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Thursday, 3 September 1942


Dr EVATT (Barton) (Minister for External Affairs) .- by leave- I propose to analyse some aspects of the international position with which Australia is specially concerned. I also shall take leave to refer to some of the work performed by the mission to Britain and the United States, from which I recently returned. As it is nearly six months ago since I left Australia, it is convenient to make some comparison of the position then and now.

In a period of about three months after its entry into the war, Japan has acquired nothing less than the physical structure of a new economic empire. On the 23rd January, Rabaul and Bougainville, in the Solomons group, were taken. By the 15th February Malaya and Singapore had been occupied. On the 19th February the invasion of Java commenced. The attack on Timor started on the 2l3t February. On the 27th February the battle of the Java Seas took place. By the 14th March Java had fallen, and both Lae and Salamaua in New Guinea were occupied.

What was the position of Australia at that time? Darwin had. been badly mauled and was grievously threatened. An all-out enemy move against Moresby was expected daily. The north-east coast of the continent itself was in great jeopardy. Our communications with the United States seemed likely to be cut as the enemy moved farther southwards in the vital Solomons group. The A.B.D.A. strategic area under General Wavell had been dissolved, but responsibility for the strategic direction and control of the defence of Australia and New Zealand was not yet settled. We were weak in air strength; we were short of tanks and other equipment; our veteran Australian Imperial Force units had not returned. Those were dark days for Australia and New Zealand.

Late in February a conference was held at Melbourne between the Advisory War Council and Messrs. Sullivan and Coates, representing the New Zealand War Cabinet. Future historians may well regard that conference as of special importance. As a result, a new strategic area was planned to include both Australia and New Zealand, and it was suggested that, because of the special United States concern in the Pacific, the supreme operational command should be entrusted to a United States officer. The suggestion was a bold one. There have been few occasions in history when a self-governing nation has placed its defence, and all its military resources, under the control of an ally, no matter how powerful. The new proposal was accepted while I was at Washington. The joint plan of Australia and New Zealand was modified to this extent - that the actual jurisdictional area of the South-west Pacific, including Australia, was made separate from that of the South Pacific area, including New Zealand. But each area was placed under the supreme operational command of a distinguished United States officer, each being responsible in turn to the United States Chiefs-of-Staff. Simultaneously, the President announced that the United States had accepted what was vaguely but deliberately described as the " responsibility " for both Australia and New

Zealand. That primary responsibility still rests on the United States.

The case for Australia had to be stressed by the mission from two distinct but converging viewpoints. First, to the United States the great significance of Australia was its strategic significance as the only remaining land base joining the Indian and the Pacific Oceans, from which an offensive against Japan might subsequently be developed. Second, from an Empire point of view, a deadly blow to British prestige would result if any part of Australia or New Zealand was overrun by such an enemy as the Japanese. Of course, there was nothing inconsistent in these two approaches, and in my view, our insistence and persistence on .both have been justified by the event. Gradually, we have found that the Pacific theatre of war has been assessed at a higher relative degree of importance than many authorities were at first disposed to admit. The tremendous danger of Japan's strength, ambition and cunning is now realized to a greater degree. Further, there is a growing realization that, as a result of the battles of Cor.nl Sea, Midway, and the Solomons, the United Nations may be presented with opportunities to strike further telling blows, and if such opportunities are not grasped, they disappear.

The directives in respect of both Pacific areas were drafted at Washington and agreed to by both Australia and New Zealand. As the Australian Prime Minister conveniently described it, the agreed strategy in relation to the Southwest Pacific was primarily of a defensive or holding character, the defensive to be followed by offensive action at a later stage. But it is clear that the strategical arrangements were provisional only. Plans of such a character have to be modified, contracted, or expanded according to the changing developments of n world war. For instance, strategic arrangements made way back in January last, before Japan's thrusts had gathered their subsequent momentum, were not. necessarily applicable to the situation in April, still less to that in September. In the Pacific there are three theatres in form but really one in substance. In all three the executive authority over tha Supreme Commander has been committed to the United States Chiefs-of-Staff. As Japan regards the Pacific as one gre: theatre of war, so must the United Nations.

Nothing is more remarkable than the magnificent recovery of the United States fleet since the disastrous attack on its capital ships at Pearl Harbour in December last. There were not a few who regarded that attack as putting the United States Navy out of the Pacific war for at least eighteen months. Events have proved otherwise. If I may say so, I believe that, whilst the immediate credit has gone in the main to others, the planning and determination of Admiral King, Commander-in-Chief of the United States Navy, have been largely responsible for the blows delivered against the enemy in the Coral Sea and at Midway. Further, .there has not yet been an adequate appreciation of the boldness and ingenuity of the recent northern thrust of United States and Australian forces over a very great distance towards the Solomons. With regard to Admiral King, I remember vividly a discussion at Washington on the vexed question of the separation of operational areas in the Pacific. I was reassured and impressed at Admiral King's saying: "I don't care what or where the areas are. I'll hit this fellow wherever. I can get at him - wherever the areas are. And I'll hit him good and hard ". That he has succeeded in doing.

This illustrates and emphasizes another point. The first task of our mission was to obtain approval to the creation of a Pacific War Council at Washington so that Australia could meet Britain, the United States and the other Pacific nations at the same cabinet table with a view to co-ordinating our war effort against Japan. Thanks both to the President and to Mr. Churchill, the task of creating the War Council was accomplished. The machinery was set up, and I had the honour of being the first representative of Australia on the council.

But machinery is useless unless it functions efficiently. It has worked efficiently because President Roosevelt was determined that it should ' so' work. The body meets at least once- a' week. The President always takes the - chair, and . the accredited representatives of Britain, China, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the Netherlands, and now the Philippines, are always present. While the Council is not executive in character, important matters on the political side, and to some extent also on the military side, are finalized at the Council. This is often possible because the President is also the Commander-in-Chief of ali United States forces.

The working of such a Council necessarily brings into sharp focus the claims and needs of all the Pacific theatres of war; it ensures that the Pacific shall not be overlooked in the measurement from time to time by the strategic authorities of the claims made by each theatre commander to a fair proportion of the munitions and equipment in the common pool of the United Nations.

Another task of the mission was to increase and accelerate the allocation and despatch of the supplies which early in March last we needed so desperately. As the Prime Minister has already indicated publicly, one result of our work was a very substantial flow to Australia and the other Pacific areas of aircraft, tanks, and other vital equipment and supplies.

Of course it is obvious that the rapidly changing situation not only in various parts of the Pacific, but in other theatres of war must lead to retardation as well as acceleration of supplies. The needs of actual battle are imperative. For instance in the case of the Midway battle, temporary diversions from other Pacific theatres played a great part in the final victory which altered in our favour the balance of naval power in the Pacific. I cannot give figures, but the total number of combat aeroplanes which have actually been received in this theatre since March has been very substantial - far beyond our wildest hopes in the black days of February.

The assistance we have received from the United States is not measured alone in aircraft, munitions or personnel. At all times, both in London and Washington, the mission was in close touch with Ministers here. As a result of constant communication with my colleague, the Minister for Supply, the whole position of essential and vital supplies of raw materials was kept in1 rapid motion. We made arrangements with the War Production Board, the Petroleum Coordinating Authorities and the Combined Raw Materials Board and other bodies in Washington. As a consequence the supply position in Australia has very materially improved. Again I cannot give figures, but comparing 1st April last with the latest available data there has been a very great improvement in the Australian stock position in respect of such vital materials as tinplate, aviation spirit, motor spirit, power kerosene, illuminating kerosene, lubricating oils, diesel oil, cotton, raw rubber and aluminium. In addition, there has been an important increase since the 1st April of the quantity of essential materials actually received from the United States for the manufacture of munitions in Australia. These increased supplies have arrived in Australia in appreciable quantities, thus improving the general situation. Included in the items referred to are machine tools which are so necessary for munitions production in this country. From what I 'have said the House will be able to gather something of our fierce concentration on the vital problem of supplying Australia with aircraft, munitions, and other materials of war.

From the United States the Mission proceeded to Britain. Here I should say that much of the unity and strength of our common cause depends upon the close comradeship of Mr. Churchill and President Roosevelt. Even before Janan attacked Pearl Harbour, these two leaders were working in the cause of democracy, as witness their promulgation of the Atlantic Charter in August of last year. That association has become far more intimate in the exigencies of war, and has been extended to include the leaders of Russia, China and the British dominions.

In London I made specific arrangements with Mr. Churchill bearing upon the defence of Australia. These arrangements included a special contribution of equipment in accordance with requisitions forwarded to me by the Service authorities in Australia. Another splendid contribution, which Britain agreed to, will be of inestimable value to our defence. I shall never forget the occasion when the matter was decided. We had discussed the problem of. Australia for some considerable time when Mr. Churchill sent for a very high ranking officer and put the proposal to him. At first the officer was not over-enthusiastic. "It'll hurt so-and-so" he said, naming another distinguished officer. " What's that ? " said the Prime Minister. " Yes, it'll hurt him a great deal", was the reply. " Very well ", said Mr. Churchill, " unless it hurts him it is not going to be of much use to Australia. It has got to be done ".

I must add this : The people . of Britain are heart and soul with us. In Australia's anxieties and vicissitudes, we all remember the sufferings and sacrifices the British people endured in 1940 and the never-to-be-forgotten valour of the airmen who then saved from alien domination not only Britain but the United States, Australia and all the world. The immensity of the British effort to-day - men and women alike - cannot be overstated. They all agreed that Australia had deserved help, and must be helped. There was no need for argument. In every place I visited, every meeting I attended from the Parliament at Westminster to the factories in Yorkshire, the reaction was the same. The British people's desire was this - to be as much with us in the battle for Australia as Australians had been with them, not only in the battle of Britain but also in almost every great battle in almost every theatre of the war.

While in Britain I had the opportunity of useful discussions with members of the special Russian delegation to Britain and the United States, led by the Commissar for Foreign Affairs, M. Molotov. I was impressed with their deep detestation of the Nazi invader, their tenacity, their fortitude, their confidence. Even then, they seemed to anticipate the possibility of serious military reverses during the present European summer. These have occurred. It is not for me to foretell the future, or make a guess at the outcome or duration of the struggle. But, as we look back and re-read the opinions of the so-called experts who, in June of last year, forecast that only three or four, or at the most five, weeks would elapse before the German military machine crushed the Russian armies, and as we also remember the ups and downs of fifteen months of terrific fighting, it i.clear that the continuance of Russia's titanic resistance is still one of the main hopes of this world.

In connexion with Russia, a striking incident occurred during the period in which I was representing Australia on the War Cabinet in London. During the spring months of this year, land-based enemy aircraft operating from Norway were making the task of the convoys to Russia tremendously hazardous. Some losses were certain. Very great, losses seemed probable. But the Russians badly needed the tanks and the aeroplanes. In a moment of some doubt and grave anxiety the Prime Minister, Mr. Churchill, gave the lead, saying, " All the equipment that gets through on this convoy will be used by the Russians in the critical summer fighting. They will need every plane and every tank. We mus aid Russia. The convoys must simply fight their way in." As it turned out, the bold decision thus taken proved right, for the first convoy fought its way in after comparatively small damage. The equipment got through.

While I was in London, the treaty of alliance between Britain and Soviet Russia was negotiated and signed. This treaty re-affirmed the principles laid down in the declaration of the Atlantic Charter of the 14th August, 1941. Because the Soviet and Japan are at peace, the treaty was directed very specifically against Hitlerite Germany and Germany's satellite associates in Europe. But, in my opinion, the broader and more important features of the treaty are the provisions directed to the post-war period. Thus article 3 binds the parties to adopt common action to preserve peace and to resist aggression in the post-war period. The Anglo-Russian alliance is to continue for a period of twenty years after the war. It was agreed that, during the post-war period, both parties should work together for the organization of economic prosperity.

M.   Molotov showed the liveliest and most friendly interest in this country, with the history of which he seemed well acquainted. As I told him, Australia regards Russia not only as a great European power, but as a great

Pacific power. It is essential to the future of the Pacific that Australia should always remain on the closest terms of friendship with Russia. The Government hopes that, in the very near future, that friendship will be evidenced and confirmed.

It is becoming more and more clear that the military overthrow of our enemies, although our primary aim, will in no way be obstructed, but will be assisted if positive plans be now laid as to the course to be pursued in the postwar period. In this connexion the past declarations of the leaders of the United Nations are an important starting point, especially the principles of the Atlantic Charter and the President's subsequent declaration of the four freedoms.

While in the United States, I found many who were particularly anxious to have promulgated a special charter covering the future of the peoples of the Pacific and of South-east Asia. Why not, it was said, establish a Pacific and Asiatic Charter on the lines of the Atlantic Charter ? This question shows a misunderstanding of the true position.

By subscribing to the Atlantic Charter all the United Nations have now declared -

First: Their countries seek no aggrandizement, territorial or other.

Second: They desire to see no territorial changes that do not accord with the freely expressed wishes of the people concerned.

Third: They respect the right of all peoples to choose the form of government under which they will live; and they wish to see sovereign rights and selfgovernment restored to those who have been forcibly deprived of them.

The United Nations have also expressed their hope for a peace which will " afford to all nations the means of dwelling in safety within their own boundaries, and which will afford assurance that all the men in all the lands may live out their lives in freedom from fear and want" - the sixth principle of the charter. They have also declared that, while they believe in the eventual abandonment of the use of force, aggressor nations must be disarmed pending the establishment of a wider and permanent system of general security - the eighth principle.

But the name "Atlantic Charter" which has been given to this declaration does not refer only to the Atlantic region or to powers having interests in the Atlantic. The charter derives its name from the place where it was signed. The 28 nations which have subscribed to it extend around the globe, and the declaration is universal in its scope and application. It follows that the future of the regions of the Pacific and of South-east Asia are to be governed by the broad principles of the Atlantic Charter.

Some consequences of this may properly be suggested. The first principle which must be applied is that of security. Accordingly, in keeping with the eighth principle of the charter, there should be established a system of general security which will be as effective in these Pacific and Asiatic regions as in all other parts of the world. Pending the establishment of such a system, the aggressor must be disarmed. And that aggressor is Japan - the only Pacific power which since 1931 has systematically employed its armed forces for the purpose of territorial aggrandizement.

Whilst security comes first, the charter also assures to the peoples ofSoutheastern Asia and the South-west Pacific that they shall be able to live out their lives in freedom from want as well as in freedom from fear. These peoples cannot be excluded from the system of economic collaboration which the United Nations have envisaged. Again, it is elementary that the future development of the people of China will no longer be obstructed by such restrictions on their self-respect and their right of selfgovernment as are involved in the almost exploded doctrine of ex-territoriality. Equally we look forward to the people of India developing into a truly selfgoverning nation. It is to be hoped that they will soon understand thatselfgoverning British Dominions like Australia are none the less self-governing because they owe allegiance to the King, or because they are associated together as members of the British Commonwealth of Nations, or because they are resolved to resist the invader to the death.

Australia, as one of the countries of the South-west Pacific, will have a particular interest in closer economic relations with its nearer neighbours. For some years past, Japan has propagated the notion of a co-prosperity sphere. But, ever since 1931, and increasingly so since it commenced to exploit the newlyoccupied areas in Malaya, the Philippines and the East Indies, it has become plain that the so-called co-prosperity sphere means only this - that Japan is to get the prosperity while the subject peoples get a lower standard of living, and the status of serfs or slaves.

In the post-war world the reorganization of these regions cannot be on the Japanese system. "We are now fighting to end that system. Moreover, our postwar order in the Pacific cannot be for the sole benefit of one power or group of powers. Its dominant purpose must be that of benefiting the peoples everywhere. If "freedom from want" means anything, it means that the age of unfair exploitation is over. If the attainment of a higher and better standard of life for all the Pacific peoples involves any changes in forms of government or administration, either as a means of progress or as a consequence of it, the United Nations must be ready to make the necessary changes. In short, we must found future Pacific policy on the doctrine of trusteeship for the benefit of all the Pacific peoples. That doctrine the Commonwealth has endeavoured to carry out in New Guinea under the mandates system of the League of Nations. Japan's record as a mandatory power only proves that a solemn trust can be betrayed.

I would therefore say this : It is impossible' to view with satisfaction the present position of the forces of the United Nations in many theatres of the world war. The very serious position in Russia and the disappointing setbacks we have received in the Middle East are sufficient to banish the slightest tendency towards complacency.

But, in the Pacific theatre of war, the outlook is much brighter than seemed possible six months ago. Support and help have reached us in substantial quantities, mainly from the United States, which is primarily responsible, but also in some important respects from Britain itself.

So far, the Supreme Commander, armed with this support and with the enormously increased strength of Australian land forces, has been able to protect the Commonwealth itself against the enemy invader. The Japanese have not had many successes during the last six months. They suffered three tremendous reverses in the Coral Sea, at Midway, and recently in the Solomons. Australian forces have had a spectacular success at Milne Bay. Not so well known but great in importance has been the magnificent guerilla fight being waged by Australian and Dutch troops in Timor. That story, when fully told, will be one of the epics of the war.

Certain broad questions may fairly be asked in relation to Australia's war effort since Japan's unprovoked attack on our territories. The first question is: "Has Australia's voice been heard in the Supreme Councils of the war ? " The answer is : " Yes, to a greatly increased extent. Some of the new machinery has been described. But there is constant communication on the major matters of war policy between the head of the Commonwealth Government and the leaders of the United Nations overseas ". Then it may be asked, " Has Australia's voice, though heard, been of effect ? " It is too early to give a final answer, but I venture to submit that here, too, the answer should be - " Yes, to a very substantial extent, and the effect will not diminish but increase as the days go by ".

A final question may well be posed : "Is the Government satisfied with the position so far as this theatre of war is concerned ? " I think the proper answer to this question is, " No, we are not satisfied ; we dare not be satisfied while what we care for most is still in deadly peril; we shall never be satisfied until the enemy is thrown back and finally overthrown ".

It is on that note of warning I prefer to finish, and, in support, I quote from a recent despatch from Sir Frederic Eggleston, Australia's Minister in China - a key post in these days of crisis. He said -

All those nations whose destiny is involved in the fate of the Pacific area must be constantly oil the alert to see that the strategy necessary to secure their safety is not forgotten in European pre-occupations, and that the machinery for ensuring that decisions in this area are properly taken is kept functioning with adequate interest and support. I believe it is to the credit of His Majesty's Government in the Commonwealth of Australia that vast improvements have been made. Why it should have been necessary for you to fight for it with such insistence I do not know, for more than 9,000,000 Britishpeople live on the Pacific and Indian Oceans, and they have made most important contributions to the cause in this and the last war. The idea that Britain can survive if she loses all her resources and people in this area is a fallacy.

While therefore we note the improvement in the Pacific generally and here in particular, too much is at stake for us to ease up for a moment. Our efforts must be unremitting. As has well been said -

When everything is at stake, dear and valuable to man, as man ; when there is but the one dreadful alternative of entire loss, or final recovery of truth and freedom, it is no time to stand up on trifles and moot points; the great object is to be secured first, and at all hazards.

I lay on the table the following paper : -

International Affairs - Mission Overseas -

Ministerial Statement, 3rd September, 1942. and move -

That the paper be printed.

Debate (on motion by Mr. Fadden) adjourned.







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