Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Wednesday, 17 December 1941

Senator SPICER (Victoria) .- There is a good deal of force in some of the remarks made by Senator Brown, particularly his suggestion that, in this hour of grave danger to our country, we should forget some of the happenings of the past. All honorable senators agree that at no time in its history has Australia been in greater peril. In these circumstances, I would be the last to indulge in recriminations or to create difficulties for the Government which is charged with the responsibility of carrying on the affairs of this country. Two suggestions, however, made by the Leader of the Opposition during this debate deserve the reconsideration of the Government in the light of circumstances which exist to-day. J.n this atmosphere of grave peril, would not it be a good thing for the people of this community to know that the test brains of this Parliament were devoted to the cause of carrying on the Government of the nation?

Senator Arthur - They know that now.

Senator SPICER - I shall not deal with silly and facetious remarks like that. It is nonsense to say that all the brains in this Parliament are to be found within the ranks either of the Ministry or of the Opposition. I do not believe it can be seriously suggested that a ministry wholly drawn from either the parties in opposition or the party behind the Government represents the best that this country can produce to deal with the dangerous situation that confronts us. It would be well if the Ministry would look at the problem divorced from the history that has been associated with it and from all the tags that have been attached to it. We should consider seriously whether there is not Some means by which members of all parties in this Parliament can be drawn together in a responsible governing body charged with full executive responsibility to put into effect the war policy of this country. I urge the Leader of the Senate and his party to give further consideration to this matter. It is easy enough to say that we have an Advisory War Council, at the meetings of which representatives of the Government and of the Opposition meet and consider problems of war policy. It is true that they do so, but their decisions are not final. Under the present arrangements some of the best men in this Parliament, nien who have had a long experience of administration, and particularly of war administration, arc excluded from the responsibility of making important Executive decisions. I do not believe that we have exhausted all the possibilities and I urge the Government not to delay in this matter any longer.

The second matter to which I wish to refer briefly is the suggestion that the Government should seek the approval of the Parliament for an amendment of the National Security Act to enable it, if it so desires, to send our forces to any territory adjacent to Australia if such a course seems desirable in the interests of our safety. Here again, I suggest that it is desirable that we should look at this problem in the light of conditions which exist to-day. I know that there is a long history about conscription and there is strong opposition in this community - or there has been in the past - to conscripting men for what we describe as overseas service. The people have objected to compelling men to fight against their will on the battlefields of Europe. But that is not the situation we are dealing with today. We arc concerned with the question of sending men,, perhaps to some territory outside Australia it is true, but for the purposes of directly preventing an enemy from approaching our shores. This question is not one which directly involves a decision as to whether or not it is desirable to send men into overseas countries. Frankly, that is a question which .1. am not competent to answer ; the answer to it must depend, in a very large measure, upon the advice which the Government receives from its competent naval and military advisers. What I am concerned about is that the Government should not, find itself in a position where it may be hampered in giving effect to the advice of its military advisers.

Suggest corrections