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Friday, 13 March 1936

Senator Sir GEORGEPEARCE (Western Australia - Minister for External the last few months, the subject of colonial territories has developed into a major international issue; and as Australia, by virtue of holding a mandate over the former German territory of New Guinea, is particularly concerned, it is opportune for me to indicate to honorable senators the general attitude of the Commonwealth Government in regard to the whole subject.

International prominence was first given to this matter at the outset of the Manchurian conflict in 1931, when Japan proclaimed that its action was primarily one of self-defence, for the protection of its national interests in Manchuria, which had come to be regarded by the Japanese as their " economic life line, " as a market for industrial products, a source of raw material, and, incidentally, a field for colonization.

Italy violated its obligations under the Covenant, and thereby incurred the condemnation of the League of Nations with its consequent penalty of financial and economic sanctions, rather than forgo its claim for colonial expansion and the satisfaction of what it regarded as legitimate aspirations.

Another prominent nation which is demanding colonies, or rather return of its former colonies, is Germany. For several years there have been in Germany organizations established with the object of working for the return of colonies, and these bodies have been responsible for widespread propaganda on the alleged injustice meted out to Germany under the provisions of the Treaty of Versailles relating to colonial territories. In October, 1933, Germany left the League of Nations because it could not obtainwhat it regarded as " equality ", and although the matter of colonies was not specifically raised, there was an implication that the right to hold colonies was an indispensable element of " equality ". With the throwing off of the restrictions imposed by the disarmament clauses of the Versailles Treaty, and the rapid rearmament of Germany, these aspirations have now reached the stage of definite and openly-expressed demands by Germany, speaking officially and unofficially.

The three countries mentioned are now regarded as the leaders of the dissatisfied " have nots " in their claims against the satisfied " haves ", and it is well to examine the grounds for the demands on which they base their contention.

The first main reason usually given is that colonial territory provides an outlet for surplus population.

At the time of the drawing up in 1905 of the Portsmouth Treaty, which secured Japan's position in Manchuria, there wore 200,000 Japanese in South Manchuria. Japan's population is increasing at the rate of 3,000,000 per annum; yet after 30 years of occupation of Manchuria, the total Japanese population is Still under 500,000.

Italy's colonial Empire is seven times as large as Italy proper, and though some of these colonics have been held for 40 years, and some of them, such as Eritrea, possess climate and soil similar to what Italy is now seeking to obtain by force in Abyssinia, the total Italian population of Italy's African colonies is still under 60,000, and of these less than 2,000 are Italian farmers. These figures are taken from Italian sources. Italy has an annual birth-rate of approximately 1,000,000.

Germany, before the war, was concerned with a rapidly increasing population, yet despite its 1,030,000 square miles of African colonies, it sent abroad annually to its colonies an average of only l,fi00 persons over a period of 25 years, and few of those remained as colonists. It is significant that at the outbreak of the great war, the large German colonial empire contained less than 20,000 Germans.

Belgium, one of the most densely populated countries in Europe, does not find the Congo of value as an outlet, nor can Holland place its surplus workers in tha Netherlands East Indies.

Groat Britain and France have the largest colonial empires, yet they cannot absorb their surplus population, and Great Britain still has 2,000,000 unemployed.

In fact, in all Africa, with a total area of 1.1,500,000 square miles, there are to-day less than 3.500,000 Europeans, of whom 2,000,000 are in South Africa. In this dearth of white population lies the fallacy that colonial territory represents empty spaces suitable for i.m- migration and settlement. The native populations of all colonial possessions are rapidly increasing, and the native populations already find the laud at their disposal insufficient.

Experienced administrators have recorded that land hunger is to-day one of the chief causes of tribal unrest, and the root of the gravest problems confronting administration. Apart from white leaders of enterprises, government officials and technical supervisors, the mass of the working population in all colonial territories, is, and so far as one can see, will remain, native. In the past, colonies have been of little avail as a means of absorbing surplus white population, and there is no reason to believe that the position will materially alter.

In considering the aspect of surplus population, I have laid emphasis on the position of Africa because it is the continent most often mentioned and most coveted. At the same time it might be noted that the sparsely populated and rich agricultural and pastoral countries of South America are never mentioned by propagandists - due, one may reasonably suppose, to the existence of the Monroe Doctrine and the knowledge that it will be implemented by the whole power of the United States of America.

The second ground upon which the claim for colonies is based is that they give access to raw materials. There seems to bo little substance in this contention. Every country to-day is only too anxious to sell its products, and there are no restrictions on the sale of raw materials to any country in a position to buy. Many countries experience difficulty in finding the wherewithal to purchase raw materials, and the tendency to restrict importations or to insist that purchases shall bc commensurate with sales, still continues.

So far as the mandated territories are concerned, equality of trade and commerce for all State members of the League is a condition of A and B class mandates and in the case of British colonies there is no restriction whatever as regards access to raw materials. Even to-day Italy is procuring materials other than those forbidden by the sanctions, for the supply of her African troops from British and other foreign colonic*.

The possession of colonial territory does not, and cannot, solve the problem of the supply of raw materials. Of Great Britain's imports of raw materials, only a small percentage comes from ils colonies, apart from the self-governing dominions. Germany, before the war, obtained less than 1 per cent, of its total imports from its colonies. Manchuria ha3 not solved Japan's problem for the supply of its vital needs of iron, coal, wool and oil. Not only that, but the possession of colonies by any nation, far from being an asset, Las been proved on the whole to be a great and costly responsibility, and few have reached the selfsupporting stage.

The third ground of the claims for colonial territory is that of prestige, and one cannot help feeling that the demands on account of over-population and need for raw materials are mere cloaks for psychological unrest. Colonies are still regarded in some quarters as symbols of superiority, as an essential adjunct of power. Germany, for example, mainly bases its claim on this ground, and considers that its national prestige and status suffer by virtue of the fact that countries with smaller population and resources possess colonies, whereas Germany's colonies have been unjustly taken from it. A claim based on such grounds does more than anything else to perpetuate general uneasiness and tension, and in this respect a quotation from the report on " The Demand for Colonies " recently prepared by the Economic Section of the League of Nations Union, London, is pertinent -

If neither the problem of raw materials nor that of liver-population is capable of a large measure of solution ulong the lines of territorial expansion, what is it that is behind the persistent demands for such expansion? There remain* the sense of dignity and prestige which some members of the. " ungated " nations clearly believe that territorial expansion would living in its train, lt seems that in many instances the demand for territorial expansion springs from a desire, not for access to raw materials, but for control of them ; from a desire, not for economic, but for political opportunity, and from a solicitude, not for the ordinary course of peace, but for the possible eventuality of war.

Having reviewed the general considerations, I propose now to draw the attention of honorable senators to our own mandate in New Guinea. The late German terri tories in the Pacific were all classified as " C Class " mandates, under which no fortifications or military and naval bases shall be established, or the military training of the natives, other than for police purposes or. local defence, be permitted.

As the Japanese mandate in the North Pacific reaches to the equator and adjoins the Australian mandate, we have, by such provisions, an automatic demilitarized zone which introduces a considerable stabilizing factor in Pacific waters. So much so, that we see an extension of the principle by the introduction of the status quo clauses of the Disarmament Treaty of the "Washington Conference of 1922, which preclude the establishment of new fortifications or naval facilities or military defences in the specified territories and possessions of the contracting powers. The result has been, up to the present at least, equilibrium in the Pacific, with a consequent feeling of security and tranquility.

New Guinea, by virtue of its geographical position in relation to Australia, its natural harbours, its facilities for naval and military aircraft, is of considerable strategic value to Australia from a defence aspect, so long as the existing form of control and administration obtains. This value is emphasized by the fact that the territory is contiguous to the Commonwealth Territory of Papua, enabling common resources to be utilized and co-ordination of measures to be obtained in defence interests. Looking at New Guinea from a purely material aspect, we see that already there are 3,000 Australians in the territory engaged in various activities; the Commonwealth has expended approximately £300,000 in its administration and development; the territory absorbs Australian products to an annual value of about £400,000, with an increase year by year ; while its products are of increasing value in our economic fabric, the gold production alone amounting to approximately £1,500,000 a year.

The British people - and I strongly emphasize this - regard as firmly established the principle that colonial possessions are trusts to be administered in the best interests of the native population, and Australia has ever been actuated by this ideal. Under the mandate system, the natives are protected in a manner which would have been regarded as impossible under the old system of administration, and Australia constantly receives high praise for the way in which it is carrying out its obligations as a mandatory. The natives are safeguarded by the operation of ordinances relating to drugs, liquor and arms traffic, recruitment of labour and other humanitarian measures. The Native Labour Ordinance of 1922 made drastic changes in the treatment of natives as compared with that pertaining under the old administration. There is clear evidence that while, under German administration, the population of districts long open to recruiters declined, the present safeguards have not only arrested such decline, but have actually increased population. Whereas the native population in 1921-22 was 250,000, the total counted population in 1934-35 was 478,000. The large expansion of the medical service and the expenditure on medicines have materially raised the health standards of the natives, whilst the educational facilities established by the Commonwealth Government have increased the number of pupils attending schools by over 100 per cent, during the last ten years. The development of roads, shipping and air transport communications have all contributed to the well-being and contentment of the natives, and Australia can well be proud of the manner in which its trust is being discharged.

The considerations I have mentioned, however, are those of Australian national interest, and it is well also to take a broad international view of the matter.

It was to restrain Italy's present act of aggression and to establish firmly the principle of collective security and action against future aggressors, that League members, including Australia, have accepted join! responsibility under article 16 of the Covenant, and have imposed various sanctions.

For the future peace and welfare of mankind, this principle of collective security must be definitely settled and firmly established before the revision of treaties or territorial and economic readjustment can receive proper consideration.

British policy, including Australian policy, is based on peace and international law and order, for which the League offers the only safe foundation. Therefore, any re-adjustment or general settlement in the interests of world peace must be within the framework of international justice and order, and not the result of a demand of right. At the same time, there is a general realization that in an intensely dynamic world, peace and stability cannot be ensured if the international structure is so static and so inelastic that it cannot meet constantly changing needs and circumstances. The framers of the Covenant realized this, by including article 19 which provides: -

The Assembly may from time to time advise the reconsideration by Members of the League of treaties which have become inapplicable and the consideration of international conditions whose continuance might endanger the peace of the world.

The indefinite maintenance of the status quo on the conditions prescribed by the peace treaties which followed the Great War has already proved unworkable in practice, and persistence along such lines will only lead to a further breakdown of the sanctity of international obligations.

Great Britain has given a lead to the world by stating at Geneva that it is prepared to examine and consider the subject of access to raw materials as a contribution to the alleviation of unrest and in the interests of world peace. A further declaration was made by the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs in the House of Commons on the 5 th. December last when he stated: -

I then said, and I say it again now, that there is anxiety in the world, particularly in the countries which do not possess raw materials, lest they should lie held up to ransom and lest their national life should be endangered by a scarcity of the raw materials which they require. I -said then and I say it again now that I believe this problem to bc an economic and not a political or territorial problem. I believe that when it comes to hu investigated it will be found that the problem is one of selling raw materials rather than buying raw materials. At the same time, I admit the fact that there are these anxieties in the world and, as they exist, my own view is that they had better be investigated. As far as the Government are concerned we have already had such an investigation, but we take the view definitely that an investigation of this kind must take place in a calm, dispassionate atmosphere, and that you cannot discuss this question with any hope of finding a reasonable settlement in an atmosphere of war.

At the same time, Great Britain has emphasized that the prerequisite for any economic adjustments must be a non-war atmosphere, and that action must be taken within the framework of the League.

Honorable senators will no doubt agree that this is the correct view to take, for the authority of the League must be firmly established and recognized by all the parties concerned before Great Britain, or any nation could consider practical proposals for economic readjustment; otherwise the handing over of national rights and interests on the demand of a powerful nation could only result in international anarchy. In effect, it would amount to a submission to blackmail - the temporary buying-off of any aggressive nation. Participation in such a policy would mean the repudiation of all that the League is striving for in the present Ita.lo-Abyssinian dispute. It would never effect security, for immediately other nations similarly inclined would demand their price for non-aggression. International peace and order would become meaningless terms, and we would see the enthronement of might over right and the substitution of the rule of the jungle for the rule of law. Under such a regime the territorial integrity and independence of Australia, as well as that of all other weak States, would be in constant jeopardy.

For this reason alone, it is unthinkable that Australia should even consider the handing over of any territory.

Every country is entitled to examine any international issue in the light of its own security and national interests, and the inviolability and integrity of our Australian territories is as much one of the cardinal aims of our people as is the White Australia policy.

In this respect, I reiterate what the Prime Minister has already said in the House of Representatives, namely, that that the Commonwealth Government wholeheartedly concurred in the ministerial statement recently in the House of Commons that the British Government had not considered and was not considering the handing over of any of the British colonies or territories held under mandate.

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