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Tuesday, 29 June 1937

Senator BROWN (Queensland) . - I propose to take this opportunity to say a few words in respect of the excellent work being done generallyby the League of Nations. Members of the Opposition in this chamber maintain that any money which Australia has spent in connexion with the League has been well spent, and we deplore the opposition of certain honorable senators to the League. In this enlightened day it is somewhat distressing to hear any honorable senator speaking as Senator Foll has done. Because the influence of the League has been exaggerated, thousands of people believe that, meeting as frequently as it does, it should be able to stop war. War cannot be stopped so long as there exist certain underlying reasons which cause one nation to attack another, or a group of nations to attack another group. Recent events have demonstrated very clearly the powerful influences which cause international trouble. In Spain, for instance, we have an instance of how for economic reasons one nation will fight another. In fact, I suggest that the principal causes of war are economic in character. Just as within a country itself there is a continual struggle economically between one class and another, so in the international sphere there is a constant struggle (between the imperialistic nations of the world. Only the other day Herr Hitler pointed out that one reason why Germany is supporting General Franco in the present Spanish trouble is that it may secure a greater measure of control over the iron ore, and other mineral resources in Spain. He made a definite statement to that effect. Members of this Opposition have repeatedly pointed to the strong influences existing in the world to-day which offset the efforts of earnest people who are anxious for the establishment of permanent peace and, until a re-orientation, or a re-alignment, of these forces is effected, war will be inevitable.

That fact, however, does not prevent lovers of peace throughout the world from continuing their endeavours by whatever means may be at their disposal, through the League of Nations or otherwise, to banish war. If war could be avoided for an appreciable period, possibly basic economic changes could be effected and war ultimately eliminated.

The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. P. J. Lynch). - I ask the honorable senator to confine his remarks to the subject under discussion.

Senator BROWN - Members of the Opposition contend that, having regard to the work done by the League of Nations, only one phase of which is revealed in the operations of the International Labour Office, its supporters are entitled to overlook the disabilities under which it labours. It would be a sorry day for Australia, and many other nations, if the ideas put forward by Senator Foll this afternoon were more widely accepted, because the downfall of the League would mean the cessation of its good work through such bodies as the International Labour Office. Labour men throughout the world have sufficient good sense to continue their international organization and international conferences because it is the workers who when war occurs suffer the most; they supply the bulk of the fighting armies and, accordingly, their women and children bear the brunt. Senator Foll dealt with the League of Nations, but I am dealing with the international Labour organization. Senator Foll strongly supports the presence at Empire conferences of such men as the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons), the Treasurer (Mr. Casey), and the High Commissioner, Mr. Bruce.

Senator Herbert Hays - They are good men.

Senator BROWN - I am not saying one word against the character of those honorable gentlemen, but if it is right to hold Empire conferences, it is equally right to hold international conferences which deal with issues which are larger even than those dealt with at conferences within the British Empire.

Senator Foll - I do not believe in the people deluding themselves.

Senator BROWN - But people should not only adhere to ideals but should also take cognizance of realty, lien should not jump to the conclusion that simply because the League of Nations has failed in one direction, it is completely a failure. The threatened disintegration of the League as the result of the intense economic antagonism that exists to-day among nations of the world should be prevented. It is necessary that we support the League of Nations because, to some extent at least, its existence is warding off an immediate clash of the powers. Any influence that for even the space of a few years can ward off a great international upheaval deserves support; it assists the forces that are working through the international Labour organization to institute economic societies which will fight not for supremacy but for the common welfare. The work of the International Labour Office in this direction is commendable. It has directed attention to the disabilities of workers who toil for long hours. Sir Frederick Stewart, as a representative of the Commonwealth Government at the International Labour Conference at Geneva supported a reduction of the hours of labour, and many nations have decided to effect this reform. There is no doubt that the thinkers of the world are rapidly reaching the belief that a reduction of the hours of labour is one of the greatest reforms that it is possible to place on the statute-book. It takes precedence over other ameliorative measures such as national insurance; it is far better that we should spread work and wages over the mass than that we should divide the people and say that one section shall be out of work for so many months of the year and shall be recompensed with the dole.

Senator Herbert Hays - The seasonal employments in Australia force that on the people.

Senator BROWN - It is admitted that the seasonal worker is a problem, but not all of those who are on the dole for part of the year are seasonal workers.

Senator Sir George Pearce - I remind the honorable senator that the report which the Senate is now discussing does not deal with the 40-hour week.

Senator BROWN - The whole matter is linked up with the affairs pf the International Labour Organization. That body has fully justified its existence, and we on this side hope that it will continue with the good work that it has done in the past.

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