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Wednesday, 13 November 1935

Senator COLLINGS - But the war is on.

Senator JAMES McLACHLAN (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - Not so far as Australia is concerned; we have not yet made a single gesture that would indicate that we are likely to take part in this conflict. The settling of differences between nations by other than force of arms is the logical outcome of international law, as it has developed in Europe and elsewhere, during recent years. The League of Nations has been established for sixteen years, and to let pass this opportunity of settling an international dispute, without exploring every article of the League Covenant, would be a confession, not only of failure, but also, and worse still, of a lack of moral courage to put into operation those provisions which might solve the present conflict. T do not admit that this bill constitutes an act of war. In viewing the present conflict and the action which the League has taken to stop hostilities, I stand on article 11 of the League of Nation's Covenant, which says that any threat of war is the concern of the whole of the League, and the League may take any action that may be deemed wise and effectual to preserve world peace. Australia's action in supporting the imposition of sanctions cannot be construed in any sense to indicate a desire on our part for open hostilities. Argument to the contrary is as unreasonable as would be a contention that a baton charge on a mob engaged in destruction constitutes a riot on the part of the police. We must not forget that, if we refuse to resist aggression, we allow the brutal elements of the world to become more powerful than before. It is most unwise to stir our people by insinuations that, because some of us who are members of this Parliament have passed the age of military service, we are forcing our young men into the shambles of war. Those who fought in the Great War have such a realization of the horrors of war that they seldom mention them. Many of us have memories that we do not wish awakened. I ask honorable senators to reflect on the position of the world to-day had the Allies not been victorious in the Great War. All thinking people know that that war was forced upon us, and to-day they are seeking to avoid a repetition of the horrors of 1914-18 by supporting the League of Nations; they are doing everything possible to avoid another world conflict. Great Britain has earned the right to be regarded as the leader of civilization. In the past Great Britain has at times resorted to arms in the interests of civilization; but to-day it is putting up almost a singlehanded fight to maintain the peace of the world by conciliatory measures. Can wo who are bound to Britain, not only by ties of Empire, but also by ties of blood, ignore the traditions of our people? Surely that national honour and integrity of which we are so proud must debar us from even the thought of deserting the Old Country at this critical period in its history. In my opinion, there is only one course to adopt and, therefore, I shall not labour the question. Should the League of Nations fail in its efforts torestore peace on. this occasion, for many years to come might will again be right, and the building of any peace organization will bo postponed indefinitely. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) expressed a pious wish that the nations would establish a peace council instead of a war council. The League of Nations is the greatest council for peace that the world has ever known ; it only requires the support of the peoples of the world to make its efforts successful. On a number of occasions I have listened with interest to the Leader of the Opposition, and have frequently agreed with the humanitarian principles which he has expounded. On this occasion, however, I disagree with the honorable gentleman for, although his argument may have been sincere, his speech from beginning to end was merely sound and fury, signifying nothing.

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