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Wednesday, 27 February 1952

Mr THOMPSON (Port Adelaide) . - Many varying opinions have been expressed in this debate in justification of, or in opposition to, the proposal for the ratification of the peace treaty with Japan, and Government supporters are in just as big a predicament as are Opposition members about it. The honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Falkinder) stated a few moments ago that he does not like the provisions of the treaty. I do not think that any Government supporter likes them any more than Opposition members like them. In fact, none of us likes this treaty with Japan.

Why are we asked to ratify this treaty ? Honorable members should endeavour to understand the situation, in order that they may vote intelligently upon the bill. The present international situation is similar to the position that continually arises in a parliament. Honorable members ask themselves whether legislation will be in the best interests of the people whom they represent. The Western democracies are now asking themselves a similar question about the peace treaty with Japan. Opposition members, after they had discussed its provisions thoroughly, came to the definite conclusion that we in Australia should not be prepared at this 'stage to conclude a peace treaty with Japan. The Treaty of Peace (Japan) Bill 1952 contains only a few clauses, and our interest is directed principally to the schedule, in which are incorporated the provisions of the peace treaty. The Labour party contends that this treaty should be in conformity with, the provisions of earlier treaties that were entered into with J Japan by the victorious Allies a few years ago, or alternatively, with the provisions of the surrender agree. ment. Opposition members realize that the international position is vastly different to-day from what it was at the cessation of hostilities with Japan, when the surrender agreement was signed. That the Japanese surrendered to the Allies is unquestionable. They laid down their arms, and- accepted the surrender agreement which was dictated to them by the victors. The peace treaty is a substantial departure from the surrender agreement, and the Labour party considers that the Australian people have been let down by their Government, by virtue of the fact that it advocates the ratification of the treaty.

The treaty will come into force when it has been ratified by a majority of the States that have signed it. During this debate Opposition members have claimed that the United States of America has been able to impose its will upon iti allies in the formulation of the treaty, and such an opinion is borne out when we glance at the names of the countries that, are expected to ratify it. I agree that the United States of America came to our help, and prevented the invasion of this country by the Japanese. I, for one, will never forget our "obligations to the United States of America for the assistance that it rendered to us in World War II. Perhaps, then, we should analyse the .reasons why Americans advocate this treaty lest we criticize them too hastily. I have visited the United States of America in the post-war years, and had an opportunity to speak with some of the leaders of that country. When I make that statement I do not mean the President and members of Congress. I refer to the executives of big business organizations who are really the voice of the American people. We, as a parliament, do not always truly reflect the views and the outlook of the Australian people. We have to move among the leaders of various sections of the community in order to obtain a knowledge of what the people are thinking. I have always prided myself on the fact that I, in my endeavours to understand that outlook, have always tried to keep in close touch with the ordinary people and with their leaders. By so doing, I have gained a knowledge of their outlook and their needs. "When I was in the United States of America, I moved among executives who control hig businesses and industries, and found that many of them had broad ideas for a better condition of affairs in the world. For that reason, I am perhaps in a better position than are most honorable members to interpret the American mind on the peace settlement with Japan.

I should like Government supporters to understand that I do not oppose the ratifiation of this peace treaty without a knowledge of what is in the minds of the ordinary people who form the backbone of the great American nation. Speaking generally, they seek to improve conditions in the world. In such circumstances, we should ask ourselves whether this peace treaty will be a contribution to that objective. I freely admit that I am in a quandary as to whether the action of the United States of America, in advocating this peace treaty, will he justified by future events, or whether the Americans are making a mistake. Last night, the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) recalled that the United States of America had changed its foreign policy from time to time. Perhaps such changes were justified by altered circumstances, but even if that were so, the fact remains that the Americans are not omnipotent in their vision of the future in international affairs. I am in a quandary about whether the American support for the rearmament of Japan will be justified by later developments. Like the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) I wonder if the Americans' decision to rearm Japan will prove to have been another error of judgment on their part. I agree with the statement that, had it not been for the provision for the unlimited rearmament of Japan, the Labour party would most likely have taken a different view of this treaty. But we are not prepared to give our blessing and approval to the proposal for the reamament of Japan.

Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.

Mr THOMPSON - The most objectionable feature of the treaty is the provision that will empower Japan to rearm. That small clause in Article 5 may affect the whole course of world events. This is the provision to which the Opposition objects -

The Allied Powers for their part recognize that Japan as a sovereign nation possesses the inherent right of individual or collective self-defence referred to in article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations and that Japan may voluntarily enter into collective security arrangements.

When Japan capitulated in 1945, the Allied Powers laid down terms of surrender that were designed to prevent Japan from threatening democracy again. They decided that it should never be permitted to rearm beyond a certain limit. But this treaty, which has been signed by Mr. Spender on behalf of Australia, includes a provision that will enable Japan to rearm itself as fast as it can do so and establish offensive forces that can he used against Australia.

We know Japan of old. We remember that, at the time of the attack on Pearl Harbour, representatives of Japan were talking of peace and co-operation while their aircraft were launching an assault on American soil. The Opposition believes that Japan has not changed. The Japan of to-day is the Japan of years ago, and we may be threatened again whenever Japan decides that it can profit from another war. I acknowledge that we cannot keep Japan in subjection for ever. For instance, the people of the United States of America would not allow hundreds of thousands of their sons to be stationed continually under arms in Japan. But we assert that Japan should not- be permitted to become strong again. The Government claims that Japan must be permitted to defend itself. I agree that, if the United States of America withdraws its occupation forces, Japan must be allowed to have some means of defending itself. But there must be a limit. Japan should not be given carteblanche to do as it pleases. Although the Labour party is opposed to participating in wars overseas and to interfering with the rights of other nations, we are convinced that the proposal to allow Japan to become a great military power again is dangerous to us and to the rest of the democratic world. I agree with the honorable member for Wilmot that, before a sinner can earn forgiveness, he must repent and prove that he is worthy of forgiveness. The. provisions of the peace treaty that concede to Japan the right to rearm do not flow from the spirit of forgiveness. They arise from the fear of the United States of America, which wishes to have Japan as a counteracting force to the Communist-dominated countries of the east.

The United States of America dreads the advance of Russia and is afraid to leave Japan without a big army lest Communist China or some other country backed by Russia should overwhelm it. I condemn Russia's conduct in Korea and elsewhere, but that does not destroy my belief that we should not agree to the rearmament of Japan. I realize that the Government cannot proclaim from the housetops every action that it proposes to take in the field of international affairs, but this is a special case. The Government should have consulted the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) at least before it sent Mr. Spender to San Francisco to sign the peace treaty on behalf of Australia. During the war, before Mr. Curtin became Prime Minister, the Menzies Government discussed the conduct of the war effort with the leaders of the Labour Opposition. Representatives of all political parties in this chamber were able to meet regularly in order that we should present a united front. But there were no consultations in relation to the Japanese peace treaty. Even before our plenipotentiary went to the conference at San Francisco last year, everybody knew that the Government of the United States of America had laid down definite conditions under which the representatives of other countries would have no chance to amend the form of the treaty but would be required merely to sign on the dotted line.

Mr Casey - Rubbish!

Mr THOMPSON - It is not rubbish.

Mr Casey - It is utter rubbish.

Mr THOMPSON - The Minister knows that it is not rubbish, whatever he may say. The Government of the United States of America, let us know before the conference was held that there was to be no dilly-dallying or protracted discussion. We were told that the business had to be transacted within a few days.

Mr Casey - Rubbish!

Mr THOMPSON - That is what happened. It is easy for the Minister to say " rubbish ", but I know that he does not like the truth in this instance. This is a one-way Government. We should be united and go forward hand in hand on matters that are of such vital importance to Australia. But the Government has not sought our co-operation. It now asks us merely to sign on the dotted line as its representative did at San Francisco.

I was greatly impressed by the speech that was made earlier in the debate by the honorable member for Angas (Mi1. Downer). That young Government supporter has been lauded for his declaration that he cannot support the peace treaty. But this afternoon, another young exserviceman on the Government side of the House, Mr. Falkinder-

Mr SPEAKER - Order ! The honorable member must not refer to another honorable gentleman by name.

Mr THOMPSON - The honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Falkinder), who has had experience of war and who. therefore, is qualified to speak on this subject, rose and said that he would vote for the ratification of the treaty, but he had to sit down again in less than five minutes because he could not find anything more to say. His failure to justify the ratification of the treaty was the greatest rebuke that the Government has received in this debate. The honorable member for Franklin was chosen by the Government as an under-secretary. It looked upon him as a young man with war experience who would bring great credit upon himself and the Government. But all that he could do to-day, when he rose to speak on this important war matter, was to say a few words and then admit that he could not say any more on the subject. The Opposition does not want Japan to be ground down forever under the heel of an occupation force. We want it to have the opportunity to prove the sincerity of its professions, but we do not want to take the undue risk of allowing it to establish a powerful army.

The Government has adopted an uncompromising attitude on this matter. It refuses to heed the wishes of the Opposition, which cannot approve of the form of the peace treaty. I am greatly concerned about the political and economic provisions in. Article 7 of the treaty, which states -

Each of the Allied Powers, within one year after the present treaty lias come into force between it and Japan, will notify Japan which of its pre-war bi-lateral treaties or conventions with Japan it wishes to continue in force or revive .

We do not know what the Government will do within the next twelve months under the terms of that article. It has had no heart to heart talk with representatives of the Opposition about its plans for the future. It asks us to trust it and to believe that it will do the best for Australia. We cannot trust it. We want to be told what it proposes to do before it acts. Furthermore, the Government cannot truthfully say that the Opposition lacks men with experience of international affairs. No man in Australia has had so much to do with such transactions as has the Leader of the Opposition.

Mr Davis - And what a mess he made of them !

Mr THOMPSON - The Leader of the Opposition has been criticized by some of the Government's supporters because he championed the little nations. Some of these little nations are bigger than Australia. Although the right honorable gentleman has been condemned on that account, Australia is to-day still fighting for little nations.

We do not want Japan to threaten the world again yet, under the terms of the treaty, it will be empowered to make military alliances with other nations. Who can say now that Japan will not come to an arrangement with Communist China after the treaty has come into force? Japan is an industrial nation, and it is building ships to-day more cheaply than they can be built in other parts of the world. Japan has large steel and other heavy industries, but has very little in the way of raw materials for those industries. In the past, Japan depended on China and Malaya for most of its ores, but since the war ended those sources have been closed to it. I am in favour of making a just peace with Japan, but I consider that that peace must be a wholehearted one. It should be more widely realized that if six nations out of the .eleven nations concerned ratify this .peace treaty, then itwill come into force. The signatures of the remaining seven will have no effect on its validity. I know that Japan must be able to defend itself, but there is a difference between giving to Japan the ability to defend itself and giving to it the ability to wage war whenever it considers that the occasion requires it.

Certain honorable members -on the Government side have said that they are in favour of allowing cheap Japanese goods to be imported into Australia. I am definitely against such a practice because it will mean that our own industries that are producing comparable goods will not be able to compete with the cheap Japanese goods and will have to close down, to the detriment of our people and the nation as a whole. Just before last Christmas, large quantities of cheap Japanese toys were imported, and our own toy making industry felt the impact of the Japanese goods far more than. we should have dreamed of a few months before it occurred. The Opposition maintains that this Government should first protect our own industries and our own people. I am afraid that if this treaty should be ratified it will prove to be not in the best interests of Australia. Honorable members on the Government side have said that they do not really desire to ratify the treaty, but that there is no alternative. I believe that there is an alternative. The alternative is that this Parliament should do what has been suggested by the Opposition. That is, it should not agree to the ratification of the treaty until the war clause has been altered. The Government should confer with the leaders of the Opposition party about this objectionable clause and then say to the other nations, " We are certainly in favour of peace, but we cannot accept this objectionable clause".

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