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Wednesday, 12 October 1921


Senator BAKHAP (Tasmania) . - Circumstances constrain me to bring my remarks to a somewhat speedy close. When the debate was adjourned last evening I was just about to deal with the momentous appointment of Senator Pearce, our Minister for Defence, as our 'delegate to the Disarmament Conference at Washington. It is very much to the credit of the Senate, as a deliberative body, and particularly representative of the Australian people, as Senator Gardiner has said, that on an occasion like this the spirit of party should be so entirely absent as to enable Senator Gardiner, who is one of the leaders opposed to the Government, to get up in his place and most chivalrously and generously applaud the appointment of Senator Pearce, who is now on his way as our envoy to the gathering at Washington. The opinion was hazarded by some persons that the appointment of Senator Pearce would arouse a chorus of disapproval from the Australian people. I am glad to say that such a protest has been almost entirely absent. It was a predication falsified by the event. What better appointment in the circumstances could have been made? It is true that the representation of Australia by the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) would have been acclaimed, and properly acclaimed, and would, perhaps, have had the very best results in regard to the proper presentation of Australian opinion to the delegates who will assemble at that great Conference. But the Prime Minister could not go, and such representative members of the Administration as Sir Joseph. Cook and Senator E. D. Millen, who so worthily acquitted himself in our interests at Geneva, also could not go. In the circumstances, therefore, what better appointment could have been made than that of Senator Pearce? The fact remains that he had the longest term of office of any Minister for War in any Government of the ' nations engaged in the great struggle from which the Empire and its Allies have so happily emer- ged. He was not Minister for Defence at the beginning of the struggle, for it must be said to the credit of Senator E. D. Millen that he, with consummate ability and great dash organized, equipped, and despatched the first 20,000 men as Australia's contribution to the conflict. But the Ministry of which he was a member was defeated at the polls shortly after the outbreak of war. Senator Pearce then took the reins of office, and. held them until the struggle waa happily consummated. The magnitude of the effort made by the nations engaged in the struggle dwarfed everything that had hitherto been attempted by the greatest empires of the world. And let it not be forgotten that the effort put forward by the Commonwealth and the people of Australia, whom the Government represented, transcended altogether any previous military effort made by the British Empire, notwithstanding its great inheritance and glory. Senator Pearce sent more than 300,000 men from Australia overseas. No British Minister had ever equipped- or sent forth an expeditionary force of anything like the size of the Australian Imperial Force


Senator Crawford - And never sent the men half the distance.


Senator BAKHAP - As the honorable senator has reminded me, the greatest efforts made by the Imperial Governments ia any war, not- excepting even the Napoleonic wars, was the sending of 200,000 men as far as South Africa.


Senator Keating - And that, too, was when -the naval conditions were normal.


Senator BAKHAP - That is quite true. There was no naval opposition on the part of the Boer Republics to the sending of British troops to South Africa.


Senator Crawford - And no submarines.


Senator BAKHAP - The honorable senator is quite right: Therefore I say that the dispassionate judgment of posterity will accord to Senator Pearce the merit at least of having been successful in his great effort, and success, as we know, is the touchstone by which his administration will be measured when other circumstances have been completely forgotten by the Australian people two or three generations hence. They will then be able to see in proper perspective the achievement of the man who held the reins of our war administration during the recent European war. I hope, and, indeed, I feel sure, that in his mission to Washington Senator Pearce will be accorded a full measure of practical, sentimental, and political support by the people of the Commonwealth.

As for the Conference itself, honorable senators will know that some years ago I took the initiative in this Chamber, which collectively most loyally supported me, in regard to the representation of Australia's interests at Washington. I could see, to use a word which I am not particularly fond of, that the orientation of events, so to apeak, was towards the United States of America; that the United States of America, with its 110,000,000 of people, speaking the English language, occupying a territory rich in material resources, a people rich in technical skill, rich in racial energy, and rich in business ability, was destined to become one of the greatest, if not the greatest, Power in the world for all the generations that are likely to concern us at all events. Some years ago I suggested - in fact my motion was agreed to by the Senate - that if the exigencies of British diplomacy did not make it undesirable for Australia to have representation at Washington, the Commonwealth should be represented there by a gentleman of at least the status of a High Commissioner, who would be in touch with the people of the United States of America., and apprise them, of the Australian view point upon matters in which our common interests may be involved. If we had been so represented many of the difficulties that have arisen in connexion with Australia's representation at the forthcoming Conference would have been avoided, because the American people would have been familiarized with Australian . ideals and aspirations in connexion with Pacific questions. Anyhow, the time has come, and I feel sure that the Administration, as disclosed by the answer .given by the Minister to my question, have determined upon a policy of representation of Australian interests a,t Washington. Without saying anything in detraction of the Mother Country, which is the prime factor in the British Empire, it is just as important that the Commonwealth should be permanently represented a.t Washington as it is that we should be permanently represented in London. Such a proposition cannot logically be gainsaid. I trust that the Minister will, at an early date, in connexion with the question, at least disclose what the policy of the Government will be,' because a policy is very shortly to be disclosed as indicated by the favorable reply to my question, and it is to be hoped that it will be one that will be put into operation at the earliest possible opportunity. I do not suggest that it is essential to put the proposed policy into operation while the Minister for Defence is our representative at the Washington Conference, but thereafter. Australia should be represented at the capital of the United States of America by one of her proved and tried statesmen. We need not be too eulogistic, but I believe that the Commonwealth does possess men equal to any of the world's best statesmen. Sections of the Australian press have been very hostile all along to Australia's representation at Washington; but pressmen are only human beings, and, like politicians, are not infallible. I do not hold it against them as a crime .because they did not see the desirableness of it; but it must be to the credit of the Senate of the Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia that it had sufficient imagination and foresight to indicate to the Government its desire to have Australia properly represented at Washington several years ago. In regard to the Disarmament Conference, it may be that I am, as has been said of a French statesman, owing to advanced years, " somewhat dry of soul and somewhat empty of hope." I am not altogether empty of hope that the Conference may produce successful results; but men, whether as individuals, or races, or nations, are still full of jealousies and passions, and still possess envy and the desire to fight. Man is a fighting animal, and, although it will be exceedingly difficult to get anything very tangible in the way of results from the Conference, let us hope for the best. I know not what the results may be. I am not a prophet, but I hope for the best. Although I hope not for much, I fear not at all. But this has to be said: Unless this Conference is an unqualified success it will be a failure. It cannot be a partial success, because modified success will only retard the approach of the inevitable hour. Honorable senators and others who have conversed with me in private and in public know what I mean when I speak of the approach of the inevitable hour.


Senator Keating - It can be a step forward.


Senator BAKHAP - It may be a. palliative, and may retard the approach of some great convulsion. It is held to the credit of the medical man, if he can preserve or prolong human life for, say, only a year-


Senator Crawford - If it leads to a satisfactory agreement between the three great naval Powers, surely good will result.


Senator BAKHAP - If that is done it will be a great success; but failing anything like an agreement between the great Powers of the earth it will do what it was never intended to do, accelerate the approach of the great convulsion that I think reasonable men fear. Let us hope that mankind, having been sufficiently -chastised during the recent great conflict, does sincerely long for a permanent peace. But the desire for peace is not as greatly iu. evidence as some philosophers would have us believe. If I were to attempt to tabulate the number of wars in progress, the rumours of possible wars, the many threats of the destruction of rapes and nations, it would be a difficult task. But let me say that all the evidence tends to show that after all the world is an abattoir. Man is a fighting animal, struggling for supremacy, and by some mysterious law he cannot at times help himself. Some nations and some men cannot refrain from fighting, and the desire seems to be growing. There is one nation to which I would like to refer, and towards which I have the most friendly feeling - I refer to Portugal. Portuguese territory is within two or three days' sail from Port Darwin; and at Timor, of which Dilly is the principal port, it has been the custom for hundreds of years to moor vessels to trees. Can honorable senators imagine strong, virile nations being likely to- tolerate such a practice? We may talk about dispensing with war, but we will have something that will produce the same result as war. We will have conquests in one form or another; and, while other nations are progressing and increasing their populations, no nation will be allowed to remain in possession of a territory when it is content to moor vessels to trees instead of providing adequate and modern wharf accommodation. Portugal is to have representation at the Washington Conference. Honorable senators know that I am a strong Imperialist. I know the American Government has to recognise the British Empire as a diplomatic entity; but such important Dominions as Canada and Australia should have separate representation. I do not wish at this juncture to encroach, upon my privileges by dealing with the motion of which I have given notice; but the Australian Commonwealth has as great an interest as, if not a greater interest than, Portugal, or even Holland, in the Pacific and the settlement of those questions which are incidental to the consideration of Pacific matters. Holland has extensive territory to the north, which she has used very well. Australia has a very great concern in these matters, and as a virile people we should not only populate this continent, but in time extend our population to the Mandated Territories. In doing so it will be a most difficult matter for use to avoid a clash of interests with other nations.

The work of our envoy to the Washington Conference is most difficult. He has nothing to give away. He can consent to a procedure in regard to disarmament and * advise us that it is desirable to do certain things. But there are other. questions in connexion with which he cannot give anything away. All the people of Australia believe in the laudable ideal of preserving this continent for the white races of the earth, not with the idea of absolutely excluding the entrance of a coloured man, but so that the white races shall be protected from, too great an impregnation by coloured "people. In regard to the White Australia policy, I subscribe my adherence to what, after all, is a most interesting experiment, for maintaining what may be regarded as a human national park for the preservation of the white races. These questions are of the greatest human and scientific interest; and, as I have said, our delegate has nothing to give away. Therefore, let' us understand how difficult his task is, and, as a minister of the gospel would say, " Let us support him spiritually with our prayers." Although I am allowed a good deal of latitude in discussing this motion, I think, Mr. President, you would bring me to task if I debated the terms of the motion of which, I have already given notice. I shall not incidentally discuss these matters, because it would be somewhat unfair, and would be talcing undue advantage of the wide latitude allowed on such an occasion as this. I hope, though, that the Administration will recognise that, in order properly to support Senator Pearce, there should be uttered, or issued, a sort of declaration of faith and rights on the part of the Australian people as represented by this National Legislature. We want to show to the nations our intentions, our desires our sympathies, in regard to this matter. We want to show them that we are willing to disarm, that we desire to be and to remain in friendly relationship with all peoples of the earth. We wish to indicate, at the same time, that our interests are to us as grave, as vital, indeed, as are the Pacific interests of any other nation. We want to show, further, that we have, as the Scotch preacher advised, " a good conceit of ourselves"; for if Australia, with a population of nearly 6,000,000 white people, tamely submitted to the non-representation of its interests except in a roundabout fashion, while the interests of such a country as Portugal are to be represented at the Conference by a direct delegation, it would become indeed necessary that something should be said. While I am not an aggressive Australian, and do not wish to see the Commonwealth take up a jingoistic attitude, the Australian people can deservedly hold their heads high; and this Commonwealth Government - any Government of Australia - can do the same. That being the case, -let us see that we are not relegated, so to speak, to the wash-house, but that we are given the prominence which a nation of 6^000,000 English-speaking people - an almost unsullied white race - merits and can legitimately claim. I am most willing to withdraw my motion; it were well, indeed, that instead thereof the Government should accept my suggestion. I feel sure that the attitude of the Ministry is not hostile to the matters which I have been speaking upon. I emphasize that a kind of declaration of faith, intention, and attitude on the part of the Australian people would be one of the strongest factors which could be called into existence for the support of Senator Pearce.


Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - When I called " Not formal " to the honorable senator's motion, I trust that the honorable senator recognised that I did so in no unfriendly spirit.


Senator BAKHAP - I pay full recognition to the courtesy and kindness of the Minister. Senator E. D. Millen is too intelligent - and so, also, are his confreres - to fail to see the wisdom of Australia doing something by way of support of its delegate, if not in identical terms with those which I have suggested, then, at any rate, along the same lines.

In regard to what may be called the practical side of the Budget, honorable senators were speaking of the expensive tastes of modern -white Democracies in the course of yesterday's debate. Reference was made to the tremendous number of functions which a Government is called on to perform in a country such as Australia, and to the continual requests and demands preferred which necessitate national expenditure. The same rule holds good with regard to the administration of a white Democracy as in respect of the ordinary domestic affairs of a member of such a Democracy. A Japanese Judge, a man of light and learning, would probably receive the equivalent of £60 sterling per annum in payment for his services upon the Bench. Who would think of paying an Australian Judge of the Supreme Court only £60 per annum ? We live more expensively than do the people of many other races. Our scheme of civilization, our tastes also, and our culture are more costly; although I do not say, in respect of the last named, that it is of a better quality. Of necessity, the cost of government in such a country as ours is immeasurably higher than elsewhere. A Government is, after all, only representative of the life of the units composing the nation itself. And, if it costs a white man and his family £4 or £5 per week to live, it must cost a white man's Government proportionately the same to carry on, so that its functions can bear comparison only in1 regard to their magnitude with the cost of government of a civilization of a more economical character. We cannot have omelettes without breaking eggs. We cannot have what the Australian Democracy demands without calling upon that Democracy to draw pretty deeply from its pockets. We cannot have good government without paying for it - certainly not such government as the Aus- tralian people demand. Therefore, a good deal of the talk about economy has been and is very general. Economy is always desirable if it can be satisfactorily practised; but I, personally, would not be able to take the Budget and so analyze it as to be able to convince this Chamber that the Government could save millions of money without impairing the efficiency of our national services. It is all very well for various and differing organizations to pass resolutions in favour of economy without at the same time offering even one practical suggestion for the saving of as much as £100,000.

I desire to refer briefly to the proposal for the holding of a Federal Convention for the manifest and declared purpose of substantially altering the Constitution. I look upon the Constitution as being, on the whole, a highly satisfactory instrument of government. It is true that the progress of a couple of decades has disclosed that there are some difficulties in accommodating State and Federal func- -tions with respect to legislation and administration. There is 'an occasional overlapping. Now and again a "Noman'sland " has to be traversed, in which a succession of Judicatures has to be called upon to decide which are State and which are Federal functions of legislation. But that sort of indefiniteness is inseparable from the Federal system of government, and it was contemplated, indeed, when the Constitution was laid down. I do not say that there will not come a time when events will have so clearly crystallized as to permit us to perceive such defects, such disabilities, in the national Constitution as will appeal to the reason of practically all electors, and cause the Constitution to be remodelled, or, at any rate, altered to a certain degree, by the machinery which the Constitution itself provides. The great men who formed this instrument of government were called together by a Convention, it is true ; but that was necessary, for there was, at the time, but a very shadowy Federal body, namely, the Federal Council, and it possessed only very limited powers. But the instrument which that body conceived and recommended to the Australian people for adoption, carried within it machinery which can be -easily and satisfactorily operated by the Commonwealth Legislature to-day, and at any time, for the periodical amendment of the Constitution. Many attempts have been made" to alter the Constitution, although the Commonwealth has been in being for less than a quarter of a century, but few have been successful.


Senator Crawford - Only one, I think.


Senator BAKHAP - There were the alteration in regard to State debts, and the alteration . of the period for the election of senators - matters of expediency which were carried into effect without difficulty. Except for those matters, the Commonwealth Constitution has not been altered, although the people have been expressly appealed to, from time to time, by men who wish to alter the Constitution for their particular party purposes. To the good sense of the people of Australia, let it be credited that the people have always refused to have their Constitution altered for party purposes and for the purpose of securing party objectives, and I think they always will. I am fully sensible of the fact that there are certain difficulties, which seem to be more or less completely disclosed, in the Commonwealth Constitution. The time is altogether premature for the calling of a Convention, which, according to some people, who intend to get representation through it, will have for its task the complete re-modelling of Australia's instrument of government. There is an organization which is called the Australian Legion, and which has in contemplation dictation to the States as to how many Chambers their Legislatures should comprise. Part of their Federal Convention programme is to have the States reduced to one House each.


Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - You speak 'as though you were surprised at their moderation.


Senator BAKHAP - What has that to do with the Commonwealth Convention ? While I do not completely commit myself to opposition to the proposal, I am afraid there will be an attempt by a certain gentleman to acquire the portfolio of the Treasury again; and if ever he gets into power, to reduce the payment which is being made to the States. Of such action I entirely disapprove. One of the best things for the Australian people to do is to use the State Parliaments, where then oan function more satisfactorily than the Commonwealth Parliament through being in direct touch with most of the secondary industries and interests. If I had my way, so convinced am I that Australia is too big to be wisely governed from one centre, that if I were called upon to do anything in the way of remodelling the Constitution, I would not give the Commonwealth more functions of government, but I would restrict the operations of this Parliament to four or five major matters only. What do we know of the troubles of the Northern Territory? It is too far away from. us. Australia is too big. Who can intelligently discuss the state of affairs in connexion with the administration of New Guinea? I know I cannot. Of the grievances of New Guinea I hear but the faintest echo. We have men here from other States who are going to make representations about the unsatisfactory nature of legislation, which there is very little doubt the Commonwealth Parliament is competent to pass. If we axe wise we shall be very careful before we pull down the great wall of our Constitution, which is now only green. Let the people govern themselves under the present Constitution for the next fifty years with such amendments as their Legislatures regard, and as the people indicate by referendum, as necessary. When all nations are combining, out of chagrin, and from their load of debt, to throw society into the melting pot, we in Australia. - this rock of safety under the British flag - should hesitate before we liberate the revolutionary forces which will try to do things to which we cannot agree.


Senator Crawford - You will proa.bly have the majority of honorable senators with you.


Senator BAKHAP - That is my view. I think I have sufficiently ventilated my attitude, and I will not further delay the Senate.







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