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Thursday, 17 September 1936

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

That in order to encourage the breaking down of barriers and in the interests of mutual understanding and peace among the nations of the word, and to permit full use of the invention of wireless and enable the foundation of an international public opinion and literature -

(1)   It is imperative that a means of international thought exchange be established by a common language agreed upon in conference of the nations - such language to be compulsorily taught in their respective primary and secondary schools.

(2)   For this purpose this Senate of the Commonwealth of Australia urges that the nations be invited by His Most Gracious Majesty the King to send their representatives to a world convention.

(3)   That this resolution be conveyed to His Excellency the Governor-General for submission to His Majesty with the humble prayer of this Senate that action be taken accordingly.

Last year I placed a motion on the notice-paper in practically the same form as that in which it now appears, but at the request of the Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce), I amended it in order to seek the cooperation of the House of Representatives. It also requested the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) to take certain action. I further asked that our representative at the Assembly of the League of Nations be instructed to invite the co-operation of the governments of Great Britain, India and the dominions. I realize that that is a very difficult and somewhat complicated procedure; but, apart from other considerations, honorable senators realize that very important changes have taken place, and that during the last twelve months the face of international politics has been deeply scarred. Had the motion been allowed to remain in its earlier form it would have meant inviting the Senate to consider irrelevant subjects, and would have involved a debate on the value of the« League of Nations. I am as willing as I have ever been to support every effort to revive and strengthen the League, and to make it what I believe it will eventually be - an instrument for ensuring world peace. But that was not the subject I wished to bring before the Senate, and I thought it only right that the Senate should not be invited to- embark upon what might have been irrelevant argument. Therefore, when speaking on a supply bill, at the conclusion of the sittings of the Senate in May last, I indicated that I would amend the motion to its original form, because of the difficulties which the Leader of the Senate said were in the way. I did not ask the Government to sponsor anything, or to spend one penny of public money. As is shown in May, honorable senators are entitled to express their opinions on any subject of domestic or foreign politics, and to have such opinions conveyed, to His Majesty through you, Mr. President, as the custodian of the rights and privileges of the Senate. That is one of the privileges for which our predecessors struggled, and is one which the Senate will not transfer to any one. ' You, sir, arc authorized to convey opinions, in the form of resolutions or addresses, to the GovernorGeneral for transmission to His Majesty, and in so doing are acting only in accordance with the undoubted privileges of the Senate. I again remind honorable senators that I am not asking, the Government to do anything-. I am willing to ask the co-operation and sympathy of the Prime Minister, other Ministers, . and honorable senators, and T can hardly imagine that such assistance will be refused. I cannot imagine any Minister or private member of a dominion parliament doing anything to prevent a better understanding between the peoples of the world, and so obviate international turmoil. It is unnecessary to weary honorable senators with the details of what is contained in May, as I have already said sufficient to enable them to understand the position. ' Members of the legislature are entitled to express their opinions, and to have them conveyed- to His Majesty. According to May, the practice which 1 was induced to follow on a previous occasion is apparently not the correct one. An address or' resolution may be presented by either Ho.use of the Parliament singly. For the information of honorable senators, the following paragraph from the tenth edition of May covers the point : -

It is by addresses that the resolutions of Parliament are ordinarily communicated to the Crown. These are some times in answer to royal speeches or messages, but are mon frequently in regard to other matters, upon which either House is desirous of making known its opinions to the Crown.

Who will say that that practice has not been followed? Is our memory so short that wc can forget the extraordinary happening in the New South Wales Parliament, when two or three years ago, a certain member facetiously placed on the notice-paper a motion asking the Crown to discontinue the granting of titles? Senator Arkins will well remember that amusing episode. To the gentleman's surprise he found himself one evening, when the business of the House was not very pressing, suddenly confronted with the necessity for speaking to his motion. To his oven greater surprise the motion was carried and the resolution was sent on to the Crown. Honorable senators will remember that absurd instance in which one branch of the legislature exercised a privilege and passed a resolution which no doubt the Government of the day thought foolish, but which had to bc sent on to the Crown. Another extraordinary illustration took place during the so-called Lang revolution in New South Wales, when an attempt was. made by Mr. Lang to abolish the Legislative Council. On that occasion the expression of opinion of the Upper House was sent on to the Secretary of State for Home Affairs. Am I asking too much, in relation to a matter affecting the peace of the world, in urging that the Senate should give its attention to this very serious subject which I have the privilege and honor to bring before it? Surely .not L Honorable senators who desire to distort this issue and who either do not want to understand it :or" cannot understand it, can content themselves with the knowledge that I am not asking anything, the granting of which would present difficulty. The Acting Leader of the Senate (Senator A. J. McLachlan) will admit that what I ask for does not present nearly the same difficulty as did the establishment of the International Postal Convention. The requests presented by that convention were much more complicated and more unlikely to be granted than that which I am now making. If it were proper for people to seek the free interchange of ideas through written thought, would the

Postmaster-General deny to the people or fail to use his utmost efforts to secure for them a right to interchange their thoughts by the spoken word? The wireless engineers throughout the world are clamouring for this great ideal. May I briefly remind honorable senators of what Mr. Fisk has said on this subject -

It is desirable that everything possible should be done to institute and establish an international language for tlie purpose of world-wide broadcasting. I am convinced that the day is approaching when broadcasting stations of world-wide range will bc listened to simultaneously by millions of people in different parts of the world.

Will the Postmaster-General disagree with that? Mr. Fisk went on to say -

The rapid expansion of world-wide broadcasting which is now taking place, opens up possibilities of incalculable importance to tlie human race. The greatest among these possibilities is that of propagating and fostering mutual understanding. Radio science and engineering have provided the means for such promulgation, but it is the work of other authorities- and they are the Senates and Parliaments throughout the world - to ultimately eliminate the remaining barrier by establishing a language which will be simultaneously understood by the many millions of people who will ultimately be able to listen in their own homes to broadcasting stations of world-wide range radiating from every country in the world.

Mr. Fiskalso pointed out that there are 150,000,000 people in their homes throughout the world who could be spoken to if they could understand a common language. Since I submitted this motion last year, a very interesting happening has taken place which I feel »ure will be of interest to honorable senators. My remarks on this subject, strangely enough, were widely published in the United States of America, and given prominence by one of the American newspapers, which has, I believe, the largest and best international news service of any newspaper in that country. Following on the generous publicity given to my remarks, I began to receive a great deal of correspondence, including letters from the Carnegie Institute, the University of Columbia, and from Dr. Howard Ross, a well-known lecturer on economic subjects in Montreal and well known in the northern States of the United States of America as well as in

Canada. My proposals were published in the press of the United States of America in January, and, judging by the correspondence which I have received since, they created considerable interest in that country. In June of this year a conference of Rotary International was held at Atlantic City, New Jersey, at which were represented 170,000 members of 4,000 rotary clubs in 82 different countries. At that conference this subject was taken up. because it was looked upon as providing the best approach to international understanding and world peace. The convention appointed a standing committee to inquire into the matter. What the investigations of that committee have been since I do not know, but it is rather significant that such an organization should inquire into this subject. This is not an idle dream of a senator in Australia, though there may be some amongst us who have little sympathy for it, because they think it ii not so important as are some of the more material tilings which we do here. This matter affects every person in the world, every party in the world, and every business in the world. We cannot have international trade and settled relations between the nations of the world unless we have peace; we cannot have peace until we have international understanding, which can come only through an international vehicle of speech. This is not merely the dream of visionaries ; it claims the attention of people throughout the civilized world. Dave Hennen Morris, Consul-General in Belgium for the United States of America, speaking in regard to this subject, said -

Here am I in lovely Brussels using the most wonderful instrument ever invented to make possible the bringing of all men into immediate spiritual contact with each other. But in harnessing electric waves to do ray bidding, I am using a form of speech dating back through the centuries. What a contrast! Before me is a marvellous instrument of communication, new in every detail and thoroughly thought out. Through it I transmit a language old and not consciously constructed.

Then he dealt with the question of language construction. He continued -

But it is not a scientific product designed advisedly to overcome the ' barriers of speech which still separate and annoy men of different mother tongues when they seek direct interchange of ideas. The radio overcomes space mid transcends national boundaries, but language barriers nullify its highest possible usefulness.

T think we could have no greater advocacy of this motion than that. Only the other day I received an interesting letter from a gentleman whose name will, I think, he respected in this Senate, a Minister of the Crown who is now on his way to a large educational conference in England. I refer to the Honorable David Drummond, Minister for Education in New South Wales; those who are acquainted with him know that he is not one who would lightly be influenced by an idle dream. He said -

Here is, to my mind, n definite proof of the value of a common language. The Dutch are charming people, and have done everything possible to make my daughter and myself feel that they were really pleased to have us in their company. Yet the truth is that with the American we were at once and continuously at ease. We speak only the same tongue, there is much common background, and the mental reactions, are unconsciously and naturally without strain the same though we belong to two different nations. There appear to be fewer reserves and the unconscious barrier erected by a different language simply does not exist. I have always felt this way in the presence of Americans, even though it is unfortunate habit of some of our people to speak disparagingly of them, basing opinions on the unfortunate scum that floats to the top of a sea of 130,000,000 people. I think this common language is one reason why Canada and the United States of America are net engaged in a race of armaments and costly frontier fortifications, while every nation in Europe is indulging in that form of insanity, or at least in preparing safeguards against the insanity of others.

Because the people of Canada and the United States of America have a common language, they can more quickly understand one another. Mr. Drummond went on to say -

So far as I can assist you either with moral support or with actual help I shall AlWaYS bc only too pleased to do all that lies in lilY power.

I am indebted to Senator Brand for a copy of a publication issued by the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League of Australia, in Victoria, which contains an article by Major-General Coxon who is well known to honorable senators. So far as I know, MajorGeneral Coxon was not aware of the debate that had taken place in this chamber in relation to an international lan guage; yet in his article he has used arguments which are almost identical with those which I have used in this chamber. In his article, Major-General Coxon said -

The selection of a universal language having once been achieved and agreed to the provision for the compulsory teaching of it in nil schools throughout the world should prove a comparatively easy matter for the governments of various countries to accomplish, for the great material benefits to be derived from its use would become apparent to every nation, not only in fostering a butter understanding between them.

Then followed a statement which I have much joy in quoting. " You cannot make peace with documents; peace must bo made in the hearts of men." That is what this old soldier said. I have always found that when a serious and genuine effort is made to rise above technicalities - above the dotting of every " i " and tho crossing of every " t, " - every true man responds to the best that is in him. The greatest opponents of war are the most manly men, those who, when the call came, were wiping to make the supreme sacrifice for others. Those of them who returned are willing to maks further sacrifices in order to prevent a recurrence of those horrors which they themselves have experienced. I appeal to every returned soldier member of the Senate, and indeed to every honorable senator who values what those men did for us, to support this motion, and to let it be known that we in this chamber desire to send out into a needy world ;i bea con-ray of light and hope. Let us add our voice to the voices of others in the United States oi' America, England, and elsewhere who desire peace above all else. It is encouraging to know that the debate on this subject in this chamber has been translated into several different languages. Those of us who desire to stand behind the men who were willing to sacrifice their all for us can light a torch which may yet illumine the world, and show the way to peace. I believe that it can be done. I have no desire to indulge in heroics, or to attempt to influence others by foolish appeals to sentiment. I have no desire to play upon the feelings of others, if those feelings are not supported by the common-sense which the Creator has given to His creatures. But if men will use tlie sense with which they have been endowed, they will recognize that there must be understanding before there can be peace. I remind the Senate that President Roosevelt of the United States of America has suggested the calling of a conference in the interests of peace, and has proposed that the greatest advocate for peace in the British Empire - our beloved King - be invited to attend it. He asked that the conference be free from technicalities and adherence to forms of procedure, and that it be not dominated by politicians. We must get down to things of the heart. Let the heart of this nation go out to the heart of that splendid young man whom we all love and admire, and are proud to acknowledge as the head of tlie great British family of nations. I again remind the Senate that the present' Prime Minister of Japan; when Minister for External Affairs in that country, said that want of understanding breeds suspicion and hatred between nations, and is the most prolific- cause of war. I do not suggest that we can transform the world as by a: magic wand, any more than I would suggest 'that the older men among us are likely to change our habits in a day,- but I do ask honorable senators to give the rising generation a chance. If the nations of the world agree to the principle contained in my motion, they can give effect to it as easily as they carried out the International Patents Convention or the International Postal Convention. If an international language were taught in the schools of all nations, it would ' mean that in- fifteen "years there would be - growing up' a -race of young men and women who would understand something of what the other fellow was thi miring about. As Mr: Fisk said, 150,000,000 people at first, and all others in civilized countries afterwards, would be able to understand the other fellow's ' mind. ' When that day comes we shall no longer hear of the inscrutable mask of the foreigner, for even the word " foreigner " will disappear from the world's vocabulary, and in its place we shall .find "neighbour". We of the older generations have no continuous .tenure on. earth, but if those who follow us learn an international, language, a few generations ,nonce, the inhabitants of every civilized country will be able to understand one another. By: means of gramophone records and radio broadcasting the peoples of every nation can be taught the right pronunciation of the new language. Unfortunately there is a good deal of misunderstanding on this subject, and some misrepresentation has been indulged in. It has been said, for instance, that the introduction of a common language would destroy each nation's mother tongue. That is not intended. I again remind the Senate that in some countries there is more than one mother tongue; one nation has six or seven- . mother tongues. The children of every nation would find it easy to learn the new language as. well as their own mother tongue. In that way they would have opened to them a wider field of' literature, and they would acquire a culture beyond what is now possible. I could say a great deal more, but it would1 probably be only a reiteration of what I have already said. I- thank ..those honorable senators who have so loyally -supported me in this matter. Their co-operation I value greatly. ' I realize that their support is the .result of their , haying grasped the significance of the ideal which I have attempted to set UP. The Senate has the undoubted right to express an opinion on this subject, and I shall "be satisfied if its decision is sent on to the one who will appreciate it. What I suggest is not an insuperable task, and I again remind the Senate of what the world has achieved in connexion with the postal- and patents conventions.' Had that work hot already been done, there would ' remain to 'be accomplished something far more difficult than what I now "propose. The world is looking for something which will lead to peace;' and are we to do nothing merely because we. fear that some . one who does not understand us may "laugh at our efforts'? Or shall we, by our vote, send out to the world an idea, one for which I ' personal glory? It is .not my idea alone! It is a cry which is being raised in many parts of the world to-day. Can we not send out to those who are asking for it, a message guaranteeing anr. .support . of this movement?

When I was in New Zealand in the early part of this year, I discussed this matter with the leaders of political thought there and, on my return to Australia, I received a letter from the Prime Minister of New Zealand informing me that the matter would be dealt with by the Parliament of the Dominion. I also received an assurance of support from the Leader of the Opposition there. Both leaders promised . to introduce in their Parliament a motion similar to that which I have submitted to the Senate. I believe that once we have set the example by agreeing to this motion, our lead will be followed in New Zealand. . . The PostmasterGeneral (Senator A. J. McLachlan) and his colleagues in the Ministry will not find themselves a lonely set of men if they stand solidly behind this motion and try to effectuate something for the good of mankind; on the . contrary, we shall cordially appreciate their co-operation. I do not want to be guilty of . platitudes or of tedious repetition, but it seems to . me that we can. dispel the fogs of misunderstanding that bewilder the human, races, and cut a pathway through the jungle right up to the temple of peace, at whose shrine mankind must worship if civilization is not to perish. I appeal to-night not only to the heads but also, to the hearts of my fellow Australians.; I ask them to realize that this is no idle dream. As we saw our great boys depart for overseas in the fateful years 1914-1918, ready to do so much for us, so should we in turn be ready now to do our little towards the realization of world peace. Of what use is it for honorable senators to , cry pessimistically in this chamber " This will not do any good." Let us try it; let each of us take his trowel and mortar and lay a brick of the temple of . peace. An opportunity is presented to us here so to act so that "departing" we may -

.   . leave behindus,

Footprints on the sands' of time.

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