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Friday, 29 November 1935


Senator J V MACDONALD (QUEENSLAND) - Some are facts and some are not, according to my experience. Twenty-three years ago I took up a responsible position in the Labour movement and was required to advocate the Labour policy of compulsory training. Some people, particularly pacifists who had come to Australia from the Old Country and who viewed with horror what they termed the inculcation in the juvenile mind of warlike ideas, strongly disagreed with me. I support the view expressed by Senator Sampson that Australia must be defended. No matter how much we may wish for the practical demonstration of true Christian ideals, this world still contains many bad people, and we must be able to give as much as we are required to take. At the same time it is a melancholy fact that the day eventually comes when the greatest of fighting races - probably the British is the greatest fighting race of the world at present - sink into oblivion. History 'for thousands of years is one continual story of the rise and fall of empires. We must be sobered by that fact when considering the necessity for defending ourselves. Quite a substantial body in the Labour movement to-day favours a system of compulsory training. I belong to that section, and for a very good reason. Many years ago, when I was attacked for my advocacy of compulsory training which was then the orthodox policy of the Labour party, I used to retort that my studies of history had demonstrated to me that compulsory training was a thoroughly sound principle. The masses of the people 50 years ago went in constant dread of a standing army, which constituted a very great danger, because it created a military caste. I was pleased to hear Senator Sampson say that he did not favour a military caste, and I would be thoroughly ashamed to hear any Australian speak otherwise. The Labour party represents the masses and so we should be in favour of making every man a soldier, not for offence and wars of conquest, but to defend his hearth and home. Another reason for this policy lies in the fact that tyrants come from within the borders of a country as well as from without, and the masses may be obliged to defend themselves from an autocrat, a despot of the Mussolini type. I have always adopted that stand, because my knowledge of history taught me that a universallytrained population is better for the country than a military caste. My experience covers several countries - Australia, New Zealand and the Old Country - and in the latter I saw impressive evidence of what a standing army means. In my opinion a universallytrained population is necessary for the preservation of democracy. Admittedly the Labour movement no longer holds this idea, and I have accepted the change because it is not vital. After the last " war to end war," many men became convinced that the world-wide experience of the horrors of war would prevent a recrudescence of such a catastrophe in Europe within a hundred years. The general attitude throughout Australia, as a result of this idea, was that the Government could substantially reduce expenditure for defence purposes. Senator Sampson castigated the Scullin Government for having made heavy cuts in defence expenditure, but I would remind him of the fact that it was confronted with a gap of £20,000,000 between income and expenditure, and savings had to be made. The Defence Department suffered severely as the result of those savings, but the step had to be taken, as, if expenditure had not been reduced substantially, Australia would not have been able to " pay the butcher and the baker". The depression in Australia was brought about to a large extent by the fact that Britain refused to continue to lend Australia money at the rate of £30,000,000 a year, and other countries refused to maintain purchases of our goods. Towards meeting the situation universal training was abolished.


Senator Collings - The congress of the Returned Sailors and Soldiers' Imperial League of Australia the other day turned down a motion for the reintroduction of compulsory military training. That is a point which Senator Sampson should bear in mind.


Senator J V MACDONALD (QUEENSLAND) - That is so, but I venture the suggestion that if there was assurance that war would not come to Australia, a meeting representative of Government supporters in this chamber would also reject a similar motion. From a study of history, I am convinced that a system of universal training is the best for any country. An important step towards the adequate defence of Australia would be taken by increasing the population of the Northern Territory, but I should point out that for the defence of a country a satisfied population is necessary. The country which is worth fighting for and dying for, is the country in which the people are satisfied.


Senator Sampson - Is not Australia worth dying for?


Senator J V MACDONALD (QUEENSLAND) - Thousands of Australian men thought so in the last war ; but Australia could be made mote worthy of sacrifice by its people than at present. I shall proceed to make that point. As Senator Collings has stated, there are hundreds of thousands of men in this country who cannot get a job. Senator Collett read figures in support of his claim that the employment conditions in one State had improved by 50 per cent, since the depression began. Admittedly, there has been improvement, but it cannot be denied that 300,000 Australian men, women, youths, and girls are workless to-day. For most of my life I have been fortunate enough to have work, but I have suffered unemployment, and know that it is a desolate condition. "We cannot all be farmers, like Senator Cooper, or barristers, like the PostmasterGeneral (Senator A. J. McLachlan). Nor can we all be shopkeepers. Napoleon once described England as a race of shop keepers, but he was not correct. Some people have to use the pick, the shovel, the axe, and the hammer. They are wage-earners. They are sometimes described as wage slaves, but I object to the term; in Australia we have no slavery. I claim, however, that if the Commonwealth were an organized State there would be no such thing as inconstant employment. Jobs would be found for every man and woman to suit individual capacities. If such a state of affairs were brought about we should have a satisfied population, and the best means for defence that could be imagined. The Irish rebellion was due to a dissatisfied population in Ireland. It might have had even more dangerous consequences for Britain, when it was engaged in European war, than did occur. A satisfied national element in Ireland possibly would have averted the Irish rebellion, but also present in the country was a dissatisfied labour element, international in outlook, and not caring about the racial side of the war. Its dissatisfaction lay against the economic aspect. The rebellion forced Britain to send to Ireland troops to keep the peace, but had the Irish people been thoroughly satisfied with their economic conditions, the troops need not have been diverted from Europe at a time when the allied forces were in dire peril of defeat.


Senator McLeay - Does the honorable senator know of any country where complete satisfaction reigns?


Senator J V MACDONALD (QUEENSLAND) - Perfection is impossible of achievement, but to a very much greater extent than exists to-day, harmony could be achieved in this country. In the opinion of many martial-minded persons Senator Collings is an extremist, but if contentment were brought to the people, there would not be very many of his type. The necessity for the. school of thought represented by him would disappear.

More people are wanted in Australia. The Labour party is accused often of being opposed to increasing Australia's population, but the charge is false.


Senator Collings - Hear, hear!


Senator J V MACDONALD (QUEENSLAND) - Members of the Labour party want to see the population of Australia increased greatly, but not so that the 300,000 unemployed will be increased by other Australians. We should like to see people brought here and settled in useful occupations, creating wealth, but not ousting from employment Australian men and women who are in work at the present time.

I have received a letter from, the Camooweal Railway Extension League asking honorable senators to oppose the leasing of large areas in the north-eastern part of the Northern Territory. The secretary, in a covering note, says - 30th October, 1935.

Senator J.V. MacDonald,

Parliament,

Canberra.

Dear Sir,

Chartered Company Northern Territory.

I am directed to inform you that I have addresseda letter, on the above subject, to Mr. G. W. Martens and Mr. D. Riordan, the North Queensland members in the House of Representatives, and to enclose with this a copy of the letter for your information with the request that you may see your way to protect the Commonwealth from the locking up of such a valuable extensive area and delaying a closer settlement scheme which is the objective of the several governments in Australia, and of such very great importance to the country.

North Queensland is particularly affected for the reason that the area referred tois adjacent to our northern western country, for which we look for closer settlement and development.

Commending the foregoing to your active co-operation and protection.

Yours faithfully

H.   B. Marks,

Secretary.

Two or three years ago a scheme was ' under consideration for the purpose of inducing chartered companies from overseas to take up a large area of country in the Northern Territory. This Parliament was asked to sanction the scheme, and practically to relinquish all control over the area. No doubt the idea was dropped because of the criticism which it aroused.


Senator Sir George Pearce - No. The plan was not carried out because no chartered company was willing to take up the land.







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