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Thursday, 14 November 1935


Senator ABBOTT (New South Wales) . - I move-

That to encourage the breaking down of barriers and in the interests of mutual understanding and peace among the nations of the world and to enable the founding of an international public opinion and literature -

(1)   It is imperative that a means of international thought exchange be estab lished by a common language to be compulsorily taught in their respectiveprimary and secondary schools;

(2)   For this purpose the Governmentbe asked to list this question on the Agenda of the next General Assembly of the League of Nations;

(3)   That the Government be asked to instruct the delegates representing Australia at the next Assembly of the League to take action to ensure the approval of the Assembly to the above ;

(4)   That the terms of this resolution be communicated to the House of Representatives with a request for concurrence therein;

(5)   That the right honorable the Prime Minister be requested tocommunicate the above to the governments of the United Kingdom, the dominions, and India, seeking their co-operation.

It may seem strange to honorable senators that a motion of this character should be submitted in this chamber and that I, a representative of the Country party, should move it. However, it involves a principle that is far above all party considerations.


Senator Arkins - The wording of the motion suggests that all humanity is the honorable senator's party.


Senator ABBOTT - That is so. If I were taken to task by the producers of this country, whether they be associated with the primary or the secondary divisions of production, for taking up the time of the Senate on this matter. I would reply that all the difficulties through which the world passed during the recent depression have been the result of international, rather than national causes. Nations can apply all sorts of remedies to overcome local economic troubles but whatever a nation may do individually in this respect it is merely applying palliatives. We may give to the patient an aspirin or phenacetin tablet to relieve pain, but we cannot cure economic disease unless we attend to the external as well as the internal causes. No producer, whether primary or secondary, can prosper unless the trade and the business of the world as a whole are on a sound basis. Unless there is proper intercourse between nations, subject always to the local requirements of each nation, and the atmosphere of fright, suspicion, fear, hatred . and distrust, which for so long has afflicted this world, is dispelled, and an atmosphere of international understanding and trust is established, the affairs of the world cannot progress. I suppose that if I were to ask the average person what is the first essential for world peace, the reply would be that if one could get the nations to understand each other the danger of international t friction and war would he greatly minimized and the path to ultimate peace would be open. It is axiomatic that if we could establish understanding, backed by faith and mutual trust, among the peoples of the world, an opportunity would be presented to educate public opinion in succeeding generations in the ideals of peace, to which we all, irrespective of party, colour, creed, or race, subscribe. If international relationships are encouraged in an atmosphere of mutual understanding and trust we shall have a chance to establish throughout the world a state of confidence and harmony which must ultimately lead to permanent peace. But how can we understand each other when we cannot talk to each other? How can we understand each other when we cannot freely exchange our thoughts? To-day we have not the vehicle for such intercourse. The need for establishing better understanding between the nations of the world is being stressed to-day by many thinking people of all nations. In a statement published in the last issue of Nippon, a Japanese quarterly, Koki Hirota, the Japanese Minister for Foreign Affairs says -

To banish war is not, of course, a personal desire of myself alone. It is a common desire of the statesmen of all countries, none of whom wants to see hia fellow citizens sent to a battlefield in order to kill or be killed.

Why, then does war, so universally detested, come irresistibly, as it were, and so frequently as it has come in the past

There are a great many reasons, profound, complicated and often controversial. However, X only wish to mention one factor which constitutes indisputably an underlying cause of wor. It is the lack of mutual understanding between nations which generates needless antipathy, suspicion, and apprehension.

I regret to say that of all the great powers Japan is, perhaps, the one least understood by others. Not only because of Japan's geographic position, but because of the wide difference between our language, our customs and manners and our mode of living and those of the Occidental peoples, they have so far failed to comprehend fully and correctly the character of our State, and the spiritual qualities of our race . . .

This gentleman, who has a great international reputation and is very influential among his own people, concurs in the opinion, which I am now putting forward, that the first essential to world peace is international understanding. Of course the world to-day has its pacts and the League of Nations - and it is right and proper that it should have such safeguards - but we cannot transform human nature in a day; we cannot achieve lasting peace by merely waving a magic wand. Only by applying ourselves patiently and assiduously to the task of educating and raising man's thoughts throughout the world can we make progress to that goal. And so we come to my proposal for the establishment of an international thought exchange, which I advocated towards- the end of 1934, when I was privileged to address the Constitutional Association of New South Wales. I said then that the proposal postulated a common language. I am not concerned what language is adopted. I am not out to advocate any particular system, whether it be Esperanto, basic English or any other medium of thought exchange, or whether it be an existing language or a new and artificial system to be devised for the purpose. The main essential with which I am concerned is that in each country the language which may be agreed to by the nations of the world in conference shall be made an official language. This is a matter far above party politics, for it concerns humanity in the highest sense of the word. I therefore desire to keep the proposal entirely clear of party politics, and I welcome the interest and co-operation of men of every party, sect, creed, colour, and kind whatsoever.

By the discoveries and ' inventions which, in this rapidly-changing age, humanity has been permitted to make, mankind is surely being drawn closer together, so that it is only a question of time when many more international barriers must fall. We are in a changing age. By reason of such inventions as wireless and aeroplanes, the peoples of the world have already been throught more closely together than ever before. That is an interesting fact for men to ponder. In our lifetime we have seen great advances made in the realm of science. I do not say that in some respects, as perhaps in mathematics the ancients might not have eclipsed us; but, speaking generally, we have been privileged to live in an age which has seen greater progress than any other generation has witnessed. I knew as a young man Laurence Hargraves, who has been acclaimed the father of aviation in this country, and has received honours in other countries greater, perhaps, than in his own. I frequently visited his workshop at Point Piper, Sydney, where I saw him at work on his models. If in those days I had told my hard-headed business friends in the city what I had seen and that Hargraves had said that some day men would fly, they would sympathetically and kindly have tapped their foreheads, and smiled pityingly at the poor dreamer. There was a time when scientists said that man would never fly a machine heavier than air. They argued that a certain prehistoric reptile known as the pterodactyl was the heaviest thing that could fly. They could not visualize the mighty machines which carried loads weighing many tons from the sea coast to the gold-fields of New Guinea. The dream of Laurence Hargraves became an accomplished fact when Mr. C. W. A. Scott brought Australia within two days of Great Britain. We are not indulging in an idle dream if we determine to-night to light a torch which may light the way towards that temple of peace in which the civilization of the world must eventually worship or perish.

By the sound waves transmitted through the ether man's thoughts expressed in words can be immediately made known to persons throughout the world. Thought is the most powerful factor for good or evil in the world; thought is stronger than nations. It is an axiom that if a man's thought can be raised his achievements can be raised also. Similarly, if the thought-level of a nation is raised, the whole national outlook is improved ; and if the thought-level of all the nations of the world is raised, then humanity itself has proceeded a little further along the road which leads to peace and progress. It is now possible to exchange sounds through the ether; but how futile it i3 to do that unless we have a common understanding of the meaning of the sounds that we hear. I quote now from an article of mine which was published in the Sydney Morning Herald of the 28th September, 1934, and was warmly supported by that journal. Having dealt with matters to which I have already referred to-night, I went on% to say -

This brings us, then, to the thought of international agreement and international understanding. Let us remind ourselves that we already have had some experience of one or two fairly successful international conventions, e.g., the Postal Convention and the International Patent Convention.

The Assistant Minister (Senator Brennan) will bear rae out as to the nature of the International Patent Convention. It is a matter of common knowledge that at that conference the nations of the world agreed to standardize the principles underlying their patent laws, and put them into effect by legislation within their own borders. Although there are still slight differences in connexion with patents, the main principles are the same throughout the world, and are understood in every country. Having those conventions in mind, I proceeded -

I now advocate another convention, and that an international conference should be called to which each of the nations should be asked to send their best brains and educational experts, as well as such governmental representatives as may be deemed advisable. This convention should then examine all suggested languages, combinations or systems of thought exchange, with strict regard to simplicity; and, having once decided, the parties to such conventions should then bind themselves to legislate in their respective countries, making the teaching of the common language decided upon compulsory in their primary schools and carrying it on till the completion of the secondary education of the child.

The point which I wish to emphasize is the need to commence this teaching in the primary schools. At present in this country the teaching of languages is not begun in earnest until the children reach the secondary schools. My suggestion is that a commencement be made with the children in the kindergarten, and that the teaching should continue through the primary and secondary schools, with the result that in len or fifteen years there would be growing up in the world a race which could understand what was said when the wireless was turned on, irrespective of the country from which the broadcast came. The same would be true of writing and every other form of thought exchange. Gradually a common literature would grow, and we should then have achieved a true international thought exchange. One can easily imagine how the cream of the literature of the world would gradually drift into that common literature, so that, in time, the people of every nation would get a better understanding of the ideals and aspirations of their fellow-men of all nations. This is no dream, but a practical proposal which, if carried out, would cause the word " foreign " to lose its meaning and give place to " neighbour ". We should then hear no more of the " inscrutable mask of the foreigner ".. The world has not made such a success of its international' relationships that it can afford to ignore any proposal which may lead to peace. The proposal which I submit is one which all can support, irrespective of nation, state, party, creed, sect, or class. It is of equal importance to Christian, Buddhist, Mohammedan, Hindu, Jew, and, indeed, to mankind of every race and colour whatsoever. In my letter to the Sydney Morning Herald, I stated that I proposed that a start bc made by a petition to His Majesty the King asking him to call the nations together. I. myself, intended to start such a petition so that the people of Australia may show to the world how to lay the foundations of that temple of peace at whose shrine mankind must worship or perish. This development need not be too far distant if we apply ourselves sincerely to the task. I suggest that this is something worth working for. Before introducing my proposal into the realm of politics, I submitted it to a number of bodies such as the Constitutional Association, the Legacy Club and others, and I was pleased at the enthusiastic reception given to it. I now wish to acknowledge the generous help which I have received from the Leader of the Senate (Sir George Pearce). Honorable senators will remember that a few weeks ago the business-paper contained notice of a motion asking His Excellency the Governor-General to communicate with the Home authorities suggesting that an international convention be called to consider the proposal. The right honorable gentleman, with that wisdom which is born of long experience, suggested that the motion be amended slightly, in view of the fact that in the League of Nations there existed the machinery to give effect more quickly to the proposal. I thankfully acknowledge his assistance, and express the hope that the motion will receive the support of honorable senators, for it deals with a subject which must appeal to all. Even the most apathetic senator can honestly say to himself: " An international tongue can do no harm; it may do a lot of good; therefore it is worth giving a trial." Of late, gibes have been cast at the usefulness of this chamber. Sections of the pre.3s have devoted themselves to a cheap form of humour, which pretends that honorable senators are sleepy old gentlemen who never do anything. The motion which 1 have moved affords the Senate - the senior chamber of the National Parliament - an opportunity to give an invitation to the world which, though it may be ridiculed by tlie press in this country, will be hailed with delight in other countries, and will receive their most sympathetic and serious consideration. Some honorable senators may regard me as being an optimist for expressing the desire to have this motion communicated to the League of Nations, in view of the present difficult circumstances confronting that organization. During the last few days I purposely refrained from participating in "the debate on the Sanctions Bill, because I did not wish to be drawn into some of the heated party controversy that so often manifests itself in such a discussion. I now direct attention to the fact that the League of Nations - I do not wish to arouse a controversy by referring to this matter - is a power for good in the world. It is backed by the noble foresight and the truly spiritual vision of the people of Great Britain, of whom we are proud to be the sons and daughters; their determination, sincerity, and sheer goodwill towards humanity will, I believe, do more to bring the nations of the world back to righteousness than all the guns, bluster, bluff, pomp, warring, speeches and platitudes of those who subscribed to the Covenant of the League and retired when, it did not suit them. During the last few months little Britain has done more than all others to lead the world back to the path of peace and goodwill. By its insistence on clinging to the one hope of the world - collective security - and maintaining at all costs the existence of the League of Nations, Britain has won the admiration and praise of even an influential section of the German nation. 1 believe that the League will prove to be a lasting institution, the foundation of a better order of things, and the genesis of a bigger, better and grander league which mankind will gladly join, recognizing that the only road to peace is mutual understanding. So I propose that an attempt be made to procure a common tongue throughout the world I am aware that objections will immediately enter the minds of some, honorable senators who, for the first time, have been called upon to consider this proposal. Often the statement has been made to me that the attainment of my objective will involve the abolition of

English and the native tongues of other countries. That misunderstanding frequently arises. There would be not the slightest necessity to get rid of any existing mother tongue. A child would be taught two languages, one, the international language, and the other the mother tongue that it would learn in the home of its parents. "When we consider that some of the peoples of Europe are required to speak four or five tongues, the difficulty of introducing a second or international language is by no means insuperable. In some parts of Czechoslovakia, I understand, one must have five or six languages, and in Switzerland two or three languages in order to make any headway. Not only would an international thought exchange be created, and the bottle-neck of interpreters and diplomats - who may or may not toss against us with a doubleheaded penny, as it were, because we are at the mercy of their translations - be abolished, hut the creation of an international literature, and an international public opinion would begin. Although we may he the chosen representatives of the nation, I confess that in the long run we are never the leaders. "We bow to public opinion; so do all so-called leaders throughout the world. In the course of time when an international public opinion has developed with a free exchange of the thoughts of the people of the world, and we are freed of the fogs of misunderstanding which cause suspicion and endless antipathy, we shall find a clear way towards a higher order and a better and nobler state of things. Although it may seem an exaggeration, this Senate has the power to light a torch to illumine that path through the jungle of human misunderstanding to the very steps of the Temple of Peace. By forwarding this resolution with our blessing, may we not be taking in our own hands our little trowels and mortar, and each of us adding a brick to that edifice. I commend this proposal in all sincerity to honorable senators, and emphasize that an international language is not an idle dream. It is just as practical as the establishment of the international patents convention. The onus would be upon the votaries of other systems to prove their case. The merits of the different systems might be discussed at Geneva, where they would receive an impartial hearing. In securing a . standardized pronunciation, scientific progress in the last 50 years would again come to the assistance of mankind. The gramophone has been invented, and some languages are now being taught in schools by this medium. The body which would decide the common means of thought exchange would, no doubt, commit the chosen words of that language to gramophone records, in order that a standardized pronunciation record could be multiplied in millions, and distributed among all countries. By this means the correct pronunciation of the international tongue could be acquiredby all races. At least it would be sufficiently general that children would be able to turn on the wireless, and not encounter the barrier of misunderstanding that, exists to-day. The unintelligible sounds of t o-day would be the expressed thoughts of every child, whether it lived in Moscow, Dresden, Berlin, London, Tokio, or New York. By that means it lies within our power at least to take a little step toward achieving that Christian ideal of " peace on earth, goodwill to men " to which we all earnestly aspire.

Debate (on motion by Senator Sir GeorgePearce) adjourned.







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