allies" are not to be employed on any civil work in New South Wales. Where is the consistency or the humanity of this gentleman when he says to the people in control of Chinese refugees in this country that the Chinese are not fit to tread the soil or to touch the tools of trade required to construct certain works ?

A debate of this sort calls for a few comments. We find ourselves in a strange position in this House to-day. It is a sad position. We had the spectacle last night of honorable members opposite who spoke one way and voted another, and the spectacle of a divided Opposition.


Mr SPEAKER -Order ! The honorable member must not refer to the proceedings last night.


Mr ARCHIE CAMERON - We cannot get oil this question just by that. Wo have a divided Opposition. We have an Opposition which has proved conclusively in the last 24 hours, no matter what may be said to the contrary, that, as at present constituted, it cannot assume the responsibilities of office. That statement ought to go out to the people of Australia. The Minister for Labour and National Service has said that the Government can find out anything that goes on in our party room. The name " Quisling " is too kind for some of the people who were at, our meeting yesterday. " Judas " would be more appropriate. Throughout the war we have heard of leakages from the party rooms and from Cabinets where men have taken oaths to maintain secrecy. It is time that the Opposition took its courage in its hands and cleaned these people out.


Mr SPEAKER -Order! The honorable member may not proceed further on that subject.


Mr ARCHIE CAMERON - I can pursue it on the adjournment, because I have a lot to say on the subject. A country at war and threatened with invasion of its own home soil and actually invaded so far as some of its territories and colonies are concerned, finds itself in a delicate position when it has division, disunity and treachery inside the very headquarters of Parliament and the Government.

I shall now get down to one or two of the things which really matter in connexion with this debate. We were told last night that the Government required total and unrestricted powers in order to wage war," but to-day, like King Canute, endeavouring to stop the advance of the tide, the Government says, in effect, " We have gone thus far, but we shall go no farther. We do not want that total power. We want everything but that". No country with an ounce of self-respect in its makeup can call upon conscripted soldiers from other parts of the world to come to its assistance without first providing for the conscription of its own manhood. During the last few months many people in this country have blamed Great Britain, quite wrongly, because British forces have not been disposed to their liking. Apparently, these people are prepared to have British naval, army and air conscripts sent to the limits of the' earth, and beyond this planet, if possible. Already we have American conscripts in this country, and an endeavour has been made by the Attorney-General (Di. Evatt) to induce Canadians to come to the assistance of their friends in the south Pacific; but apparently those individuals who cry out for help from the conscripted soldiers of other countries are not prepared to apply similar conditions in their own country. That is a paltry and contemptible attitude. The whining, wingeing and squealing by some Australians - including leading members of the Government - over the air and through the press, is deplorable, and we, who have one of the proudest fighting records of any small nation, arc being held up to ridicule and contempt. The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Ward) referred to an incident which occurred at Port Kembla some time ago, when wharf labourers refused to load pig iron destined for Japan. I ask honorable members whether it is any worse to send pig iron to Japan than to send wool to clothe Japanese troops? But not one member of the present Government raised any objection to the sale of wool to Japan. The Minister also said that at the time when the dispute in regard, to the loading of pig iron took place, Japan was actually a member of the Axis, and for that reason the action taken by the Port Kembla wharf labourers was justified. I shall read to honorable members opposite a resolution which was carried by a Labour party conference 6n the 24th March, .1940, by 195 votes to 88-

The Labour party has always been opposed to imperialistic wars, and to-day we demand that every energy should be utilized to bring about the establishment of peace at the earliest opportunity. We declare that the Australian people have nothing to gain from the continuance of the war. The management of the war in the hands of the anti-Labour Menzies Government in association with the anti-Labour Chamberlain Government means that the war is being pursued in the interests of big finance and monopolists. Conference is opposed to Australian participation in overseas conflict. The Labour party unhesitatingly demands that' no Australian troops he permitted to leave Australia.

Apparently, the very party whose supporters caused a dispute, at Port Kembla over the loading of pig iron for Japan, which was then an Axis partner, was quite prepared to make peace with the Axis, the same Axis against which some Ministers at least now declare the Labour party's intention of waging an unending and everlasting war as long as it lias a man, ship or plane to send against, us. Total war can be followed only by total victory. There can be no mediation or pacification with enemies such as those with whom we are now confronted, and in order to carry this total war to a successful conclusion, our troops must go to enemy territory; we must organize our Navy, Army and Air Force to fight the enemy wherever he is to be found. It is useless for the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) to say that we have sufficient Australian Imperial Force troops in Australia to send overseas should the occasion arise. The Minister knows perfectly well - probably better than I do - just what is the strength of the Japanese forces which have made this onslaught into the South Pacific and Burma, and are threatening South Africa, Madagascar, and every bit of allied territory from Hawaii to the Cape of Good Hope. An examination of the map shows the two great offensive arcs which the Japanese have organized from Burma to the Marshall Islands, the Gilbert Islands and the Caroline Islands, and no man in his right senses can suggest that we have enough men in the Australian Imperial Force to meet the great demands which will be made upon us. It is true that American troops arc coming here, but for what purpose? They are coming here not to help the Australian nation as such, but because Australia is the most suitable base from which an offensive can be launched, and that offensive if it is to be at all successful, must bc carried right to the point where the Japanese offensive started.

I should like to say a word on the subject of national unity. In this chamber to-day we are united only on the things that do not matter; our task is to achieve unity on the things that really do matter. I have spoken before of the impossible position in which we are placed owing to that spirit of compromise which has been manifest in thi? Parliament for far too long, and with which 1 do .not agree. If this debate serves only to clean up the Advisory War Council it will have been worthwhile. After what has been said by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Ward) and by Opposition speakers this afternoon, neither side can, with honour, maintain its membership of that useless body. We must get down to the position in which the Government will govern aud the Opposition will take its stand in accordance with its principles. There is much that' I could say upon this subject. There is a good deal that I have not said, and about which I feel very strongly, but I do say that we have a very important and inescapable responsibility if we are sincere in the stand we have taken, in the promises we have made, and in the contacts that we have established with the United States of America, the United Kingdom and Canada, to which we have appealed for help, with New Zealand, which looks to us for some thi ug, with South Africa, and with the Dutch nation, whose women and children are already under the heel of the Japanese. If this country is of any colour other than yellow, we must insist on Australian troops being used wherever they may be required, until victory has been won. With less than that no self-respecting Australian can be satisfied; for more nobody asks.







Suggest corrections