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Wednesday, 13 November 1935


Senator SAMPSON (Tasmania) . - I do not propose to traverse at length the amazing statements made by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) in speaking on this bill, butI must say that I was pained and grieved at the extraordinary doctrines which he enunciated. If I deduce his meaning aright his remarks were pitiable and pathetic. The honorable senator said that because Australia is a sparsely populated country it could not defend itself andshouldbe kept out of these troubles.


Senator Brown - I do not think that the Leader of the Opposition said that Australia could not defend itself.


Senator SAMPSON - I dispute the contention of the Leader of the Opposition that Australia cannot defend itself. Australia can, and will, defend itself if given an opportunity to do so. Australia is not the small and insignificant nation that the Leader of the Opposition would have us believe that it is. In this country to-day we have at least 2,000,000 men of fighting age. To the pathetic and pitiable doctrine that we must in all circumstances keep out of trouble I do not subscribe. When the honorable senator says that Australia should not participate in any European war, I ask him what we would think or say if Great Britain declared that it would not help Australia in the event of an invasion. We stand together or we fall together. During the Great War, Australia was defended in Gallipoli, Belgium, France and Palestine, just as surely as if our trenches had been cut across Commonwealthavenue in Canberra. We can, and will, defend Australia. Universal training is an adequate, necessary and effective means, and what is more it is truly democratic. I. do not subscribe for a moment to the doctrine thatwe are incapable of defending ourselves. Possibly if it came to a fight with tongues some honorable senatorswould be regarded as champions. We have shown that Ave are capable of playing a man's part. Kipling says that -

No easy hopes or lies

Shall bring us to our goal:

But iron sacrifice

Of body, will and soul.

Thosewho think only of material things, of ample food, comfortable clothing, and ease, should study carefully those lines. The Leader of the Opposition almost made me weep, so fearful was the picture he painted. The inference to be drawn from the honorable senator's remarkswas that some members of the Government are anxious to send men overseas to be butchered and maimed. He said that men weresent overseas during the Great War. No Australians were sent overseas to serve in that conflict. We were not sent;wewent of our own free will.I trust that I shall be pardoned if I intro duce a personal note. One of my kiddies was born on the day that war was declared. I went overseas when hewas a little chap three months old, and I did not see him again for several years. Do you think I wanted to go ? Politicians, writers, pedants, students and others may argue until the crack of doom as to the cause of the greatwar. I can give the reason why over 300,000 Australians felt it their duty to offer all they had, by putting their poor, frail bodies up against the mighty armies of a great disciplined power lusting forworld domination. Stripped of all camouflage, humbug and make-believe, the reasonwhy wewent was thatwe believed that mightwas not right, and never will be while free men inhabit the earth. That iswhywewent. We realized that if might were greater than right, Australia would not be safe. Wewanted Australia to remain a country inwhich men and women may live their lives according to their lights, so long as in so doing they do not inflict hardship upon others. That is whywe went. It is a false doctrine that we can repudiate our pledged word, act dishonorably, and still retain our selfrespect and the respect of other nations.

Hadwe been living in the good old days, or bad old days, whicheverwe may term them, the conflict between Italy and Abyssiniawould not have produced an international crisis. Abyssinia would have been invaded like many other African countries have been invaded, and there would have been just another colonialwar. Britain and France would have asserted their rights under the Tripartite Treaty of 1906, and Italywould have given the same assurance that it has now given that it would respect those rights. In the olden days this conflictwould not have concerned the world at large, but it does concern it to-day. Why? Because there is a League of Nations. By making the conflict itsown concern the League has made it the vital concern of all of its members. It is the League that has transformed what would have' been a remote and local affair into a near and general problem. That being so, according to the Leader of the Opposition, we should be better off without the League. Has the League really had a chance? It emerged from the Great War when there seemed to be one supreme necessity - the prevention of another world war. Admittedly the League has met with some failures. It failed to avert or stop war in the Far East and in South America. It failed to avert war between Italy and Abyssinia; but it is now doing its best to prevent it from continuing. In any hostile criticism of the League let us be just. The Far East is a long way off. To have brought pressure to bear upon a great power such as Japan, which has absolute command of its own home waters, would have been exceedingly difficult, and very dangerous, especially to Great Britain, which has so much at stake in the Far East. Many argue that the war in the Far East could, and ought, to have been stopped by the League. I am not saying that those who so argued are wrong. I merely say that the effort would have been difficult and very dangerous. Moreover, we have no means to judge with any degree of certainty whether it would or would not have been possible to coerce the Japanese. The war in South America was fought between two relatively weak States - Paraguay and Bolivia. It was so far off and in a region so inaccessible that again interference by. the League would have been extremely difficult. There is also the Monroe doctrine and it is very doubtful whether the United States of America, or the South American States, would have wished any interference by nations of the Old World. Now there is war much closer at hand between two nations, both of which are members of the League. One is in Europe and, to use a venerable term, belongs to the modern " concert of European powers " - a concert which gives the League whatever reality it may possess. We cannot say that on this occasion, it was physically impossible for the League to have prevented war between Italy and Abyssinia. But would not coercive measures be so difficult and so dangerous that Europe might lose more than it would gain? That is a matter on which opinions may differ. Everything that could be done through conciliation and arbitration has been or is being done. Oan the terms, or, rather, the general directions of the Covenant be enforced with full vigour if gentler methods fail? We do not know yet, but we may know before long. Great Britain most certainly does not desire conflict with Italy, although the happenings of a few weeks ago would suggest that Mussolini believed that it did. His threats and boasts about Malta and Gibraltar were really responsible for the strengthening of the British naval forces in the Mediterranean, by the addition of several vessels belonging to the Home fleet.

The League is either a reality or it if not. The Covenant is either a serious treaty, which has to be honoured by those who signed it, or it is an expression of amiable and impotent idealism. The collective system is either an effective instrument for the preservation of peace, or it is an empty formula. When the League was established, it was assumed that the United States of America would be a member of it. I recall very clearly the atmosphere and temper in Paris when the terms of the Peace Treaty were being considered, because I had a job of work to do in Paris just at that time. 1 witnessed the arrival of the German, Austrian and Turkish delegates, and I have a vivid recollection of the picturesque Abyssinian delegates who came to Paris to congratulate the late President Woodrow Wilson on the success of the peace negotiations, and also, no doubt, to do what was possible to prevent their country from being " gobbled-up " by some of the victors. I clearly remember that it was taken for granted then that the United States of America would be u member of the proposed League of Nations. That assumption proved to be wrong.

More was expected of the League than was politically possible, though in the circumstances of the times, this was not surprising, because it was forgotten that if, and when, moral suasion failed, there was no provision for the application, by the League, of force to ensure the observance of its covenants. This may be one of the reasons why, in some directions, the League has failed to fulfil its real purpose. We should, however, remember that the League represented an international revolution - one of the greatest in history; that it is, and was, a great experiment, and, like all experiments must develop by trial and error. Only there must be a time limit to its experimental working, or if there is no limit, we must simply face the facts and draw our own conclusions.

If the League goes on shrinking - unfortunately in recent years it has shrunk somewhat - until it fades out of existence, we must not go on pretending that it exists as an effective instrument for the maintenance of international peace. Least of all can we allow it to be distorted into the opposite - something that while never averting trouble, will always drag us into it.

The quarrel between Italy and Abyssinia is a real and severe test in the sense that the far-eastern and South American conflicts we're not. The British Commonwealth of Nations is resolved to carry out to the full the obligations that are laid down in the Covenant. But it cannot do so alone. Indeed, it is not its business to do so alone, for it is the essence of these obligations that they shall be collective.

I desire now to refer briefly to the attitude of the Australian Labour party to the imposition of sanctions. Labour's policy appears to me to be one of funk and dishonour. I can place no other interpretation upon what I have read of speeches delivered by Labour leaders, and what I have heard from the mouths of Labour's representatives in this chamber. Unless as a nation we are to be dishonored, wo must honour our solemn word and respect our obligations. A friend with whom I discussed Labour's attitude in this crisis suggested an analogy which I think is very apt. He reminded me that in industrial disputes a trade union calls a strike to secure redress of the grievances of its members. In furtherance of its policy it imposes sanctions against the employer. Any member of the union who, because of his circumstances, or because he fears to antagonize his employer, refuses to strike, is branded as a "scab ", and for the remainder of his life " sanctions " are imposed against him by his fellow workers. I remind our Labour friends that Australia is a member of a union - the League of Nations - and, as such, it must loyally support its fellow members in the course agreed upon to ensure world peace. Is Australia to become an international "scab"? God forbid! I would sooner see this country invaded and go down a defeated nation than that it should be said of its people, whose virility was tested some twenty years ago, that they have no sense of honour; that their word is not worth a snap of the fingers ; that whenever trouble looms on the international horizon, Australia " scabs " on its fellow members of the League of Nations. And not only " scabs ", but boasts about it because in this debate we have heard opponents of the Government's policy fighting valiantly with their mouths, suggesting that this country should repudiate its pledges through fear of the result.

The League is above all an instrument of mediation and conciliation. The Covenant does not provide any specific coercive measures except under article 16 which can only be invoked to stop a war that has actually begun. Even when, despite the efforts of the League to avert hostilities, war has broken out, it cannot be seriously argued that the League is a failure. The question to be considered is whether the League can continuously and persistently arbitrate in this conflict. Can it exercise a certain, even if limited, control over its members and more especially over Italy and Abyssinia? Can it exert influence, or even a pressure, that will induce or compel them to negotiate an early peace? And when negotiations have begun, can the League determine or help to determine the nature of the peace so that the terms may not be too vindictive or impossible? To these questions we have as yet no answer, but the answer which coming events will give will make it possible for the powers and for us to judge, for the first time since the League was established, whether it is a reasonably useful instrument for the maintenance of international peace. I wish that this Parliament had unanimously and wholeheartedly approved the bill, because I, for one, cannot see how we can, without loss of face, without suffering dishonour, refuse 'to support sanctions against Italy.







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