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Wednesday, 13 November 1935


The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. P. J. Lynch) - Order ! The honorable senator has used a. rather coarse expression.


Senator BROWN - I do not agree, Mr. President, that my expression is coarse ; it is a simple analogyexpressed in simple language, and it deals with an event which has happened. The fall of one parson from the path of rectitude would notjustify us in condemning the Christian faith.


The PRESIDENT - The honorable senator has sufficient command of the English language to enable him to find a better analogy.


Senator BROWN - I emphasize that the power exerted by economic interests in time of war is so great that, in the opinion of my party, it would be impossible for a few nations to impose sanctions on Italy should a great nation tike Germany, right at Italy's door, be prepared to trade with Italy. [Extension of time granted.] Some sentimentalists believe that it is possible to impose sanctions so effectively against Italy that it will be rendered hors de combat. What will be the position in the event of Germany's borders remaining open to Italy, and the British and French Governments and their supporters: in the League falling foul of Germany through the impositions of sanctions? Will it mean that Australia will be committed to another war with that country ? I would like the Minister representing the Government to answer such queries as these when replying to the debate.


Senator Hardy - What alternative course does the honorable senator suggest the League of Nations should' take in order to stop this Avar?


Senator BROWN - I am not dealing with alternatives. In answer to a question earlier in this debate, I stated definitely that the Labour party would not support Australia's participation in this struggle on the plea that Australia must, with other nations go to war in order to bring about peace. In 1914, we participated in a war to end war; now the cry is that we should go to war to bring about peace. In reply to Senator Hardy's query, I point out that, because of the defection of Germany and Japan from the League of Nations, and because America is not a member of the League, the situation, so far as Australia's allegiance to the League is concerned, has changed considerably during the last few years. To-day it is not right that Australia should be committed to take up a stand with Great Britain and France in the imposition of sanctions against Italy, because the League of Nations has not the. power to enforce its desires. Were Germany, the United States of America and Japan members of the League of Nations and committed to sanctions, Italy would be confronted by a combination of great powers against which it could not stand. But the interests of the great powers in some respects are so opposed that unanimity among them is impossible. To some extent, I agree with the statements made by Mr. W.. M. Hughes in his book Australia and the War To-day. In condemning the League of Nations, the right honorable gentleman went so far as to say -

The old diplomacy was far from perfect.. It did not prevent all wars, but it did prevent a great many. It was attuned to the world as it realty is, and not to the world as it might be. If it had been operating to-day it would have been able to prevent the war between Abyssinia and Italy and international relations would have been much more stable.

I am inclined to agree with Mr. Hughes that sanctions will be ineffective unless supported by force.


Senator Hardy - Does Mr. Hughes mention economic force in his book?


Senator BROWN - He mentions both economic and military force. He says bluntly that a recalcitrant nation can be kept in check only by the application of force. The Labour party fears that Australia will again be embroiled in. a European squabble. Within a few weeks we may find' that, instead of the imposition of sanctions bringing peace, it has involved Australia in a major conflict; that instead of collective security ensuring peace for Europe, the weakness of the League of Natrons will result in another world war.


Senator Hardy - Why destroy the proposal until something to replace it is ready ?


Senator BROWN - Unfortunately, the Labour party has not the numbers to defeat the Government's proposal ; but it will continue to express views which it believes to be right. I am inclined to agree with Mr. Hughes that the old diplomacy could bring about a better result than is possible to a weak League of Nations. The right honorable gentleman goes further in his book when he points out that Italy is at war with Abyssinia to-day because of the weakness of the League of Nations in allowing Germany to re-arm. Germany is now one of the most powerful nations in Europe; and will be able to say "Yea " or " Nay " to the world should ittake the field. I do not know whether,inthe event of war, Germany would side with Great Britain or with Italy; but one thing is certain - Hitler would ally Germany with the side which would confer the greatest benefit on the German nation. Before Germany enters the field it will weigh the possibilities in the balance.


Senator Dein - Did not every nation which participated in the Great War do that?


Senator BROWN - The motives underlying the actions of nations are not fundamentally different from those which underlie the actions of individuals, including electors.


Senator Arkins - I ask the honorable senator not to include me in his references to mob psychology.


Senator BROWN - I was replying to an interjection by Senator Dein; but I now say that Senator Arkins, like every other honorable senator, is affected by mob psychology.


Senator McLeay - Some are more affected by it than are others.


Senator BROWN - That is so. Some day mob psychology may not be so potent a force as it is to-day. Those honorable senators who are interested in mob psychology should read a book on the subject by the French writer Le Bou. The situation in Europe may be likened to an international game of chess: one move, and the whole situation may be changed. The game is being played secretly, and we can follow its progress only by what we read in the newspapers. Members of this Parliament know only what the Government allows them to know. I have no doubt that for some time past messages have passed freely between Italy, France, Great Britain and Australia in relation to the situation in Europe. An interchange of views regarding the European situation is constantly taking place between Germany, France and Britain. These nations arc playing for high stakes, and we are wondering from day to day which side Germany will join. According to the Melbourne Herald of yesterday, efforts are being made by Germany, behind the back of the League of Nations, and in collusion with France and Britain, to bring about a tripartite agreement, apart altogether from sanctions.

According to the press, Germany is anxious that article 16 of the Covenant of the League should be eliminated, so that it could co-operate with France and Britain in the establishment of armed peace in the European camp.


Senator Hardy - But Australia has subscribed to article 16 since the inception of the League.


Senator BROWN - No doubt an opportunity will be afforded later to the honorable senator to express his views on this all-important subject.


Senator Arkins - Does the honorable senator agree with the leader of his party that Russia threw democracy to the winds when it subscribed to the imposition of sanctions against Italy?


Senator BROWN - The honorable senator has presumably read in the Sydney Morning Herald that those words were used by the Leader of the Labour party (Mr. Curtin) ; but I do not know whether the statement was actually made, and until I am certain on the point. I do not intend to be drawn into an argument regarding it. I know that the Melbourne Herald has definitely said that there is a movement on foot to put Russia beyond the pale, and to link up Britain, France and Germany for the purpose of imposing peace on Europe, independently of the League of Nations.


Senator Arkins - Supposing the Leader of the Labour party had made the statement to which I have referred, what would the honorable senator say?


Senator BROWN - I shall not discuss that matter, but I shall be pleased to give the honorable senator an attentive hearing when he addresses us on the bill.

If the Parliament agrees to this measure, we shall establish a precedent which may involve Australia in every European dispute. We should not follow in the wake of the warring nations of the Old World, and consider it our duty to take sides actively in their many quarrels. The question we have to decide is not merely whether we support the application of sanctions, but, as some honorable senators opposite have admitted, whether we are to follow sanctions to their logical conclusion, and, if necessary, fight to the bitter end.


Senator Payne - Hear! Hear!


Senator BROWN - I applaud the honorable senator for his frankness, but I do not admire the attitude of some members of his party who would have the public believe that the imposition of sanctions is the only issue involved. Senator Payne would fight to the bitter end, if necessary. He has the courage of his convictions. No doubt he is prepared to see Australia put it? hand to the sword, and carry on a conflict until a decisive result is obtained.


Senator Payne - Does the honorable senator wish Australia to disgrace itself?


Senator BROWN - I regard that interjection as foolish. The Opposition has been trying to show that tho best policy for Australia to pursue is to avoid being embroiled in a European conflict. Time will show whether that policy is right or wrong. Why should we set up a precedent which must involve us ii. international disputes overseas?


Senator Payne - Some precedents are very necessary.


Senator BROWN - Undoubtedly, but I am convinced that the Government has taken the wrong path in precipitately plunging Australia into the trouble over Abyssinia.


Senator Brennan - Would it be right for Australia to break the Covenant of the League?


Senator BROWN - As a sovereign nation, it could have notified the League that it desired to take no part in. the dispute, because its policy is one of peace. The Government, however, has decided to commit Australia to participation to the limit of its powers, even probably to the despatch of troops abroad.


Senator Abbott - That is a gross misrepresentation, because military sanctions are not involved in the consideration of this measure.


Senator BROWN - I have been trying to point out that the imposition of economic sanctions against Italy would undoubtedly lead in the end to military action, and that there would be every probability of Australia being embroiled in a war with Italy, and, possibly, other countries. The imposition of the sanctions for which this bill provides would undoubtedly be resented by Italy to such an extent that Mussolini, who has trained millions of men for war, would throw down the gauntlet, and pit his forces against Britain and Prance. The Canberra Times of to-day publishes a cable from Rome in which the temper of II Duce is plainly revealed. Like the mouse who got drunk on whisky and defiantly cried "Now bring out your cats", Mussolini, drunk with power, believes that Italy can fight the world.


Senator Hardy - The honorable senator is prepared to let him do it.


Senator BROWN - No. I believe, with the Premier of Queensland (Mr. Forgan Smith), that the control of Abyssinia is not worth the life of one good Australian. "Why was not the control of Manchukuo worth thousands of Australian lives? Not a word of protest was uttered by honorable senators supporting the Government when the Japanese penetrated Manchuria, and when the Gran Chaco dispute occurred. But now that Great Britain and Italy, who for years have been discussing the economic partition of Abyssinia, are ranged against each other, Australia is prepared, practically without discussion in this Parliament, to throw in its lot with the League of Nations merely because Britain says that that would be the proper procedure. The terms under which Italy is prepared to make peace have not been debated in this chamber or in the House of Representatives, and we have not been given an opportunity to say whether we stand for or against Italy in this dispute. To-day I gave notice of a question relating to the conditions on which Italy is prepared to cease hostilities. The Government, undoubtedly acting within its powers, has agreed to a certain procedure, but the Sanctions Bill is only a formality. The measure is brought before Parliament and honorable senators debate it, but its passage is assured. The Government might as well bc Mussolini, so far as Parliamentary control of its actions is concerned.


Senator Dein - Parliament could defeat the hill if it wished ?


Senator BROWN - Yes; but the Government has already committed this country, not only to the application of economic sanctions, but practically to military sanctions, which may lead to universal disruption and war. The trouble in Europe will spread like wild- fire, and honorable senators will have no say in preventing Australia from becoming involved. War will be upon us possibly before honorable senators realize it; and doubtless they will then offer the excuse that they approved only of economic sanctions and not of military sanctions.


Senator Arkins - What is the opinion of the British Labour party?


Senator BROWN - I refer the honorable senator to my speech on Friday, when I stated that quite a number of persons in the Labour movement throughout the world agree with the attitude of the Australian Labour party toward sanctions. We have adopted a definite policy on many vital matters, which is not acceptable to Labour organizations in other parts of the world. As a boy [ lived in the Old Country, and I know that the British Labour party was partial to the international outlook. Its members were very friendly to foreigners, regardless of nation or colour, who visited their hospitable shores. They had no conception of the White Australia principle, which they regard as being utterly wrong. In the present circumstances, the British Labour party's outlook on sanctions is international; but because it considers that the policy of the League of Nations is right, that does not influence the Australian Labour party. In approaching this subject we have given consideration to possible future developments. If Australia is committed to act in accordance with the League's decision to apply sanctions, a precedent will be established which may react against us when the White Australia principle or some other principle dear to Australia, is discussed by the League. Rightly or wrongly wo believe that the Government has made a mistake in this matter, and we, as a party, are opposed to sanctions. We are not against any procedure which will bring about peace in the world, but we do object to an action taken by a few nations and likely to cause another war in Europe.

In conclusion, I ask honorable senators to give every credit to members of the Labour party, as public men, for speaking sincerely on this matter. We desire to do the best for Australia; we hope that we are right; and we hope that the Commonwealth will not have to suffer any serious consequences as a result of the Government's mistake. We are as good and loyal Australians as anybody in the community, doing what we think is right in the best interests of Australia. While believing in the defence of this country, we consider that Australia, in view of its situation, would be better advised not to be embroiled in any European controversy, and that it should devote its energies to building up a worthy nation within its own boundaries.







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