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Thursday, 24 September 1936


Senator LECKIE (Victoria) .- The Senate is to be complimented on the high plane on which this motion has been debated, and I hope that I shall not depart from the standard which other honorable senators have set. Nevertheless, I confess that I have not been able to follow the movements of other senators towards the "empyreal blue" and cannot share their altruistic fervor. If I attempted to do so, I am afraid that I would suffer from spiritual vertigo. The climax came when Senator Sampson referred to a big black Matabele " nigger ", who, he said, was, like Gunga Din, " white, clean white inside ", and I thought that there were only two things left for an honorable senator to do. To save himself he could either apply the cold lamp of reason to the proposal, or he could burst into tears. I did not know how you, Mr. President, would treat a senator in tears, so I chose the other alternative. There are three grave reasons why the motion should not be agreed to in its present form, if at all. The first is that the proposal is not novel. It has been tried and found wanting. Secondly, instead of bringing about peace and understanding among the nations, it would have the very opposite effect. As a convenience for travellers, a common language would have some advantages, but as an assistance to culture it would not be worth anything at all.


Senator Abbott - What about Mr. Fisk's remarks concerning wireless?


Senator LECKIE - I shall deal with that subject presently. If bv culture such things as music and painting are meant, I reply that music is already a universal language, as also is art. As to literature, I maintain that a common language would be of no help to the literature of the nations. Does any honorable senator know of any great book, with the excep- tion of the Bible, that has been adequately translated into another language?


Senator Abbott - "What about the works of Balzac, and Dumas?


Senator LECKIE - They are not so good in English as in French. and I have read them in both languages.


Senator Hardy - There will be new books in the common language.


Senator LECKIE - Does the honorable' senator think that any great work will be written in a language other than the author's mother tongue ? People think in their mother tongue.


Senator Brennan - Not in the year 2000.


Senator LECKIE - I am thinking of the danger of a common language at the present time. If this motion be agreed to, honorable senators will be likened to a lot of Rip Van Winkles - men who have just awakened to the fact that the world might have a common language. As Senator Duncan-Hughes pointed out, Latin was for centuries the common lan- guage of the whole of the civilized world; ut did the common language bring peace and understanding to the peoples of that time? No; they fought as hard and as bitterly then as in later years. Do honorable senators, who imagine that a common language would encourage a better understanding among the nations, think that it would be good for the peoples of all nations to be able to read the vituperative statements against Britishers which appear almost daily in the newspapers of some countries? Would the knowledge that such things were being published make for peace? If a German or a Russian curses me in German, or Russian, I reply : " I hope that it will be a better day to-morrow," but if an Irishman curses me, I know that he is cursing me, and I curse him in return. With a common language we should find the peoples of one nation cursing those of other nations. I assure honorable senators that there is not much love for the British nation among the other nations of the world.


Senator Collings - The honorable senator has been keeping bad company.


Senator LECKIE - No; I am trying to exercise the common sense with which I have been endowed. I believe that the only persons who would benefit from a common language would be travellers.


Senator Duncan-Hughes - Would it not assist trade relations - if the nations still want to trade?


Senator LECKIE - Money is the universal language of traders. Reference has been made to broadcasting, but do honorable senators think that peace and understanding among the nations of the world would be furthered by the broadcasting of a common language?


Senator Abbott - What did Mr. Fisk say?


Senator LECKIE - The honorable senator quoted some of his remarks, but Mr. Fisk is altogether mistaken. He is almost as mistaken as is Senator Abbott. If the Senate carries the proposal of Senator Abbott, the great mass of the Australian people will laugh heartily tomorrow when they reflect that the elected of the nation are of the opinion that, by means of a synthetic language, peace and understanding among the nations will be achieved. I know that my speech this evening will be misunderstood, but I am firmly convinced that the establishment of a common language would constitute a grave menace to the peace of the world because, by means of broadcasting, pernicious propaganda would be circulated, setting nation against nation.


Senator ALLAN MACDONALD (WESTERN AUSTRALIA) - We have that now.


Senator LECKIE - The position would be worse in the event of war. A common language would provide one nation with an effective means of undermining the morale of another nation. Prom Russia and Germany, propaganda is already being broadcast in English. How much more dangerous would the position be if the broadcast addresses were understood by the peoples of all nations! The idea of the honorable senator is the result of wrong thinking. But even if he be right, and the establishment of a common language would bring about a better understanding among the nations, I submit tha|t the mover of of the motion has chosen the right way to defeat his purpose.


Senator Collings - What does the honorable senator suggest?


Senator LECKIE - For the Englishspeaking people of the world to submit a proposal of this kind is practically to kill it.


Senator Collings - Would the honorable senator send it to the Shah of Persia?


Senator LECKIE - I should prefer to send it to the Labour party room in the hope that those there would not talk in so many tongues as they do now. I am sorry to have to oppose what appears to be the view of the majority of the Senate.


Senator Collings - The honorable senator has demonstrated the need for a better understanding in this Chamber.


Senator LECKIE - I am trying to convince honorable senators that there are two sides to this subject. Some honorable senators have been carried away by an excess of altruism. That peace which we all desire cannot be achieved by a proposal such as that now before the Senate.


Senator Duncan-Hughes - We can give it a trial.


Senator LECKIE - I am sorry to speak in this way, for I admire the enthusiasm of Senator Abbott in this matter; but I cannot but believe that his arguments are based on false premises. Instead of tending towards establishing universal peace and understanding among the nations of the world, I believe that the adoption of a common language would have the opposite effect. And even if it were true that a common language would lead to peace and understanding, the procedure which has been adopted would defeat the honorable senator's object. I should like to see Senator Abbott, instead of trying to induce the Senate to embark upon something foolish, to give his enthusiasm to the movements for spreading of the use of Esperanto or basic English. Both, especially basic English, are making progress all over the world.


Senator Abbott - How could either be obtained as a universal language unless a world convention were held?


Senator LECKIE - The use of Esperanto has been increasing for many years, and many conferences representing all nations have been held in relation to it. From the little examination I have made of basic English, I believe that it is the best of the synthetic languages. Its weakness, however, lies in the fact that it is basic English, and the hostility of the nations of the world to anything that is English prevents it from being more widely used. As a matter of fact, the fact that the language is derived from English is almost enough to kill it. I remind Senator Abbott, also, that the nations of the world could not be forced to use a synthetic language. I believe that the Senate should not pass this motion. Instead of a universal language being a blessing, it would be a curse; it would be a grave danger in time of war, and, far from increasing- culture, it would lessen it.







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