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Wednesday, 14 October 1914

Mr SPEAKER - The honorable member's time has expired.

Motion (by Mr. Fisher) agreed to -

That the honorable member for Parramatta be granted an extension of time.

Mr JOSEPH COOK - The other day I read a statement by the German poet Schiller-

The nation is worth nothing that does not joyfully stake all on its honour.

That statement is worth quoting in these days. I wish that the poet would commend it to his own rulers, for they have violated the honour of their nation, and have violated their solemn pledges given to the world many years ago. Now that we are in this fight our attitude should be that of Polonius when he says -


Of entrance to a quarrel; but, being in,

Bear't that the opposer may beware of thee.

We must make them beware how they hack their way through solemn treaties, and violate the neutrality of small kingdoms who had every claim to their protection and support ! Sir, I believe that war is not all bad. It is bad enough. On the platform the other night the honorable member for Barrier, in the course of a very eloquent and moving speech, said that he could only see in war all that was bad. There are, however, more things in war than those that are ineradicably andunmistakablybad. When one comes to think that out of many a war in the past has come the great fillip to the freedom of the various peoples of the world one can only hope that some such result may come from this war. There is just a gleam of truth in the words of Hosea Biglow -

Not but abstract war is horrid, -

Isign to thet with all my heart, -

Butcivyzation doos git forrid

Sometimes upon a powder-cart.

I hope it will be so on this occasion. At any rate, I believe that this war, when it is over, will, among other things, end that mad race of armaments which has beggared - I am not sure that I should not say brutalized - Europe for many years past. The New Age the other day said that Germany's attempt to found an effective navy has cost Western Europe a thousand million pounds. We could not go on very long at that rate. There had to come a stop to it all, to that mad race of armaments which we have seen going on for many years past. So far as we in Australia are concerned, I believe that the sentiment expressed the other day by Harold Begbie is our own, and that we -

War for the end of war :

Fighting that fighting may cease.

Why do our cannons roar?

For a thousand years of peace.

We cannot hope to get a thousand years of peace, but we can hope for a peace which will last for many years to come when this tremendous war is over.

There is another consideration, and withthis I shall conclude. War is a great leveller. Liberal, Labour, Home Ruler, Unionist, rich and poor, all are together, side by side. The other day we read that there were seventy members of the House of Commons and the House of Lords at the front fighting in this battle. May I refer for a moment to the statement made this afternoon by the honorable member for Bourke? I hope that in this war we are doing more than fighting for the capitalist. I hope that all sections are banded together and, setting aside all fratricidal feelings, which had already got too far ahead in many of these countries, that all are combining to fight for the principles of freedom and liberty which are the birthright of all of us, and which are worth any cost in preserving in Europe and the rest of the world. Instead of seeking points of difference which the honorable member for Bourke did so glibly, and yet so eloquently to-day, I should like to say that these words fill the bill very much better -

He, to-day, that sheds his blood with me shall be ray brother; be he ne'er so vile, this day shall gentle his condition.

I should like most of all to see that this war shall put an end to that class strife which has been so rife in recent years, and that we shall all begin from now to. try to understand each other's position and put ourselves in each other's place, to consolidate our resources in order to fight our natural enemies, instead of fighting through all the regions of political and social existence in the fratricidal way we have done for so many years. May we not hope that war is like an earthquake, which, when the convulsions are active, sends out fertilizing streams which spread themselves over the land and beget in later years rich harvests of the rarest products. I hope that as a result of this war we shall gain rich fruits of liberty and freedom in Australia. For this, above all, is our own war. If we lose it, we risk the loss of Australia. I hope we shall feel right through to the bitter end, if need be, that we are fighting for the liberties of Australia, for the social ideals of this home of ours, as well as for the homes of the kingdoms over the sea. I wish to say to the Government that we shall be behind them most cordially with our best support - and not critical support- - in prosecuting this war right to the end. and in financing it to the full in every legitimate and reasonable way. I hope sincerely that this session may not be a session that the programme in the Speech of the GovernorGeneral promises. I can say that, had we succeeded at the polls, this session would not have been a controversial one. It has remained for the present Government to make it so. There is plenty of controversy in their programme. I hope some of it will not find its way on to the floor of this House. I hope that we shall try to find points of agreement rather than points of disagreement, and to consolidate our affairs and cultivate that spirit of unity and strength which is so necessary in order to carry the war to a successful issue.

Mr. FISHER(Wide Bay- Prime Minister and Treasurer* [8.13]. - I join with the Leader of the Opposition in congratulating the honorable members for Grampians and Werriwa the mover and the seconder of the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply. Their speeches were brief and modestly delivered, but they were efforts that commended the mover and seconder to the sympathetic consideration of the House. I venture to say that already these honorable members have a standing in the House that they would not otherwise have attained had not the task been imposed upon them. I congratulate the Leader of the Opposition on his speech, and I tell him quite frankly at the outset that the Government will readily co-operate with him and those who sit behind him in every matter that is national in its character and has for its object the protection of the national life of this dominion and of the Mother Country. We shall not fail in our duty on this occasion, even if in trying to carry out our duty as we see it we make extraordinary demands on the public Treasury and on the citizens of the Commonwealth in order that the present trouble may be brought to a successful issue: I ask the people of Australia, so far as my knowledge goes, to steel themselves to the view that this matter may only just be beginning. But whether we are just beginning or whether we are in the middle of it, or nearing the end, the policy of this Government will be the same as communicated to the then Prime Minister when I had the honour of leading the Opposition. We shall pledge our last man and our last shilling to see this war brought to a successful issue.

I am not here to-night to canvass the purpose of the war. I wish only to express my individual opinion that its origin was insignificant. The cause was not one that should have brought about a world conflagration. It ought not to have been entered upon by the great Powers on such a small and paltry issue. It was first of all an attempt on the part of two great military powers to suppress a very small power. The first attempt made by the greatest military nation in the world was to trample on the rights and privileges of one of the small nations, the neutrality and safety of which were guaranteed by all the civilized powers. We may leave the matter at that. The Commonwealth, with the Dominion of New Zealand, lies furthest away from the scene of war, and we are practically free, therefore, at the present time, from its difficulties. But the Government, with the Opposition, and with every member of the community, I think, are prepared to share in its difficulties and expense, its trials and its sacrifices.

I wish now to say that I do not agree with the idea expressed by the Leader of the Opposition aa to how this session should be conducted. We are not here as children, playing in a dangerous place, likely to be attacked by the enemy. We are here as representatives of the people to devise means and measures that will help to develop the country. If we do not exercise our power and authority whilst we are practically at peace, when shall we do so? The programme of this Government is not a party one in the sense which the Leader of the Opposition would have the country believe. It is a programme in which we believe just as honestly as do the Opposition in another kind of programme.

Mr Joseph Cook - And therefore it is a party programme.

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