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Thursday, 21 August 1941

Senator A J McLACHLAN (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) . - The ministerial statement which we have heard this afternoon may be described, as one of the most momentous that has ever been brought under the notice of the Senate. I did not hear the whole of the criticism by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings), who began by an attack on what he called the syndicated press. I should imagine that, if representatives of the press were present in the gallery, they had an excellent opportunity to write convincing articles concerning the conduct of this democratic chamber which would make us somewhat ashamed, because the Leader of the Opposition proceeded to play at party politics, although we are faced with a situation of the utmost gravity. About three years ago I visualized an alinement between the three powerful nations to which we are now opposed, and which I then said would prove to be the most difficult we could be called upon to fight. Now we are faced with a. powerful Germany and Italy still in a dominating position in the Mediterranean, and with our vital life-line, the Suez canal, in peril. On our northern front, the bastion that was created for our special safety at Singapore is threatened by a nation that is in partnership with the axis powers, and that nation is pursuing the selfsame policy as that adopted by the Nazis* in Germany. That nation claimed to be encircled by the " A-B-C-D " powers. Honorable senators will recollect that this technique is similar to that adopted by the Nazis in their first attack. They claimed that they were being encircled and attacked, but the next moment they pounced and struck. What are we likely to receive from the powers associated with the Nazis? At such a time as this [ should have thought that instead of bickering between ourselves as to what the Government has done or has left undone, or indulging in personal recriminations, we should have gone forward as a united Senate to express an opinion on reasoned and sane lines that would conform with the policy of our allies, because I understand that they are all behind the war effort to crush this tyranny that may overwhelm the world.

We are now dealing with a statement that draws attention to the danger confronting Australia. Our people have refused to accept the responsibility of defending themselves, and we have been under the sheltering arm of Britain and the great British navy. We have relied, perhaps all too trustfully, upon the assistance that would come from the other side of the Pacific, and now we are faced with the real danger that has come closer to home - a danger, as Senator Fraser properly pointed out, that was not present during the last war. Having regard to the fact that the destinies of Australia are at stake, and that the war is closer to our doors than ever before, we should realize that the higher war strategy is dominated and dictated by the British War Cabinet alone. That Cabinet hearkens, of course, to the opinions of the dominions.

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