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Wednesday, 25 February 1942


Senator A J McLACHLAN (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) . - I have listened with interest to the carefully prepared statement which is the product of the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt), and which was read to the Senate by the Minister for Information (Senator Ashley). There are one or two matters upon which I desire to touch, because we may get a little further enlightenment in the event of the queries which I shall submit being capable of being answered without giving information which may be of value to the enemy. I read into the ministerial statement a suggestion that there appeared somewhere on the horizon some prospect of Russia engaging in war with Japan. If I am wrong in that inference I shall be glad to bc corrected, because I think that it is of most vital importance to the conduct of this war, both in the west and in eastern waters, that we should know exactly whether that is to take place. In' my opinion Japan must ultimately be stopped. I do not take the pessimistic view that appears, unfortunately, and, perhaps unintentionally, to have been created by statements by various members of the Government. I .regard the present position with optimism, compared with my state of mind some eighteen months ago. I look with confidence to the great democratic forces which represent threefourths of the population of the world and which are associated with Great Britain, the United States of America, and our other great Allies. I can see in those forces the overwhelming of the people of the other one-fourth of the globe, which stands for tyranny and everything contrary to those principles which we support and admire. I look therefore; to the subjugation of those enemy countries and to a future in which Japan will have been overthrown. That Japan will be beaten I have no doubt, but I want that result to be accomplished with the least possible sacrifice of life. That can be done only by attacking Japan at home - by striking at Tokyo and other Japanese cities and towns. In order to do that we must have air bases at Vladivostock and in China. Recently I was astounded to hear over the. air that the United States of America was already negotiating with the Chinese authorities for the establishment of air bases in China. Japan is full of vigour and fight and, so far, its armed forces have had the luck of battle at Pearl Harbour and elsewhere. Considerable success has attended Japan's exploits, largely because in such places as Malaya and the other countries where fighting has taken place the nature of the country has suited Japanese fighters. Before long Japan's successes may laud Australia in difficulties, but should that cause us to despair? Even though our tribulation may be great this country will continue to carry on. On one occasion recently I rather admired a gentleman with whose politics I am generally not in agreement. The Minister for Supply and Development (Mr. Beasley), when sponsoring the present war loan, exhibited some of the spirit that should animate the people of this country. He said that Australian!! would fight on, if necessary to the last ditch. For years we have known what was going on in Japan, but. we have failed to prepare against attack. However, now that the trial has come, we shall not shirk the ordeal. The Japanese out-manoeuvred us at Darwin. On trams and trains, and in clubs, it is freely said that Japanese aeroplanes attacked Darwin from the south - a direction from which they were least expected. Without those modern instruments which can detect the approach of aeroplanes, it is not to be wondered at that the authorities at Darwin were taken by surprise. The pity of it is that some of our aircraft were struck upon the ground. That, however, is one of the fortunes of war. Pearl Harbour had its warning; Darwin did not. Pearl Harbour neglected its warning. The commanding officer there said that it was foolish to talk of a Japanese invasion of Hawaii. Serious though they be, such incidents are bound to occur especially when a nation has made preparation for more than a dozen years to strike outlying posts in the Pacific. In Java Japan is meeting foemen worthy of its steel, and Japanese soldiers can expect a. lively time indeed. I have always visualized the closest co-operation between the Dutch people of the Netherlands East Indies and ourselves. I remember the Dutch as a nation which held command of the seas for many years and whose people have never lacked courage and enterprise. I speak only as a layman, but I should regret exceedingly if tUe higher war strategy should leave J ava without support. Of course, it may be that that would be a wise course to adopt, but I cannot easily forget an appeal on behalf of Java which I read in last night's Melbourne Herald. Ii was an appeal by a Dutchman for his country similar to that which any one of us might make on behalf of Australia.

When I heard the Minister's statement regarding unity of command I recalled that lack of a single command greatly prolonged the war of 1914-lS and, indeed has produced some degree of chaos in our ranks in the East during recent months. Let us sink our differences so that our men may go forward to the place where they can serve Australia best. Let us put our forces on sea, on land and in the air in charge of one man whom we can trust, and let him do the job. In this respect, we may learn something from dictator countries; in Italy and in Germany one man gives commands which are obeyed throughout the country. Should the man entrusted with that authority fail, he may be punished, and although that will probably he his fate in the long run, the policy is sound. In Russia, Stalin is supreme. He says to those under him, " Go " and they go, and to others " Come ", and they come. In Russia, that policy has met with considerable success. I am delighted at the success which has attended the effects of General Timoshenko - a man who I generally refer to as " Tam-o-S banter " because he is so like the Tam-o-Shanter of old. Russian strategy is left to him to devise and carry out. A nation engaged in mortal combat cannot afford to have divided control. Nor can it afford to be bound by red tape. For the edification of those honorable senators who share the responsibility of governing the country, I shall mention a story which I heard recently in Melbourne. An officer belonging to the forces of one of our allies took a lady guest into dinner at a social function, where the all-absorbing topic of conversation was, of course, the war. The lady asked whether her companion thought that the Japanese would invade Australia, and he replied: "I do not". The lady was greatly reassured, hut she wanted to know on what his opinion was based. The reply of her companion was illuminating : " They would be very soon entangled in red tape ". We do not want too much red tape; but we do want to have in command men who know their job. I urge that the man on the spot should be trusted, for, after all, it is he who must accept the responsibility. Generally, we have not failed when we have trusted the man on the spot, for, realizing his responsibility, he has risen to the occasion, although, at times, he has been mistaken and perhaps beaten. In the interests of our own safety and of democracy, we must have unified command. Whatever our present shortcomings may he in this respect, I believe that they will shortly be remedied. We have the men and also the material. We are inclined to forget the enormous burden which the old Motherland has carried throughout this war. We are inclined to forget the enormous length of coastline that Britain has to police in order to reduce Germany to commercial impotence. We are inclined to forget also the success which has attended the campaign against raiders, submarines and torpedo-boats in the North Sea and in the Atlantic Ocean. I commend to honorable senators, particularly those who are inclined to dwell upon the failure of our cousins in the Old Land to do what they think should have been done, a book by G. H. Johnston entitled Battle of the Seaways, which has recently been, published. It would bring to the notice of honorable senators the endurance and courage of the men employed on trawlers. Only this week, we all read with pride of the gallantry of the man who placed the destroyer under his control between a torpedo and a troopship, knowing as he did so that it meant the doom of himself and his crew. We should read these things rather than discuss the reasons for the fall of Singapore. What right have we in Australia to blame any one else for what happened there? I shall not indulge in party recriminations, but we all know that a government of a certain political colour in England refused to continue to make Singapore a bastion of Empire. Because of my connexion with certain business interests at Singapore, I have reason to know that many things which ought to have been done at Singapore were not done. But what have Ave in Australia done in the way of providing a " backstop " behind Singapore? I believe that experiences at Singapore will teach a lesson to Australia. So far as I am aware, no nation ever came to full nationhood without the shedding of blood. The Japanese have proved that they have the capacity to wage war and, indeed, to do many things successfully. Seeing that they have allied themselves with the Axis powers, and are aiming at domination over other peoples, we. have to meet them, and beat them. By waiting until the Axis forces were on the wane, they played their part well in Axis strategy. Japan's entry into the war, while giving a temporary advantage to the Axis powers, has brought into the war on our side the great United States of America. What must be the result on the future of civilization of the participation of our American allies in the struggle? But this is no time to be thinking about our new policies, or our new orders. We must first preserve our freedom ; and when the appropriate time arrives I. think that even-handed justice will be dealt out to the world as a whole. The regulation of international trade, for instance, will help to stem the petty jealousies which have arisen throughout the -world. Some people would revert to our old system of international trade; but that cannot be done. During a short stay in Europe on one or two occasions, and when I represented this country at meetings of the

League of Nations at Geneva, I saw much of the dishonest machinations and methods that were current, and the efforts that were made to overcome restrictions in international trade. Whenever I think of those things I am impelled to ask how the world can go on under such conditions. I think that the import duty on wheat, into France, in the interests of French growers, was Ss. or 9s. a bushel, whilst, I believe, it reached 14s. a bushel in Germany. Are the people of the world, the ordinary human beings, to be deprived of commodities vital to their existence when such commodities can be produced in profusion in the Americas and in this and other countries? One could cite hundreds of instances to show bow the present unrest in the world has arisen. There is that seething mass of international jealousies between the people of the various countries of Europe, jealousies which I am afraid will take centuries to eradicate. When one crosses the border from one country to another one must produce a passport. If you go from one country into another country, perhaps not half a mile, you sense the venom :with which the workmen on one side of the border regard those on the other side of the border. They have nothing but hatred in. their souls toward one another. On one occasion I journeyed as a guest from France to a beautiful spot a short distance across the border of Switzerland. It was a Sunday, a market day for the French. Our driver was a Swiss. The party consisted of three or four cars. As we left the market town we encountered a few co;\vs on the road under the care of a herdsman. Our Swiss driver got out of the caj- and urged the boasts off the road in order to allow the cars behind us to proceed. The herdsman spoke to him in pretty strong language. He called him a pig of a Swiss and used certain adjectives, and a few rocks were hurled at our retreating ear as an expression of the herdsman's ill will towards us. When one crosses the border from France to Italy one experiences the same thing. There is not a spirit of friendship, peace or goodwill.

We must he guided by the higher strategy of our Pacific War Council. I implore the Government to harken to the words of those strategists, and not to endeavour to insist on Britain doing this, and Australia doing that, or Britain not doing this and Australia not doing that. Let us follow the lead of the President of the United States of America. He has sent his people forward. He has taken many things in his stride, and has dealt shattering blows to the enemy. J have no doubt that he will deal him more blows. Do not let us have bickering. 1 regret the atmosphere generated recently by certain words of the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin). Probably they were uttered on the impulse of the moment. At any rate, they were put over the air. He withdrew them, but not before one or two of his Ministers, who are great proBritishers a.s we all know, were at great pains to explain to the people of this country that the Prime Minister had no reflection to make on Britain. We have no reflection to make on Britain. During the past :I50 years we have been protected by the strong arm of Great Britain.

With regard to the regulations which have been discussed in this debate by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay), I fear that it is a case of forgiving the Government for it knows not what it does. Evidently, the Prime Minister has now realized his error, and it would ill become me at this juncture to add fuel to the fire that has been created by these regulations. The fire is exceedingly dangerous to the welfare of this country. It is a fire of which the Treasury officials and representatives of the Commonwealth Bank are fully aware; they have taken prompt steps to quell it. When the Prime Minister assumed office he stated that he was not going to tear up the economics of Australia by the roots. Let us see to it that he does not do something worse .than that. I welcome the suggestion made to-day by the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Keane) on behalf of the Treasurer, that these regulations be reviewed by a committee representative of the Government and the Opposition. One of the regulations is perfectly meaningless. The Leader of the Opposition has vigorously criticized the other regulations. But this is not a time for criticism. The Government has admitted its error. The particular regulation to which 1 refer reeks with injustice. If we must be taxed to the tune of 20s. in the £1, we must pay the tax;but do not let us do something that will reduce the capital value of the assets in this country. I noticed a statement in last night's Melbourne Herald that the effect of this regulation would be to reduce the capital assets of the people in this country by £500,000,000.

SenatorBrown. - Surely the honorable senator does not believe that?







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