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Thursday, 3 November 1921

Senator BAKHAP (Tasmania) . - Important to my mind though the motion which I will submit to the Senate may be, it is not my intention to occupy very much time in adducing arguments in support of it, because I venture to say that its merit is so self-evident that it is unnecessary for me to labour a question in regard to which the Senate, individually and collectively, must have arrived at a determined opinion. The motion, which I will read, and which I now formally move, consists of three clauses or sections in the following terms: -

(1)   That the Senate of the Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia notes with warm appreciation the action of the Government of the United States of America in convening a Conference at Washington to discuss the question of international disarmament and the problems affecting nations with territories which bound or are included in the waters of the Pacific Ocean, and expresses the most fraternal feelings towards the President, Congress, and people of the United States, and full friendship for all nations which are to be represented at the Conference.

(2)   That, while observing that representation at the Conference as a deliberative entity has not been accorded to the Australian Commonwealth, the Senate declares its keen and full consciousness of the fact that the interest of Australia in the questions to be discussed at the Conference, particularly those affecting lands south of the equator, is not inferior in degree and importance' to that of any nation which will be represented by a special delegation.

(3)   That the Senate will carefully consider the results of the deliberations at the Conference, and, if it deems any action indicated by the participants at the Conference as conducive to the attainment of the great objectives of world peace and more friendly international intercourse, (will accord its full support.

This motion is merely a sequence of a policy which I have numbly, but I venture to say persistently, advocated as worthy of adoption by the Australian people. Honorable senators will remember how particularly solicitous I have been for some years past to indicate to the Australian people how desirable it is that they should orient themselves, so to speak, towards the people of the United States of America, with whom we were on the best possible terms, and in regard to whom- we stood in the most satisfactory relationship. There have been, unfortunately, occasions of friction between the Great Republic of the West and the people of the United Kingdom, but nothing of the' sort has ever taken place between the Australian people and the people of the United States of America. Whilst we have the most friendly feelings towards the people of America, we have, of course, a full and implicit allegiance to the people of the United Kingdom, from which the great majority of the inhabitants of the Australian 'Commonwealth derive their ancestry. We can, so to speak, while extending the hand of sympathy and support to- the Mother Country in her trials, extend the other hand of fellowship and fraternity to the people of 'the United States of America, and on all occasions can be a most influential factor in removing causes of acerbity which perhaps may arise through circumstances of time and chance, between the1 people of the United Kingdam and those of the United States of America.

I do not, of course, wish to go outside the limits of my somewhat voluminous motion,- but it will be remembered that even before the war I was particularly insistent upon this policy of a good understanding between the people of the Commonwealth and the people of the Republic of the West. I have been particularly solicitous because long before she was given that diplomatic status which was accorded to her by the Peace Conference, when she was made one of the1 signatories to the Peace Treaty, I foresaw that the importance of Australia in the world was such that she should be accorded, and should secure for herself," diplomatic representation at Washington. I have from time to time delivered myself in this chamber on subjects of great importance to- Australia, which might be characterized by the .general term of Pacific questions. The unfortunate world-wide war took place, and although we have come out of it victors, the economic condition of the world is such that we may say, as was said of Napoleon's army after the battle of Borodino, " Fate had fixed upon the victor half undone." All the nations' of the -world associated with us in the last great victory are economically half undone. In consequence of this the present President of the United States of America, seeing that .perhaps the attitude of the 'great Republic had not altogether commended itself to the peoples of the civilized world, has determined to take time and occasion by the forelock, and has convened a Conference which, has for its avowed object the averting of what I have had, unfortunately, to tell honorable senators and the people of Australia was to be regarded as present in the offing, namely, another war. No higher and no more practical objective in the interests of humanity could be held in view than that which is to be placed before the Conference which will meet at "Washington on 11th November, namely, the securing by some practical means to the harassed and tried people of the world that peace which is necessary for us to prosecute those ideals of civilization which undoubtedly are dear to the hearts of most of the nations of the earth.

I have privately and publicly been supporting the action of the Government in Bending Senator Pearce to Washington. Australia ought to be represented there. It is being represented in a somewhat indirect method, for which I do not intend to blame the United States Government. Were we the governing authority in America, we would probably have taken the same stand, and regarded the British Empire as a diplomatic entity, although in other respects it may Be considered as a society of nations. But, internationally it is a diplomatic entity, excepting that the Dominions were allowed to become independent signatories to the Peace Treaty. America, no doubt, desires to clarify the position. Evidently the view is held that separate representation of the British Dominions at the Conference' would be regarded as a source of friction. It is to make a dignified declaration as to the rights of the people of Australia, but in a full sense of friendship with the people of th.e United States of America, that I desire the Senate to support the motion. Its indorsement will enable our delegate to convey to the Conference a correct and dignified expression of the sentiments of the Australian people as recorded by this, the highest Chamber of the highest Parliament in 'the Commonwealth.

The importance of this matter can be gauged by public deliverances within the past few days. In the press of to-day there appears an important statement from General Smuts, who expresses, as I do, the most earnest hopes as Ito the outcome of the deliberations at Washington. He declares that the British Dominions should have been directly represented at the Conference, particularly in view of the fact that they were given separate diplomatic representation, so to speak, in the signing of the Peace Treaty. I myself would have preferred that to be clone, but I have already indicated what I think are possibly the reasons, and what, I believe, is possibly the stand-point of the United States Government in the matter. These questions of diplomacy are very intricate and many sided. Important though the Dominions may be to the British Empire, if they were accorded separate diplomatic representation at the Washington Conference, beyond all doubt there would be protests from some of the minor nations that would be ' represented there by one, two, or possibly three, delegates.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - But surely we are as much concerned in the settlement of these Pacific problems as the minor nations of the old world?

Senator BAKHAP - I agree with the honorable senator. I am simply indicating, the difficulties confronting the President of the United States of America in this important matter.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - But the answer to the* honorable senator's suggested case is that we are as important as many of the nations that will have direct representation at the Conference.

Senator BAKHAP - We are more important. That is the basis of General Smuts' argument.

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - It has to be remembered, however, thai} the nation that convenes the Conference has the right to invite whom it pleases.

Senator BAKHAP - The Minister has anticipated the very argument I was about to use, and he has put the position very clearly. All the delegates will attend in their respective capacity, in response to an invitation from the United States Government, which stands in the relation of an influential and powerful host to his friends. The rules of etiquette governing the matter are precisely those which would govern an invitation issued by a hospitable and wealthy man to his friends from far and near.

Whatever may be urged against it, this Senate is, I venture to say, the foremost body in Australian politics. In regard to i every important question demanding consideration by a legislative body, the Senate has never failed. to indicate to the nation' the right course to be taken. This Chamber, years ago, by a resolution, passed without a dissenting voice, affirmed the necessity for the separate diplomatic representation of Australia at Washington. In that matter it received very little support from the press of the Commonwealth. The debates of this influential Chamber were hardly reported. Yet when the President of the United States convened "the Conference, shortly to be held at Washington, there was a general "chorus of journalistic approval of the suggestion for separate representation at the place which, for the moment, is regarded as the hub of the diplomatic universe, so to speak. This Chamber was the first legislative body to recognise the serious nature of the war in which Australia, as one of the Dominions of the Empire, was engaged. This Chamber realized, earlier than the legislative authorities in Great Britain, the possibilities of that great struggle. Many measures which Great Britain had to adopt in order to secure victory and avoid defeat, which was only narrowly averted, were first suggested in this Chamber. Prior to the meeting of the Imperial Conference a few months ago, the Treaty agreement existing between Great Britain and Japan, so far as concerns its relationship to Australian interests, was very substantially queried in this Chamber. We debated here the question whether its renewal was desirable or necessary. Although the opinions of honorable senators on this subject have not been fully conveyed to the Australian people by the important journals of the Commonwealth, we find now that some of the most influential Dominions of the Empire are in favour of the abrogation of the Treaty. Indeed, we have a journalist, a Peer of the Realm, going right up the coasts of Australia and out on the eastern coast of Asia, proclaiming in all his newspapers in the thunder tones of international journalism that it is desirable to abrogate the Treaty. All I say is that I hope the forthcoming Conference will result in a wider, more comprehensive, and -more humane understanding than at present exists between the British Empire, America, and Japan. I believe that is one pf the objects which Senator Harding had in view when he issued the invitation. I ask no more than to see this continent, which is only thinly peopled by less than 6,000,000 of people, endowed by fate and by the wit of man with a long period of peace, during which we may be able to develop, satisfactorily to ourselves and with admiration from the rest of the world, those resources which we in no small measure possess. No jingoistic policy do I advocate. I am not one of those who desire to see the people of Australia marching, like the ancient people of Rome, to extend their deadly might over all the nations of the earth. . No. I ask only that our politics, both external and internal, shall be such that we may be able to prosecute our industries and our current economic life in peace; that we may be able to hold all we possess for the purpose of developing those national ideals which, notwithstanding anything that may be said against them, have inherently in them much that is practical, much that is valuable, and a great deal of that which is very noble.

Senator Pearcehas not yet reached the shores of America. I hope that before he participates in the deliberations of the Conference, this resolution, or something like it, will be passed in order that he may announce to the people of thS United States of America what our feelings are on this important subject. Outside the people of the Mother Country, we are on greater terms of affection with, and we have a more fraternal feeling towards, the people of the United States of America than any other nation in the world. Their Democracy is like ours. I believe those Americans who are most competent to judge, acclaim us as having a better and more democratic constitution and legislative system than they themselves possess.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Their policy of peaceful penetration is very real, too.

Senator BAKHAP - I do not see any harm in that. If we are to have international, commercial, and financial relationships with any people of the world, outside those of the United Kingdom, what other people can the honorable senator indicate as more worthy of our collective national suffrages?

Long ago the United States of America, by an unfortunate combination of circumstances, so far as our Mother Country is concerned, erected themselves into what is known as the American Republic, and' though the Constitution under which the economic and legislative life of the United States of America has developed was framed nearly a century and a half ago, it was selected as the model for the Australian Commonwealth, and a very good model it is. It has enabled the 3,500,000 people who constituted the thirteen States, or the revolting colonies as they were termed, to become the most influential and powerful nation in the world. That being so, very little, I think, can be said against the Constitution. It cannot be said, for instance, that it has hampered or restricted the energies of its people. And the Constitution which we have adopted has served us very well indeed up to the present time.

The first clause of my motion is an affirmation of approval of the United States of America, through its President, for having convened the Conference, and it differentiates, as honorable senators will understand, slightly - I think it is wise thus to differentiate - between the feelings we entertain for the American people, and our feelings of friendliness towards the other nations that will be represented at Washington. Other nations are, of course, composed of human beings with whom we wish to be on the most friendly terms; but the people of the United States are, to a large extent, our own kith and kin, bone of our bone, blood of our blood, and flesh of our flesh. Although it is true - and this is admitted by a number of the American people - that there is a large percentage of blood of foreign peoples in . that of the people of tha United States of America, this fact cannot be gainsaid, that the governing strain is decidedly that which has been derived from the people, of the United Kingdom before and since the days of severance. There have been only two American Presidents with foreign names. The names of the Presidents from the beginning to the present day, with the exception of two, have been distinctly English or Anglo-Saxon, or whatever we may call the people of the British Isles. (So it is only right and seemly in every respect that we should differentiate between our feeling for and attitude towards the people of the United States of America and those of other nations of the earth. Consequently, I have endeavoured to express that particular shade of difference by saying that the Senate of the Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia, expresses the most fraternal feelings towards the President, Congress, and the people of the United States of America, and full friendship for all nations which are to be represented at the Conference.

I need hardly say that we are also interested in the welfare of all those nations which may not be directly represented. I wish to indicate to the United States of America that the people of Australia, through their Senate, have a very keen appreciation of their importance in regard to this matter, and of the importance of an ^ decisions -in connexion with the problems to be considered. Paragraph 2 of the motion reads -

That, while observing that representation at the Conference a deliberative entity has not been accorded to the Australian Commonwealth, the Senate declares its keen and full consciousness of the fact that the interests of Australia in the questions to be discussed at the Conference, particularly those affecting land south of the equator, is not inferior in degree and importance to that of any nation which will be represented by a special delegation.

That, I venture to assume, as far as my knowledge of the English language will permit, is a keen, pertinent, and dignified expression of the attitude, of the people of Australia in respect of special representation at the Conference. I desire also to express my sense of appreciation of the attitude of the British Government in this regard. When it discovered that the Dominions of the Empire were not to be accorded separate representation, it extended an invitation to the Commonwealth, New Zealand, South Africa, and Canada to be represented on the delegation which would represent the British Empire as a whole. Notwithstanding that I would have preferred - and I wish the American people to understand this so far as my utterances may reach them - that Australia had been invited by the United- States of America to send a delegation, just as she was permitted to be a special signatory to the Peace Treaty. Paragraph 3 of the motion reads -

That the Senate will carefully consider the result of the deliberations at the Conference

We would be indeed foolish if we did not - and, if it deems any action indicated by the participants at the Conference as conducive to the attainment of the great objective of world peace and more friendly international intercourse, will accord its full support.

We, the representatives of the Australian people in the Senate, tender to the American people that expression of opinion, which will be a very ample commendation of the objective of the Conference, if such happens to be necessary; but we reserve to ourselves, as the representatives of the people of the Australian Commonwealth, the power of confirmation or of rejection of any of the decisions that may be arrived at. The Australian people and their representatives, notwithstanding anything that may be said in derogation of such representation, are not fools, and can easily discriminate between decisions conducive to the world's peace and those which may be fruitful of that discord which we all hope may be averted.

If the Senate, in its wisdom, sees fit to agree to this motion, I think we ought to accord another place the courtesy of its concurrence. In a moment of forgetfulness I did not add to the motion a paragraph to that effect, and I shall ask the Senate to grant me permission to make that addition at a proper time and in a proper way.

I prefaced my remarks by saying that I believed honorable senators individually and collectively have already formed opinions in regard to this great question, and, that being so, it is unnecessary for mo to labour it. The hour is late. I have explained the motives which have inspired me in submitting the motion to the 'Senate, the principal of which are to express to the American people our fraternal regards towards them, our admiration for the motives which inspired their Government in calling this Conference, and an indication of our full determination to support our representative in the direction that will tend to secure the high objective of the Conference to bring about what may well be termed a true and holy alliance in the interests of the world's peace, and in the general welfare of mankind.

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