Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Friday, 8 November 1935


Senator COLLINGS (QUEENSLAND) -I have no desire to disregard the direction of the Chair.


The PRESIDENT - The honorable senator would not like the same term to be applied to him.


Senator COLLINGS - I have sat in this chamber while the most unworthy motives have been imputed to me, and have never turned a hair. In fact, I prefer the condemnation of honorable senators opposite to their commendation. In deference to your wishes, sir, I withdraw the word to which yon have taken exception. Regardless of the views which honorable senators may hold on this subject it cannot be denied that two Australian warships are now in the Mediterranean. If economic and financial sanctions are imposed by Australia one of these vessels may be fired upon and Australia will be in the conflict right up to its ears. In the House of Representatives yesterday the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) told the Lender of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) that, up to date, the Commonwealth had paid £451,350 towards the cost of the H.M.A.S. Sydney, and an equal amount was to be paid in 1935-36. Payments of a' similar amount would be made in 1936-37 and in 1937-38, while £294,631 would be payable in 1938-39. On a vessel which was practically obsolete when it left the dockyard, only one payment has yet been made. That vessel is now in the danger zone. If the League of Nations could give us collective security there might be some argument-


Senator A J McLACHLAN (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - If every nation deserts the League there can never be collective security.


Senator COLLINGS - The Minister cannot " put it over " the Opposition in that way. Has the Minister overlooked the fact that the United States of America, Germany, Austria and Italy are not now members of the League? I was amused at the belated repentance of Japan referred to by the Leader of the Senate. Are we to believe that Japan, whose armies marched into Manchuria, and subdued the people of that country by the most brutal methods known in modern warfare, and without even declaring war, is now penitent? This is a significant fast. The economic and financial sanctions which Parliament is asked to ratify are to become operative on the18th November. Having read what is happening in Great Britain I am convinced that the date on which sanctions are to be imposed has been delayed deliberately until after the British general elections, which have been sprung on the people in an attempt to " dish " the. Labour party. The electors, who are being told that the Government proposes to spend £200,000,000 on the navy, are being urged to oppose the Labour candidates. A Labour government would be in power in Great Britainafter the next elections but for the punning which the British Prime Minister is displaying. Britain intends to arm heavily and the Commonwealth Governmenthas committed itself to assist in enforcing the will of what remains of the League of Nations. Having regard to the possibilities of an effective blockade, I ask honorable senators to listen to the following paragraph, published in the Sunday Sun and Guardian, which is not, a Labour paper: -

Throughout the last war, English and Frenchindustries maintained to Germany a steady stream of glycerine (for explosives), nickel, copper, oil and rubber. Germany even returned the compliment; she sent to France iron and steel and magnetos for gasoline engines. This constant traffic went on during the war in Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Switzerland, Spain or Holland, by the simple process of transhipment- enemy to neutral to enemy.

Yet the Leader of the Senate asks us to believe that these sanctions can be made effective. The paragraph continued - lt is no bristling Communist who supplies corroboration, but as conservative and wellconsidered a gentleman as Bear-Admiral William Warcop Peter Consett, who was British Naval Attache in Denmark between 1912 and 1917, and in Norway and Sweden between 1912 and 191.!).

We have heard a good deal concerning the attitude of the United States of America. I have already said that that country is not interested in this bargaining business, and my contention is not in any way discounted by the statement of the Leader of the Senate this morning. What is the use of closing our eyes to the facts ? The following message from Washington is of interest: - lt was learned to-day, on unquestionable authority, that President Roosevelt's statement is intended to be more comprehensive than a mere warning against war business, and is calculated to discourage all United States trade with Italy. In other words the president, in effect, threatened to wield the big stick by branding business men, when circumstances justified, as war profiteers who were willing to embroil the United States in a war for the sake of a few dollars.

The President of the United States of America has threatened to wield the big stick by branding as war profiteers those who are willing to embroil, their country in a war for the sake of monetary gain. Obviously, certain hig business interests in that country are supplying Italy with materials to enable it to carry on the war. During the great war we were not permitted to say certain things, and when the Crimes Bill now before this chamber is enacted the right of free speech will be further restricted. At present I cannot be prevented from saying what I was not permitted to say during the war, arid that is that in Gallipoli Australian soldiers were shot down by the Turks, who were using guns of British manufacture. We have been told that Australia, as a member of the League, has no option; it has to abide by the

Covenant. The members of the Austraiian Labour party do not propose to do that. From one end of Australia to the other the Australian Labour party, industrially and politically, has definitely declared itself against the imposition of sanctions. Why should we refuse food to Italy, and by so doing starve those Abyssinians, including women and children, whom Italy controls? Such eventualities may arise out of the imposition of sanctions to which this Government asks the Opposition to become a party. I point out that while we refuse food to Italy that country is being supplied with petrol; it is getting all the petrol that it needs.


Senator Dein - Sanctions have not yet been actually applied.


Senator COLLINGS - How much longer will it be before the League gets on with the real job? We propose to refuse to supply food to Italy, but apparently supplies of a more essential commodity - petrol - are to be continued, although this will enable Italy to operate against the Abyssinians its mechanized army, including its great fleet of aeroplanes. Let us be honest in this matter. The Leader of the Government does not tell us why petrol has not been specifically placed on the list of sanctions or mentioned in this bill. I suggest that the reason is that great international interests - the oil producers of different countries - want to continue to reap unholy profits out of Italy. Deny Italy petrol, and immediately its capacity to attack Abyssinia and prosecute the present conflict would be prejudiced. But the Government does not dare to tread on the tender toes of great international and vested interests, by following such a course. The whole thing is a rotten and disgusting business, in which the Opposition is asked to soil its hands; we will not agree to that. Writing in the Sunday Sun of the 20th October, Mr. Charles Melaun said -

The wall around Italy is not even built yet, but holes appear in it already, here and there. American oil interests when approached to join in shutting off this vital product from Italy, refused to do so. as petrol is not on President Roosevelt's embargo list.

Will the imposition of sanctions really help to establish collective security? What really do we propose to do? The suggestion now made, which I will put in the form of a quotation from Mr. J. R. Clynes, who. was Secretary of State for Home Affairs in the last Labour Government in Britain is-

We can have peace by millions of bayonets, by a strong navy and a. greater air force, and, having talked peace with a background of gunpowder, are asked to believe that all these armaments are assembled to be ready not to use them.

Great Britain, as the greatest colonizing country of the world, is not new to this game. It has proselytized the natives, going, to them with a rum bottle in one hand and a gun behind its back. We are told that great navies and armies should be assembled in the cause of peace; that the forces that are being assembled by the nations to-day will not be used. If honorable senators heard that I had gone to Sydney to take lessons in pugilism, would they conclude that I was adopting such a course just for fun or that I was preparing against my return to this chamber to combat any belligerent young opponent who might tackle me here? Obviously, if I pay for boxing lessons I intend to use the knowledge I gain. Similarly, when nations pay for armaments they intend to use them. Mr. J. R. Clynes continued -

We have national leaders who go looking for peace with a gun. It is a delusion that national security means armaments.


Senator Sir George Pearce - Does not the honorable senator believe in adequate defence?


Senator COLLINGS - I do, but that is beside the point. There will never be a dearth of excuses for embroiling a country in war. The Leader of the Senate was prolific in advancing such excuses this morning. He reeled them off in the polished phrases of which he is a master, until he almost persuaded me that there was something in them. In, 1914 the cry was " poor little Belgium ". Australians then were told that little Belgian children had had their hands cut off at the wrists. The. fact was that not one victim of such atrocities could be produced. However, the cry was effective and Australia, like the wonderful country it is, rallied to that cry. What is the cry to-day? It is - save the League of Nations in the interests of collective security. As a rallying cry this is one of the cleverest. subtlest and most specious that has ever yet been raised in the cause of war. It may be put as follows : Are you in f avour of war? No? Well then support the League of Nations, In other words, go looking for peace with a gun. The Great War of 1914 was a war to end war; now the cry is that this conflict is a war to ensure peace. To show that our arguments are not wholly illogical, I quote from ProfessorCharteris who, when addressing the Sydney Constitutional Club on sanctions, said -

The only thing that is obligatory is article 16 which is impossible as it is so rigorous that it cannot be enforced. All that can be done by outside authorities is to make a recommendation and it is for Australia to say whether it will accept that recommendation or not,

Obviously, Australia would not be disloyal if it declined to be a party to the sanctions. As Professor Charteris has pointed out, the matter of sanctions rests on a recommendation which Australia can accept or reject. I point out that 46 per cent. of the people who voted for my party at the federal election twelve months ago-


Senator Sir George Pearce - Not on this question.


Senator COLLINGS - No; they have not voted yet on this matter, and this Government is not game to submit it to a vote of the people. The former Minister for Health and Repatriation (Mr. Hughes) is to-day the greatest political figure in Australia because his statements on sanctions have touched the hearts of the people, and have caused the Government to victimize him. I suggest that the Government should go to the people on this matter, and ask them if they are prepared to become embroiled in war for the sake of international security. Whatever mandate the Government received at. the last federal elections, it was given by only 54 per cent. of the people who voted; the remainder voted for Labour party candidates. But at the last election the Government did not mention war, or, in fact, any of the important measures which have been put through this chamber since its return to power. Government candidates told the people that they would tackle unemployment, but they have not so far touched that matter. They have not tackled the mandate they received from the people to save the youth of the nation from its loss of morale due to unemployment; young men of from 18 to 21 years of age have not yet had a job and the only employment this Government can give them apparently is to send them overseas as cannon fodder.

Australia is being invited - and I particularly draw the attention of the Leader of the Government to this pointto become a participant in the manufacture of the. hell broth now brewing in that witch's cauldron, Central Europe. The Government knows this to be a fact as well as we do. It knows that as a result of the Treaty of Versailles, not peace, but war, has been brought into the hearts of the people of Europe - that as a result of the harsh terms of that treaty the youths of Italy and Germany have been goaded into revolt, and that this factor is the cause of conditions existing in those countries to-day. The world is suffering from a plethora of pacts. God save us from any more of them ! We have the Pact of Paris, the Kellogg Pact and the Treaty of Versailles. These make up a medley which is at once contradictory and confusing. But one central fact of primary importance to Australia is, as I have already shown, that each country in the League of Nations is entitled to decide for itself whether or not it will do those tilings which this bill invites us to do and which in their essence are acts of war. Let us not forget that standing back in the dreadful shadows of this Abyssinian dispute and everything it connotes are the great armament firms, the ghoulish manufacturers of death for profit, wealthy traitors to every country. These are facts! Let us come down out of the clouds and face them. Are we going to give the armament trusts the opportunity which would be afforded them if we ourselves entered into this brawl? A sub-committee of the Temporary Mixed Commission of the League of Nations in 1921 - and conditions, I remind honorable senators, have not altered very much since - made the following charges against the armament firms: -

1.   Armament firms have been active in fomenting war scares and in persuading their own countries to adopt warlike policies and to increase their armaments.

2.   Armament firms have attempted to bribe government officials both at home and abroad.

3.   Armament firms have disseminated false reports concerning the military and naval programmes of various countries in order to stimulate armament expenditure.

4.   Armament firms have sought to influence public opinion through the control of newspapers in their own and foreign countries.

5.   Armament firms have organized international rings through which the armaments race has been accentuated by playing off one country against another.

6.   Armament firms have organized international armament trusts, which have increased the price of armaments to governments. [Extension of time granted.]

Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.


Senator COLLINGS - I have already stated that the Opposition believes that Australia should keep out of the trouble between Italy and Abyssinia. The following extract from the Sydney Sunday Sun of the 13th October, 1935,. sets out clearly the position of Australia -

In Canberra this week a young nation has. been standing at the cross-roads of its destiny; in the sight of the whole people a decision has been made as to the road to be taken. But the people themselves will make the ultimate decision on the issue oil which Parliament has just voted.

With a few lapses the debate has been conducted on a high level. Personalities have been largly avoided, and many membershave made thoughtful and carefully-prepared speeches.

I would say that the question on which the House ultimately voted was approximately this : -

Putting on one side every purely ethical and moral argument, taking no account of the rights and wrongs of the Italo- Abyssinian quarrel, eliminating every consideration of world? patriotism, disregarding even the fate of other Empire countries, studying solely Australian self-interest - what is the best way of keeping Australia out of war, both now and in the next decade?

In those last words you have the crux of the matter. Both now and in the next decade ". The Opposition believes that there is imminent danger of a world war and a grave risk that Australia will be dragged into it.

The refusal of the Opposition to support the League is not based on any disagreement with its theories or ideals; it takes the view that the League has become so weak through defections as to be dangerous, that it is no longer a real league of nations, but is such a defective weapon that it is liable to explode in the hand's of the user. Such a weapon, the Opposition says, should he put aside.

It is our duty calmly to consider all the facts, or such of them as ' we are permitted to know. I say deliberately as a result of years of experience outside of Parliament as well as some years in this chamber, that we are not permitted to know all the facts. And without a knowledge of all the facts we should not submit to what this bill asks of us. The Government does not dare to acquaint the Senate with all the facts. It is not prepared to lay all its cards on the table. It knows very well thatOld World complications are such that we are, as it were, sitting on the edge of a volcano all the time. Before making up our minds regarding this bill we should know all the facts that are available. We should set aside racial prejudices, and realize that a policy of " one in, all in " is not necessarily a wise one. " My country right or wrong " is inherently vicious, and leads to injustice and tyrnanny. Let us free our minds of catch cries, and realize that there is such a thing as the tyranny of words. Surely, it is illogical for intelligent Australians to believe that war can possibly be a cure for the crime of war. One might as well pour petrol on a fire in an attempt to put it out as resort to war in order to destroy war. I am reminded of the words of JamesRussell Lowell -

Ef you take a sword an' dror it,

An' go stick a feller thru,

Guv-ment ain't to answer for it,

God'll send the bill to you.

Honorable senators cannot escape from their individual responsibilties. I ask whether, by agreeing to sanctions, we shall be making Australia's finest contribution to the cause of civilization and human progress and happiness? In all sincerity, I suggest that Australia should not be expected to take part in Old World feuds. This continent contains only a handful of people who are many thousands of miles distant from the centre of disturbance, and it is our duty and privilege to develop it along the lines of social justice and industrial peace. We should not do anything which is inconsistent with the best interests of agreat democracy and the principles of liberty, equality, and fraternity. The Leader of the Senate has not told us all to which Australia is committed as a member of the League of Nations.


Senator Sir George Pearce - I thought that the honorable senator had read the Covenant of the League for himself.


Senator COLLINGS - In regard to social and international peace the following reference to the International Labour Organization of the League of Nations is enlightening : -

The Constitution of the League of Nations will not provide a real solution of the troubles that have beset the world in the past and will not even be able to eliminate the seeds of international strife unless it provides a remedy for the industrial evils and injustices which mar the present state of society. In proposing, therefore, to establish a permanent organization in order to adjust labour conditions by international action, the Commission felt that it was taking an indispensable step towards the achievement of the objects of the League of Nations.

The same view is expressed in the preamble to Part XIII. of the Versailles Treaty, which declares that -

Whereas the League of Nations has for its object the establishment of universal peace, and such a peace can be established only if it is based upon social justice:

And whereas conditions of labour exist involving such injustice, hardship and privation to large numbers of people as to produce unrest so great that the peace and harmony of the world are imperilled . . .

The High Contracting Parties, moved by sentiments of justice and humanity, as well as by the desire to secure the permanent peace of the world, agree to the following . ' . .

Then follow the 40 articles of the Constitution of the International Labour Organization. The Versailles Treaty recognized that international peace and social justice are bound up together. That is what the Opposition is always trying to impress on honorable senators opposite. International peace is impossible while world conditions remain as they are. There cannot be international peace while thousands of young men are turned out of our schools, colleges and universities every year with no prospects of employment. So long as men are forced to roam the streets of our great cities, and are in danger of being destroyedbody and soul because of the social injustices which exist, there cannot be international peace. There cannot be peace between States if there is class war within the State. The Crimes Bill, with which we dealt yesterday, is deliberately designed to deal with those who preach class war, even though, like myself, they hate it. Practically the who.e of the civilized world is pledged under article 13 of the Covenant, not only to recognize this fact, but also to try to solve the resulting problem by cooperation and conciliation. That means that they recognize the important fact that States and classes are not ultimate realities, but are merely temporary expedients adopted by humanity to organize its communal life. In other words, wc cannot go on as we are. The present social order cannot long continue, for there exists a clash of interests between section and section and between nation and nation. I commend to honorable senators a volume in the library entitled The Retreat from Glory, by Bruce Lockhart, a gentleman who has occuped diplomatic, positions of varying importance in many of the States of central Europe. Mr. Lockhart says -

One tiling was curtain. The new Europe, which wc had hoped to build, was crumbling rapidly. The period of glory was ended. The armed peace of the victors had made a travesty of the League of Nations, had sown resentments deeper than the wa.r had created, lt was destroying the German Repubic. In the Sucession States millions of Slavs had been liberated from the yoke of Austria and Hungary. Freedom, education, and countless new benefits had been bestowed on the former downtrodden. But, in spite of enlightened statesmen like President Masaryk, they had not benefited by their own experience. Nearly everywhere they were repeating the same injustices and the same intolerance as their former oppressors had once shown towards them. Not a single one of the problems left by the peace had been solved. Germany was a festering sore. Hungary, who had learnt least from thu war, was, admittedly, a difficult problem. But Austria, whoso favour and goodwill the Little Entente could have won without difficulty in 1022, had been left in hopeless destitution. Bulgaria, whose people at n.ny rate should not have been punished for the sins of their former King, was still without an outlet to the Aegean. The Cl, 02eSt fruits of man's intelligence, peace by enlightment, fraternity, justice, and fa.ir play, democracy, freedom of individual opinion, had been allowed to rot ungathered. Common sense had gone by the board. Idealism was dead, and everywhere the: cynics and the armament firms were coming into their own.

Much as I tried to understand the point of view of the French. I could not appreciate thu logic of their terrible consistency. I knew, a.s every one knew, that there were militarists in Germany - irrecony.il able militarists who wished to re-establish rule by the sword. In 1019 thev had been discredited. But ever since Versailles French policy had played into their hands. There could be no peace in Europe so long as any e Frenchman wau dared to suggest a policy of reconciliation with Germany was considered a traitor by other Frenchmen, and so long as Gorman militarists were allowed to proclaim that thu Germany army had been defeated, not by the arms of thu -Mi iea, but by the treachery of German Socialists and Rujju.hl.cans.

J.   quoted that extract merely to show that there is no peace, and there can be no peace, and that the present embroglio between Italy and Abyssinia is one outcome of the Treaty of Versailles, reparations, and other things agreed upon by the victors at the conclusion of the last war. This bill involves us in that em bro-'io. Once having agreed to those sanctions, we cannot consistently fail to consent to other acts that may be rendered necessary as this dispute progresses.

I desire honorable senators to believe me when I say that I have not made my address here merely because I sit in Opposition. This is not some new, outlook on the problems and theories of life which I have arrived at within recent months. I have always held the opinions that I speak to-day with regard to the non-necessity and horrors of war. 1 have said before in this chamber that if wo had a Minister for Peace instead of a Minister for Defence, a Council of Peace instead of a Council for War, and if we were prepared to develop this great southern democracy along the lines of constructive peacewilling, desiring, working for and. if necessary, paying for, peace - wi> would light a beacon that would be a guide to the other nations of the world. If, having put our hands to the plough, we had the courage, energy and determination to plough our furrow, even though it be a lone one, to the end, we would be making a greater contribution towards the settlement of this dispute, and the peace and harmony of the world, with resultant prosperity, progress and happiness for the whole community, than is possible bv becoming participants in the application of sanctions. I ask honorable senators to believe that this opposition to the bill is not something ephemeral. We did not decide to take this course on the. spur of the moment, or because we constitute the Opposition. I have always firmly believed that our actions live after us, and continue on until this great globe is dissolved. They pass inevitably down as an inheritance from one generation to another. Every act we perform affects our own character and every character affects that of someone else. Every act of every character is still affecting this nation to-day. We labour -under tue baseness of others and are raised by their nobility. Social and anti-social actions alike live on. Decency and integrity, courage and compassion are always well worth while. They are not lost but pass on down the generations. We are, indeed, the heirs of all ages. The future is the heir of the present as the present is the heir of the past. I ask honorable senators before casting their votes to believe that they will not be doing anything original in supporting this bill. Through the centuries Parliaments, when faced with crises such as that which now confronts us, always without exception, have come to the same decision. There have always been the same specious appeals to the spurious patriotism of the people, pleading which only gets us further into the bog of international injustice and tyranny. There is never any attempt made to tackle the problem in any new, more Christian; righteous, and just manner.


Senator Brennan - Does the honorable senator believe in patriotism?


Senator COLLINGS - I believe with Johnson, that patriotism, as preached by the warmongers in this chamber and elsewhere, is the last refuge of scoundrels. There has never been a war in which the alleged patriots - Jabez Wright and the like - have not waxed fat on the misery and degradation of the people, who first gave their blood, and, later, if they were fortunate enough to be spared, had to bear the burden of taxation to pay for the war. When Senator Brennan asked by interjection whether I believe in patriotism his object was that, later on, he should be able to misrepresent my attitude. He did not ask the question in order to obtain an answer from me which would enable me further to protest my honesty in this business, but he endeavoured to trap me into making some indiscreet reply which might be used against me in the future. I shall not be caught bv that means. In the sacred name of patriotism, every form of tyranny and injustice has been fastened on the people. Because I believe that as we mate our own characters, we affect the characters of others in the community, and that at this hour Australia stands at the cross-roads of destiny, and has a wonderful opportunity and responsibility to do something unconventional, unorthodox and worthwhile, I urge that we should try what the gospel of love can do, instead of the gospel of hate. Let us try consistency with humanitarian principles, instead of inconsistency. I have quoted from the convention of the International Labour Office, an integral part of the League of Nations. Let us remember that there is no hocus pocus, no magical formula by which we can encompass peace, but there is hocus pocus, a sample of which we had this mornm%> by which we can provoke war. We have a wonderful opportunity to put ourselves right, both with ourselves and with the world, and go marching forward to a higher standard of human understanding, righteousness, cleanliness and decency than that which any other country has enjoyed hitherto.







Suggest corrections