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Thursday, 26 August 1937


Senator COLLINGS (Queensland) . - Whatever views honorable senators may hold on the important subjects which this motion covers, I trust that the debate will proceed calmly, although I do not Suggest that party politics should be eliminated. Having been a member of a political party for very many years, I believe that every subject we have to consider in this chamber should be studied seriously from the viewpoint of the party to which we belong. Party bitterness, however, should he eliminated in debating Australia's defence policy, which is one of the most important subjects dealt with in the statement of the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons), which was read in this chamber two days ago by the Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce).

In my speech, on the Address-an-Reply, I had the temerity to assume, temporarily, the role of a prophet, and to suggest that such information as we were allowed to receive in Australia through the public press in relation to the Imperial Conference, indicated that the Conference had not been a success. At the time, I was taken seriously to task by the Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce), who stated -

The honorable senator was among those who tried to create the impression that real danger lurks in the mission undertaken by the Australian Ministers now visiting London.

Until I heard the report which the right honorable gentleman read a* few days ago, I did not think that I had stated the position so accurately. On the occasion referred to he went on to say -

To-day, when the imperialistic tricks that Labour critics predicted have not taken place, and schemes to drag Australia at the tail of the United Kingdom have not eventuated, the honorable senator and his colleagues say that the Imperial Conference has proved a dud. Considered as a point for the coming election the conference certainly has provided a " dud " for Senator Collings and his party.

The Leader of the Senate, as well as the Prime Minister, have taken full political advantage of everything that occurred at the Imperial Conference. Honorable senators will remember also that the

Minister representing the AttorneyGeneral in this chamber (Senator Brennan) also had something to say about me at that time. He said that when I prepared my speeches, I always carefully concealed my real feelings, but that when I spoke impromptu, the truth came out, and there was always a declaration of disloyalty. I do not repeat those charges because I feel at all aggrieved; on the contrary, when leaders of the United Australia party and of the Country party say unpleasant things about me, I am convinced that I am fulfilling my mission as Leader of the Opposition in expounding in 'this chamber the policy of the party to which I belong. What is Labour's defence policy?


Senator Hardy - That is what we all want to know.


Senator COLLINGS - The Leader of the Country party (Senator Hardy) and others who interjected with him, did not say anything which they believed to have any foundation; in fact, Senator Hardy has in his possession the printed declaration setting out Labour's defence policy. He knows what that policy is, although during the recent byelection in Gwydir, he stated from many platforms that Labour had no defence policy. He knew when he made it that that statement was untrue, and he knows that his interjection this afternoon also implies an untruth.


Senator Hardy - It is the biggest crossword puzzle I have ever seen.


Senator COLLINGS - It cannot be more mystifying than most of the speeches delivered by the Leader of the Country party.


Senator Arkins - The Labour party has six different policies.


Senator COLLINGS - The composite party to which the honorable senator belongs changes its policy almost week by week. One week it favours protection, and the following week it advocates free-trade. Moreover, at nearly every election it changes its name and affiliations. The Labour party has a definite defence policy to which every member who enters this Parliament must subscribe. When he does so, it is assumed that, as an honest citizen; he intends to abide by it and support it. Labour has such an efficient organization that if any member of the party, in any Australian parliament, breaks away from its policy, the endorsement of the party is immediately withdrawn from him and he cannot, again stand for election in its name.


Senator Arkins - That is the only thing in which the Labour party is proficient.


Senator COLLINGS - I have been a keen student of the party to which the honorable senator belongs, and I have not yet seen anything approaching such. proficiency. The defence policy of the Australian Labour party provides for -

Adequate home defence against possible foreign aggression-

That plank of Labour's policy gives the lie direct to the statement made in the House of Representatives that the Labour party has no defence policy and is disloyal to the Empire.


Senator Hardy - Does the honorable senator refer to the policy of the industrial section or of the political section of the party?


Senator COLLINGS - I am quoting from the defence policy of the Australian Labour party. It continues -

Amendment of Defence Act to secure -

(a)   Deletion of all sections relating to compulsory training and service.

The parties now in occupation of the treasury bench have never given such a straight-out declaration of their policy. The Labour party aims at amending the Defence Act to secure also -

(b)   Any sentence imposed by courtmartial to be subject to review by a Civil Court ;

(c)   No offence to be created by regulation; no penalty to be imposed by regulation ;

(d)   No employment of, or inter ference by, soldiers in industrial disputes ;

(e)   No raising of forces for service outside the Commonwealth or participa-. tion, or promise of participation, in any future overseas war, except by decision of the people.


Senator Guthrie - Would the Labour party go to the help of New Zealand if that dominion were attacked?


Senator COLLINGS - I shall deal with the honorable senator's interjection before I finish my speech. The policy from which I have quoted continues -

(f)   Manufacture of munitions of war.

The following is adopted as a declaration of policy and in amplification thereof -

(a)   The Australian Labour party expresses its great abhorrence of war and fascism and urges that the Commonwealth Government should endeavour toestablish andmaintain friendly relations with other nations.

(b)   That the complete control of theproduction of munitions, and warmaterials of all kinds, should be vested entirely in the Commonwealth Government.

(c)   That preparation, to counter any possible foreign aggression, be made by the establishment of a defence scheme commensurate with Australia's ability to maintain it and adequate for our needs, and that this be done by concentration on the following essentials: -

(i)   Aerial defence, and the further development of commercial and civil aviation capable of conversion for defence purposes.

(ii)   The establishment of airports and depots at strategical points on the coast and inland.

(iii)   The provision of adequate stores of oil fuel, and concentration upon the production of oil from coal and/or shale: and the production of power alcohol from crops suitable for the purpose.

(iv)   The intensification of a scientific search for additional oil sources, natural and artificial, throughout the Commonwealth.

(v)   The provision of bomb-and gasproof shelters and the means of evacuating women and children from menaced areas.

(vi)   The maintenance of naval, aerial and land forces- at an efficient standard and, in emergency, the mobilization of marine, aerial and land transport facilities.

(vii)   A national survey of all industries to discover their potential value for defence purposes.

(viii)   This policy to be financed by theoperation of Labour's financial proposals.

That policy offers a complete answer to leather-lunged honorable senators who continually roar that the Labour party has no defence policy. The Prime Minister knows perfectly well what Labour's defence policy . is, because, with the exception of the last five or six years, he assented to it throughout his political life, and, in essentials, that policy has never been altered. Fundamentally, it has never differed from the policy which I have just read'.


Senator Sir George Pearce - I dissent from that statement.


Senator COLLINGS - I am well aware of that fact. The right honorable gentlemanknows perfectly well, however, that it was the Australian Labour party which gave to Australia its navy.


Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (WESTERN AUSTRALIA) - As a Minister of a Labour government in 1911 I signed an agreement with the British Government to allow our fleet to co-oper ate with the British fleet.


Senator COLLINGS - That is all right; have I said anything to the contrary?


Senator Sir George Pearce - The policy of the Labour party on that point has now been altered.


Senator COLLINGS - No. In making that statement the right honorable gentleman gives another illustration of his remarkable ability to use language to conceal his thoughts. ' No Australian government, and no government of any other country, would dare to say that it would not defend its own territory. "What nonsense is it, therefore, to say that a LabourGovernment in Australia, of all governments throughout the world, would be the only one which would not possess a defence policy. Surely, however, we are entitled to say what, in our opinion, is the best method of internal defence, and to assert that, obviously, that must constitute Australia's best contribution to Empire defence. There can be nothing wrong with that attitude.

Let us see what that policy which I have just read really represents. Unequivocably we declare that we are prepared - and this obligationis incumbent upon every member of our party, because of the pledge which he has signed - to put into operation that plank of our policy which demands the adequate defence of Australia. What does that mean?It means that we are contributing towards the protection from aggression of 7,000,000 British subjects. That is not a small contribution. It means, further, that we are doing out best to protect adequately 3,000,000 square miles of British territory, and, if we carry out that policy, we shall be protecting £1,000,000,000 of British capital invested in this country. Probably half of this amount is invested in Australian Government securities and half of it in industry. Already, therefore, Australia is not doing badly so far as Empire defence is concerned. If honorable senators will study the latest statistics available on the subject they will find that the expenditure per capita on. defence of the dominions is as follows: - New Zealand, 12s. 7d. ; Canada, 5s. 7d.; South Africa, 3s. 5d. ; and Australia, 2ls.10d.


Senator Guthrie - What is Great Britain's expenditure per capita on defence ?


Senator COLLINGS - I am surprised that, in his innocence, Senator Guthrie is not already aware of the fact that when the Government of the United Kingdom proposed to levy a special tax to provide for its immense rearmament programme the well-to-do people of Great Britain rebelled against the proposal, with the result that in a few days it was withdrawn and the burden involved was transferred to other shoulders. As proof that Australia is doing its job generously in respect of defence, I point out that during the last financial year our expenditure on repatriation, interest on our war debt, and preparatory defensive measures amounted to £25,000,000. . Speaking on behalf of the Labour party as the Opposition in this Parliament, I submit that we surely have a right to say that at some stage we must reach the saturation point in respect of our expenditure on defence, either in man-power or in cash. If any honorable senator declares that we cannot possibly reach such a saturation point, that Australia, a small community, can go on indefinitely spending money on defence and be ready, at all times, to defend itself adequately against the most powerful possible aggressor, he is not entitled to a place in a deliberative assembly but should be an inmate of a mental institution. I may be allowed to repeat, that statement. Surely we of the Opposition have the right to assert that somewhere is saturation point, beyond which Australia cannot proceed in this matter of defence, either in manpower or cash. Surely we have the right to assert that under existing conditions in Australia every penny spent upon defence schemes must be taken from somebody in this community, and I am fully justified in asking how we can expect to get it by the methods favoured by the Government and its supporters. Under their proposals the money must either be squeezed from, social services - I say this deliberately and with a full sense of responsibility for my words - or it must be obtained by increased taxes on the higher incomes.

I well understand the attitude of the Leader of the Country party (Senator Hardy). He will, I expect, declare that the money for defence will not be squeezed from social services with the approval of his party. But other Government members represent another party to this political marriage of convenience, and we well know that their supporters are continually squealing, not only in this Parliament but also through their -press organs and on public platforms, that taxation has reached its limit and must be reduced. As a matter of fact this Government has during the last few years relieved the wealthy people of Australia from immense taxation burdens. It has repealed a portion of the land tax, super taxes of all kinds, and has, in various ways, shifted the tax burden from the well-to-do to the shoulders of those who are least able to bear it. Honorable senators supporting the Government cannot have it both ways. I repeat that the money for this defence programme must either be squeezed from social services or extracted from taxpayers enjoying the higher incomes. I am satisfied that the first-named method will be favoured, because the Government parties dare not touch the wealthy section of the community which supplies them with .their election funds. I warn them, however, that if the Labour party be returned to power at the forthcoming elections, and I confidently believe it will be, it will re- impose those taxes that were remitted on the higher incomes and thus make the wealthy people of this country pay for its defence.


Senator Hardy - And the Australian navy will be sold to Japan for scrap iron !


Senator COLLINGS - The honorable gentleman and his friends have always approved of the sale of scrap iron to Japan in the full knowledge that it would be used for the manufacture of munitions.

I remind the Senate that we have in. Australia a population pf only 6,500,000.


Senator Payne - And do not forget it.


Senator COLLINGS - Of that number tens of thousands' of people are out of employment.


Senator Badman - That is the old cry I


Senator COLLINGS - If Senator Badman can successfully challenge my statement he will have an opportunity to do so when I resume my seat. I shall welcome any refutation that he may make. It is my intention to broadcast this propaganda through my own State during the coming election campaign, but I promise that if Senator Badman can prove that any statement which I am now making is untrue I shall not repeat it.

I know that I have said this before, but it is worth repeating. The census taken in 1933 disclosed that nearly 2,750,000 breadwinners in Australia were in receipt' of less than £259 a year. I admit that the position has improved somewhat since that year, but I remind the Senate that it is to the breadwinners that we must look for the defence of this country in an emergency, and it is to them that the employers must look for the labour power to keep the wheels of industry turning and producing profits. I have said that this Government will not attempt to finance its defence schemes by taxing the well-to-do section of the community, and I emphasize that the only alternative is to squeeze the money out of social services.


Senator Hardy - Does the honorable senator think that the defence expenditure should be reduced?


Senator COLLINGS - I shall not leave the honorable senator in any doubt about my views on that subject before I resume my seat.

Every honorable senator will, I think, admit the desirableness of liberalizing the provisions with regard to invalid pensions, particularly those relating to persons claiming to be totally and permanently incapacitated. There are some of us who believe, also, that the old-age pension should be increased and the age limit lowered. Others, again, believe that the amount of allowable income should be higher.


Senator ALLAN MACDONALD (WESTERN AUSTRALIA) - Is the honorable senator making a budget speech ?


Senator COLLINGS - I have as much right to make an electioneering speech on this motion as the Prime Minister had when presenting what he said was a report of the proceedings of the Imperial Conference, and I intend to take advantage of my privilege. Most honorable senators, I hope, believe in a liberalization of the provisions relating to the family income in connexion with the payment of maternity allowance, and I am sure that many senators are, like myself, beseiged by returned soldiers in distress because the entitlement tribunals have refused to recognize their claims for assistance, on the ground that their disabilities were not due to war service. Then we have the spectacle also of State governments making frequent demands on the Commonwealth to shoulder a portion of the expenditure on education, and to accept a larger share of the responsibility for the maintenance of health services and housing problems.

The other day I read the following statement by Mr. E. J.Williams, a. member of the House of Commons, in an address to the Bank Officers Guild in London: -

In the year 1925 the output per person employed in the mining industry in Great Britain was16 cwt. a day. The output per person employed last year was nearly 23 cwt. The total output in 1924 was 223,000.000 tons with 960,000 persons employed. The output last year was 224,000,000 tons, with 743,000 persons employed. The introduction of coal-cutting machinery, conveyors, and all forms of new technique, is revolutionising industry. . . There are no new markets to conquer, so we are beginning to contract, and in that contraction you have economic friction, out of which dictatorships are produced. There are only two outlets, either militarism or social services.

It is an old trick, when internal troubles are causing unrest, when social services are restricted and when unemployment is rife, for those responsible for the government to distract attention by raising external difficulties, which may lead to war. In his review of the Imperial Conference proceedings, the Prime Minister said -

At the first plenary session of the conference I asked for a clear statement of the principles for which the British Empire Stood and I said "All democratic peoples and all who desire the maintenance of international law and order are hoping for positive results from this conference. They ask for a clear lead along the path of enduring peace."

Yet, because I, this afternoon, declared that I and my party wanted " a clear lead along the path of enduring peace ", I was assailed by ribald interjections and ironic laughter, and was told, in effect, that Labour has no policy which would bring about such a desirable condition of affairs.


Senator Hardy - We suspect that the honorable senator's party has a policy, but we cannot find it.


Senator COLLINGS - In the House of Representatives, the Minister for Defence (Sir Archdale Parkhill) said - " The Prime Minister, with meticulous accuracy, detailed everything which took place at the Imperial Conference with regard to defence."

When listening to the debate in the House of Representatives yesterday afternoon, I heard the Minister make that statement. When he said those words he knew, just as every honorable senator knows, that the Prime Minister did nothing of the kind.

SenatorPayne. - I rise to order. Is the honorable senator in order in referring to a debate which took place in the House of Representatives during this session ?

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Sampson). - The Leader of the Opposition is out of order.


Senator COLLINGS - I do not know what I am to. do about it. I cannot withdraw the statement ; but I shall not offend again.

All of us are well aware that we are never allowed to get at the truth of what is happening at the Imperial Conference in regard to international relationships. Does any honorable senator mean to tell me that at the last Imperial Conference all the diplomatic subjects raised between the participating countries were laid bare on the table and that the Prime Minister has returned to explain them fully to the Australian people?


Senator Hardy - Yes.


Senator COLLINGS - I have no doubt that those facts were laid bare at the conference; but I do not believe that the Prime Minister is likely, or that he would be allowed, to disclose them without reservation.


Senator Hardy - What about the time when a former Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin) attended an Imperial Conference?


Senator COLLINGS - I am quite certain that the circumstances then were similar to those at the last conference. Mr. Scullin was not permitted to return to Australia and give to the public a full and frank explanation of the problems discussed at the conference. If those " inside " discussions were intended later to be disclosed to the public, they would be of no value. In his report the Prime Minister has not given us a statement of the proceedings of the Imperial Conference. It is an election propaganda declaration. It is a compilation of pious platitudes, and will be recognized as such by every citizen who is not entirely bereft of sanity. But as a practical contribution to the peace and security of Australia, which it is possible for us to make on our own behalf, it is mostly valueless. I summarize that precious document as follows : - " I have been to the Imperial Conference on behalf of Australia, without any instructions from the Parliament or from the people. I have pledged Australia to an expenditure during the next three years of £30,000,000 for defence. I have agreed as to the manner in which the money shall be expended upon the various arms of defence, and if you, who constitute Bus Majesty's Opposition in this Parliament, dare to criticize what I have done, you are disloyalists." I invite honorable senators to read that report; they will find that my deductions may fairly be drawn from it.


Senator Hardy - The honorable senator has never been too " hot " on the Empire.


Senator COLLINGS - Is it seriously contended that we must willy-nilly take our place in the mad armaments race, in which the world is now involved, without first making any inquiry as to what might be the most effective form of armaments for the defence of this country, or being given an opportunity to offer honest criticism of the suggestions of our political opponents as to the best manner in which this enormous sum of money shall be spent? In their heart of hearts honorable senators think nothing of the kind. I consider that, but for political expediency, they would all believe that the Opposition has a right to say, "Yes, we shall co-operate with you in this matter of defence ".


Senator Hardy - The Opposition was invited so to co-operate.


Senator COLLINGS - Listening to the debate in the House of Representatives yesterday, I heard from the supporters of the Government a storm of unfair interjections against Opposition speakers, which would prevent anybody from getting within a mile of. cooperation with any of them..


Senator Hardy - The offer of cooperation was extended to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr.Curtin).


Senator COLLINGS - Are we never to attempt to strike a different note? May we never be privileged to suggest policies of conciliation and nonprovocation in relation to our neighbours, and other rational policies designed to save civilization itself, without being subjected to the insulting and untruthful charges of disloyalty, a desire to " cut the painter ", unwillingness to co-operate, and a disposition to dismember the Empire? As an individual Australian, and as Leader of the Opposition in this chamber, I am proud of our parliamentary institutions. I never lose an opportunity to point out to the people whom I have the privilege of. meeting on the platform and elsewhere, that if we are hot careful to preserve our democratic institutions, our British form of government, and -our limited monarchy, and defend them against ail comers, we shall be faced with but one alternative, viz., the establishment of dictatorships. In a world of tumbling dynasties I am proud of our parliamentary institutions ' and our methods of conducting our affairs within the British Commonwealth of Nations; but surely we are not expected to accept willy-nilly every defence measure that the Government brings before us! If we venture to criticize any. such proposals, we are called disloyalists who are anxious to " cut the painter ", to dismember the Empire, and to doall the other horrible things which are the creatures of Senator Hardy's fertile imagination.

In this document the Prime Minister referred to a pacific pact. He said: -

As a consequence, the Australian Government felt the time opportune and desirable to make some advance towards securing an understanding which would not only lead to the continued maintenance of friendly relations in the Pacific region, but materially contribute to the general peace of the world.

The proposal, made as it necessarily has been in very general terms, was received with much sympathetic attention and interest, and, as you will note from the declaration on foreign affairs, was generally approved by the Conference as a desirable objective.

The report of the Conference refers to the proposal in the following terms: - " They noted with interest the statement made on behalf of the Australian delegation at the opening plenary meeting that Australia would greatly welcome a regional understanding and pact of non-aggression by the countries of the Pacific, and would be prepared to collaborate to that end with all the peoples of the Pacific region in a spirit of understanding and sympathy. They agreed that if such an arrangement could be made it would be a desirable contribution to the cause of peace and to the continued maintenance of friendly relations in the Pacific, and that it should be the subject of further consultation between governments ".

I ask honorable senators to consider the policy of the Government in maintaining friendly relations with people of the Pacific. What did the Government do to the good customer nation of Japan by its discriminatory tariff? And what did it do to the other customer nation, the United States of America? If there be one nation of the world with which we should be on friendly terms-


Senator Sir George Pearce - The tariff did hot discriminate against Japan.


Senator COLLINGS - The Government by its discriminatory policy against Japan took millions of pounds out of the pockets of the wool-growers.


Senator Guthrie - The wool-growers are not complaining.


Senator COLLINGS - The honorable senator should hear the comments of the wool-growers of Queensland; they will voce for the Labour party at the next elections because of the Commonwealth Government's trade diversion policy. Not satisfied with dealing a blow at Japan, the Government then "had a go" at another great nation with whom it was vitally necessary that we should maintain friendly relations in the Pacific. What was the Prime Minister told about the nature of our relations with the United States of America? The right honorable gentleman proposed to return from the Imperial Conference via Washington; but did he do so? He altered his plans because it was definitely intimated to him from Washington that, as the result of the Government's trade diversion policy, the Government of the United States of America did not desire to hold consultation with him.


Senator Sir George Pearce - That is not so.


Senator COLLINGS - But the Prime Minister altered his plans. He intended to return to Australia, via Washington, but he did not do so.


Senator Guthrie - Why does the Leader of' the Opposition make untrue statements?


Senator COLLINGS - My statements are true; I am able to confirm them.


Senator Sir George Pearce - No such intimation from the Government of the United States of America was conveyed to the Prime Minister.


Senator COLLINGS - I repeat my statement. If the facts are not as I have stated, we look to the Prime Minister to deny them. His proposal for a Pacific pact, following the failure of many of the existing international pacts, is so much " piffle ". Obviously the policy to which this Parliament isasked to agree is that we should subordinate our paramount duty to provide for the adequate defence of Australia internally, and the equally great and important duty of enlarging the value and extending the scope of our social services, to the demonstrably impossible task of becoming the policeman of Europe, and a salvage corps in the service of warring nations abroad. It is equally obvious that the present Government intends, if and when Great Britain is again embroiled in war, that the manhood of Australia shall be conscripted for service abroad, and that, as a preliminary thereto, universal training shall again be imposed on every young Australian. But when somewhat timorously the Labour party declares that it does not believe that the proposed expenditure on defence is justified in the directions in which it is to be made, and when it contends that the principal means of defending Australia, which is so far removed from the scene of warlike operations, is not by the establishment of huge armies, but by the creation of an adequate air force, it is subjected to violent criticism.


Senator A J McLACHLAN (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - It is like the Labour party's policy in that respect ; it is " in the air ".


Senator COLLINGS - I am gratified that at last the kindly PostmasterGeneral has been flogged into making an interjection. It was not a wise interjection, because it was so obvious. The defence policy of the Labour party is in the air, and the Postmaster-General merely stressed what I have declared. The Opposition honestly believes that Australia can be better protected, and tha Empire can be more effectively assisted by making our first arm of defence the air force.


Senator Hardy - The Trade Union Congress does not agree with the honorable senator.


Senator COLLINGS - I am more in touch with the Trade Union Congress than is Senator Hardy; he has to get his information from spies and eavesdroppers. I emphasize that compulsory military training will again be imposed on our young Australians.


Senator Hardy - The same old bogy!


Senator COLLINGS - No ; it is the logical inference from the statements which have been made in the Senate thisafternoon; they leave me no conclusion other than that universal training will be introduced.


Senator Hardy - Why?


Senator COLLINGS - If the Government does not intend to carry out the. policy that it has enunciated, why does it submit it?

It is proposed to trail our coat, to warn the enemy of our strength, and to say,. " You had better not come over here, because we are ready for you". That attitude recalls the lines from which the term " jingoist " originated -

We don't want to fight, but by jingo if we do

We've got the guns, we've got the men,

We've got the money too.

This is not a new trick ; it is the old ruse to trap people into paying taxes in. order to carry on war.


Senator Guthrie - The policy of the Labour party is, "Do not come until we have a referendum ; we are not ready for you ".


Senator COLLINGS - I am glad the honorable senator made that remark. I stated earlier in my speech that the Australian Labour party declares in clear and definite terms in its policy that it does not believe in sending the manhood of Australia overseas, unless the people of Australia instruct that that course be followed. By interjection, Senator Guthrie suggests that it would be impracticable to take a referendum when the Empire is imperilled. I know that during the forthcoming election campaign the people will be told that when the Empire was in danger a Labour government would he messing around with a referendum.


Senator Sir George Pearce - Will the Leader of the Opposition state whether a Labour government would allow the bombers he has mentioned to operate beyond the 3-mile limit before taking a referendum ?


Senator COLLINGS - The Leader of the Senate knows that my time is limited, and that up to the present I have not said anything which he could use during the elections to the detriment of the Australian Labour party, but under cover of a smile he is endeavouring to conceal the disappointment that he is enduring in that connexion. Senator Guthrie suggests that it would he impossible to take a referendum, because the procedure is somewhat long and cumbersome, but that is ridiculous and untrue. Wars do not commence in a week, a month, or six weeks, and they do not end so rapidly as we desire. No one can say when the conflicts at present being waged will terminate. If the Australian people wish to engage in a war beyond their own shores, the right course for any government to pursue is to give the people the right to express their views.


Senator Abbott - The honorable senator has not yet answered a simple question submitted to him. What will be the position if New Zealand is threatened by a naval force? Is the Australian navy to assist ?


Senator COLLINGS - Senator Abbott,who recently made a commendable effort to assist in bringing about a better understanding between the nations, and to lead them along the right path, should know the answer.


Senator Abbott - The honorable senator has not yet answered it.


Senator COLLINGS - The honorable senator should preserve a measure of sanity, and refrain from making interjections, which are not warranted. Under the heading of " Foreign Affairs " in the statement which we are now debating, the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) said -

The present international situation is such that all representatives realized that on them devolved the responsibility, not only of making a definite contribution to . general world appeasement, but also clearly indicating those fundamental principles for which the Empire Stood.

We all agree with that. I protest strongly against the fact which obtrudes itself so obviously in the Prime Minister's statement that it is intended to allow private enterprise to make enormous profits in the event of national emergency. Everything clone in connexion with the manufacturing of arms and munitions to protect this nation should be undertaken by the Goaternment of the country, and not one penny of profit from that source should be allowed to fall into the pockets of private . firms or individuals. The production of arms and munitions, ships, aeroplanes, and fuel oil should be undertaken by the Government, instead of allowing private individuals to exploit the people. It is said that steps will be taken to mobilize industry, and to enable established concerns to be capable of meeting the demands of the nations in time of war. If the Government is sincere it should take stock of the position now, and ascertain the possibility of production in this country. The time to do so is now, and not when difficulty arises. What are we doing? One has only to read the agreement which has been adopted in connexion with the production of shale oil to realize the way in which this Government proposes to assist private enterprise at the expense of the nation. In delivering his policy speech in 1934, the Prime Minister said, "Above everything 'else attention will be given to the question of unemployment '". In order to indicate his sincerity, he said in effect that if his Government were returned it would proceed immediately with the standardization of the railway gauges of Australia, because that would be a means of providing employment for thousands of men for a term of years. He further stated that it would be a valuable policy, because in times of national emergency we would be able to transport rapidly troops and munitions across the continent. Has anything been done?


Senator Sir George Pearce - Yes.


Senator COLLINGS - The standard gauge has been increased by only 56 miles since that statement was made, and no constructive attempt whatever has been made to deal with' the unemployment of youths.


Senator Sir George Pearce - Two breaks of gauge have been eliminated and a detour of 200-miles avoided.


Senator COLLINGS - Of the gigantic job outlined by the Prime Minister in 1934, only 56 miles of the work has been completed. In the Age newspaper of the 24th August this year the following leading article appeared: -

According to the view-point, the current Federal Parliament is differently assessed. Oi_ one point there can be no dispute. No preceding Parliament lias varied long recesses with such brief anil infrequent periods of work. In the present year - a year of special strain and anxiety, during which statesmen the world over have been wrestling with the great international, economic and social problems of the period - the National Parliament of Australia has been in session for exactly tendays! During that short interruption of what has become almost a permanent political holiday, no legislation of any consequence was dealt with. For its record, therefore, the Government must rely either on performances pre-dating this, as yet, completely barren year or on the programme to be dealt with in the sittings which will be resumed at Canberra to-day. [ Extension of time granted.]

The report continued -

This will be the final and, in the nature of things political, the electioneering session. The Government's choice lies between a session of brisk activity and genuine achievement and a period devoted to preliminary bouts of the impending party tournament. It has been suggested that, as the elections may be held in October, the Government will " save up " any arresting or attractive proposals it may have conceived, on the ground that they should be more valuable as promises than as performances. There are two considerations opposing that strategy. One is that it has been recklessly overworked in previous campaigns; the other that it is the Government's plain duty,' while it has the power, and the time and the responsibility, to deal constructively with those questions that arc before the country. Many electors will be suspicious of promises as substitute for performance when they recall that the feature of the Government's last pre-election policy which was elaborated from every platform, was a vast scheme of re-employment, with particular reference to the needs of youth, which would " take precedence over other Commonwealth activities". This great scheme included a scries of national projects, first among which was to be the unification of therailway gauges. Three years later the "youth employment problem " is still a subject for debating societies, and the breaks of gauge remain.

The members of the Opposition give place to no one in this chamber or elsewhere in their honest attempt to provide, to the extent of the nation's capacity, for the adequate defence of Australia against possible foreign aggression. It is not ray duty, as some honorable senators opposite imagine, to say what a Labour Government would do.


Senator Hardy - Why?


Senator COLLINGS - I have stated definitely that our policy provides for the adequate defence of Australia. After the next general election there may or may not be a Labour Government in this country, but I assure honorable senators that if there is, it will not be lacking capacity or courage, and that it will do it's job as this Government believes it is doing its job. As I stated at the outset of my remarks, this subject should be considered calmly in the light of facts, and not in the light of surmise, insinuations and innuendoes. We shouldgive one another credit for sincerity on this important subject. I trust that I shall not be accused of disloyalty when I say that the moneywhich the Government proposes to expend on the defence of Australia would give better service and render a greater measure of protection to Australia, and to the sister dominions, if it were expended as the Labour party proposes rather than in the manner outlined in the statement of the Prime Minister which is now before the Senate.







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