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Wednesday, 9 September 1942


Mr SPENDER (Warringah) .- I consider that whatever I may say at this stage would be in the nature of an anti-climax to the splendid address that the House was privileged to hear from the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin). It was a speech, if words are followed by deeds, of leadership containing high principles, which must be carried out faithfully in respect of all classes of the community. I do hope that this debate will be availed of by every honorable member who desires to speak on it, because I firmly believe that the subject of international affairs has not received from this House the attention it deserves. The custom has been, as the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt) would acknowledge, for one or two speeches to be made on the subject and then to adjourn the debate, and that is the last we hear of it. I hope that on this occasion many honorable members will rise in their places and speak upon the many facets of various subjects to which the attention of the House has been directed, and, in particular, to the speech which has been give by the Prime Minister. For my part, f propose to direct my remarks to more limited issues, namely, those raised by the statement read to the House by the Minister for External Affairs last week. That statement was in substance confined to a brief survey of events in the Pacific, to an historical description of the machinery which has been evolved for the conduct of the war, and to general remarks directed to the Atlantic Charter and the post-war world. The Minister has drawn attention to the position of Australia, so far as its ability to defend itself is concerned, in March compared with now, and to the substantial aid which ha3 come forward to Australia, particularly from America. It is well that this statement has been made, especially in view of the confusion which must necessarily have been caused in the public mind, arising out of the " trickle of aid " articles which appear to have been inspired from some official source. That substantial aid has come to Australia from America during the past six months is beyond dispute. Indeed, I am satisfied that we owe our immediate security from Japanese aggression to the fact that America came so quickly to our assistance. Whilst, however, in no way desiring to detract from the full credit to which the mission of the Minister to the United States of America and Great Britain is entitled, a reading of his statement would suggest that the flow of aid which has taken place during the past six months was substantially the result of the efforts of Ohe mission.

That the mission played a very proper part in directing attention to the peril and needs of Australia I very willingly acknowledge. Before its departure, however, and continuously ever since there was being expressed from Australia, through the appropriate channels, the case for Australia, in the formulation of which the records will reveal that the Advisory War Council, that creature so much despised by some members of the House, played a not insignificant part. Members in this House will, I am sure, be satisfied from the record given by the Minister for External Affairs that it has played a very substantial part in the conduct and formulation of policy during the war.

Moreover, I am satisfied that, apart from the representations made by the Government, the attention which was focussed upon Australia through the agency of the newspapers, both here and overseas, persuading public opinion as it did, was a very powerful factor in directing to us a large proportion of the aid which we so desperately needed.

Almost immediately after the outbreak of war with Japan. American troops were on the way to Australia, and men, equipment and supplies have been continuously flowing to us ever since. Perhaps the greatest factor of all has been not so much a mere desire on the part of America to aid us, although this we know has been most generously forthcoming, but rather an increasing appreciation on its part of the importance of Australia, not to us alone, but as a vital strategic factor in a war which can have but one common resolution for us all. So far as aid from the United Kingdom is concerned, that has at all times, within, of course, the limits of its total responsibilities to different areas of the conflict, been most willingly provided.

Perhaps the most outstanding matter referred to in the statement was that which arose out of the meeting of the Advisory War Council held in Melbourne in February of this year, shortly before the departure of the Minister overseas. The full extent of the decision taken then, and of the part played by the Advisory War Council in it, has been made clear by the Minister. It has given rise to a position almost without parallel in modern history, where two sovereign countries, namely Australia and New Zealand, surrender for a period a substantial portion of their sovereignty to another nation in order that that sovereignty may ultimately be preserved for them. In short, we each of us have placed the operational control of the war under the direct command of distinguished American officers, who arc responsible in turn, not directly to Australia, but to the United State1 Chiefs of Staff, and through them ultimately to the President of the United States of America.

This surrender of sovereignty was an inescapable necessity created by events. Of our own strength, we had and have not the capacity to resist the full might of Japan. The protection of these shores became, in the logic of circumstance, the responsibility which was so willingly accepted by the President of the United States of America on behalf of his people, and it became inevitable, therefore, that this should in turn involve the surrender of the operational conduct of the war in the Pacific, including the areas of Australia and New Zealand, to the United States of America.

The arrangement to which the Minister has referred created a position which, in the event of any difficulty arising, should be one of academic difficulty only. The Government of Australia, although it has surrendered the operational direction of the war to a powerful ally in the manner described, nevertheless must remain politically responsible for the conduct of the war and for its direction within our territorial areas. In practice, I have no doubt that the constant contacts, and the goodwill which exists between the Government and the people of Australia and the American Commander in Chief, General MacArthur, will resolve any of these matters. The situation created, however, emphasizes the great necessity for the closest personal contact and collaboration being continually maintained between the Government and the American Commander in Chief and his staff.

I regret that the Minister did not see fit, in the statement which he prepared, to direct himself more to an objective survey of the war in its different aspects throughout the world. I think that a statement upon international affairs should, as much as possible, take the form which the Prime Minister adopted in his statement to the House on the 4th June last. It is important that the House should be kept informed of the total appreciation from time to time of the war, and of the problems which confront us, and have before it every possible and necessary fact which can be made available to it, to enable it to appreciate, so far as one may, the course and the possible future of the war; in short, have a global picture of the hostilities in which we are engaged. I hope that when the Minister makes another statement upon international affairs, he will place greater emphasis upon this aspect of his duties.

The speech is important in another aspect, namely, the attention which it directs to the Atlantic Charter and the future of the world. This charter, which, as the Minister rightly points out, is Atlantic only by reason of the place where it was agreed to, has in all other respects world-wide application. It is one to which the attention of every member of the House should be carefully and minutely directed. It deserves the closest scrutiny because, although it has been adopted by the self-governing dominions, in the actual wording of the principles enunciated therein of necessity they could not be consulted, and consequently they need to direct their attention carefully to the problem of how these principles are to be implemented. I may say without hesitation that the noble principles contained therein are such that they should attract, the support of all liberal-minded, just and freedom-loving men. A careful survey of the charter, however, would, I think, arrest attention, not so much by the words which have been used, or the ideas which have been expressed, as by what has been left, not unnaturally, unsaid. It is in respect of things unsaid that the gist of the problems of the postwar world is contained.

I welcome, therefore, the opportunity which this debate affords of directing a few remarks to the subject. Every man and woman in this country who has children, every man and woman who hopes to have children, is earnestly concerned to build, if they can, a world which shall be free from aggression, a world in which young children may have the love, affection and care of their parents bestowed upon them, free from the fear that the hand of war will in the end stretch out and strike them down.

Most of us, particularly those who are still comparatively young, remember the objectives of the last war. We remember the " war to end wars ". We remember the " war to create a world fit for heroes to dwell in ". We remember these things and much more, and the average person capable of thinking of these matters knows only too well, whatever blame wc each must bear for our failures to measure up to our national responsibilities in the pre-war period, that the causes of war find their roots too frequently in forces over which the ordinary man in the street has little individual control, [n short, the average parent wants to know something, not so much of his own destiny, but rather of that of his children in the world which will follow this war - shall they live or perish? When we look to the terms of the Atlantic Charter, a number of considerations still to be answered throw themselves into relief. Can peace of any duration be ensured which permits what is known as unrestricted freedom of trade? The fourth terra of the charter to which 2S countries have now subscribed states that the agreeing powers will endeavour, with due respect to their existing obligations, to further the enjoyment by all States, great or small, victor or vanquished, of access on equal terms to trade and the raw materials of the world which are needed for their common prosperity. One question which immediately presents itself to my mind is: Is it contemplated that these resources shall be the subject of what has been loosely called in the past " freedom of trade", or what could be more properly described in far too many instances as " freedom of exploitation by international capital "?

Recently I have noticed considerable propaganda being put out by what I might conveniently describe as the freedom of trade school, some of whose members seek to get comfort from the Atlantic Charter as support for what I take leave to regard as a disastrous policy if we revert to it. This school puts forward the proposition that, with the advent of peace, there should be wholesale reduction of all departments of State concerned with the regulation of commerce and industry, and that the only function of government in relation to trade should simply be the levy of taxes "for the maintenance of defence and such other services as come properly within the functions of the State ". I have no doubt whatever that this propaganda seeks to serve very well the interests of international cartels and trusts, and will endeavour to turn the high principles of the Atlantic Charter to their own commercial ends. I am one who believes that so long as. this so-called freedom of trade is controlled in a large measure by huge international combines, whose power is sometimes greater than governments themselves, there can be no hope for a stabilized world economy, without which disaster will again overtake us.

If the use and development of the raw materials of the world is to be left in any substantial measure to huge international and interlocking combines which necessarily seek profit only, there oan be no safety for the future of our children. I firmly believe that the fight of powerful trading interests of one country against those of another for raw materials will lead inevitably to conflict. Such interests, of their very nature, cannot be concerned with either national or international welfare, nor indeed can they control the explosive forces which they generate. 'Because of their inherent characteristics they are unable to take the long view, and whatever view they do take must be concerned primarily not with welfare but with profit. We have lived in a period of false values, and we still largely live in that world. Can it be said that there is any honest valuation of the services of man as between him and other men? For too long we have paid tribute to these false values. Spiritual values have largely disappeared in the pursuit of material gain by all classes of the community. We have witnessed what is euphemistically known as "managed currency". Frequently throughout the world "managed currency " has meant the manipulation of credit, which in turn has been followed by the manipulation of prices of man's labour, the goods it produces, and the securities representing his savings. Not always, of course, but time and again these in turn have necessitated control of interest and external trade in the interest of sectional and powerful groups. And with what result? The inevitable consequence has been huge tariffs, restriction of production, of imports, and of exports. Indeed, recourse has been had to every conceivable economic formula. We have accepted almost without question the proposition that the maintenance of price determined profit, and that the restriction of production by artificial means, regardless of its effect upon employment or upon the hungry, was commercially justified. In no sphere was this evidenced more than in the sphere of international trade, and I firmly avow that, until international trade is controlled, so as to prevent spasmodic and unscientific development of the resources of the world, there can he no permanent peace.

It would be foolish indeed for me to express any concluded view as to what shape the post-war world will take, or to have any fixed and immutable ideas as to its reconstruction. We are now engaged in something that is much more than a war; it is a revolution, the most deep-seated in human history. None can foretell how long it will last, what changes will be wrought, or what desolation and destruction it will bring in its train. All these things will fashion the shape of things to come. What we do during this war will largely condition what we must do when the war is through, but the obligation to direct our attention to the establishment and preservation of peace as an abiding principle of international relationships is one which must remain steadfastly with us. It is a goal towards which humanity, through all its stumbling, must direct its faltering footsteps, if civilization as we know it is to survive. The League of Nations failed for many reasons, apart from its lack of courage. These reasons it is inopportune for me to develop at this moment. However, the conception of some supra-national authority imposing its will upon the component entities is one which ultimately we must adopt. Many who have thought much on this matter have reached the conclusion that the achievement of world peace cannot go hand in hand with the complete and unchallengeable assertion of the sovereign rights of separate States and separate peoples throughout the world.

The third principle of the Atlantic Charter states that the nations concerned respect the right of all people to choose the form of government under which they will live, and asserts that they wish to see sovereign rights and self-government restored 'to those who have been forcibly deprived of them. With this, I completely agree, assuming as I do that the form of government shall be that which they freely desire and elect, and that this clause of the Atlantic Charter does not contemplate that these sovereign rights will be such as may be asserted economically or otherwise against any nation in such a way as to disturb or imperil the peace of the world. No doubt, in the end these assumptions will involve the surrender on the part of what are called " sovereign States " of some portion of their national sovereignty. The world of 1939 Ave can never know again. A large number of completely sovereign national units may have been possible in the years before the climax of the industrial era and the development of aircraft, but in my view, that is no longer possible. lt is always unwise to prophesy, but it is necessary to project one's mind into the future, and that I am prepared to do. E shall proceed, therefore, to express some opinions which' I think 'are of value. Smaller national units, whilst maintaining their independent national culture and characteristics, must necessarily join together in federation in order to protect and defend themselves. A much lesser number of such units only is possible in these times, and no doubt those groups will aim at being as selfsupporting as possible. Certainly, they will group themselves primarily upon a basis of economic and geographical considerations. The picture of Soviet Russia, with its varying nationalities and subjects forming one economic unit, is a finger mark to the world. Such units, if not self-supporting, will possess control of materials, raw or manufactured, or be capable of supplying services which in turn could be disposed of to other groups in return for products and services required. Should I prove correct in all this, it seems to presuppose continuance after the war of State control of external trade. Indeed, as it has been truly pointed out, " the pledge of the fourth principle in the Atlantic Charter is handicapped of fulfilment if nations pursue policies which limit the purchasing power of other nations for imported goods, oi- if export quotas are imposed, or artificial price-raising devices are resorted to". However, all that would not prevent complete freedom of commercial intercourse between individuals and units of any group, but my conviction is that it would eliminate selfish sectional interests which are the seed of so much trouble. The simple truth is that the standard of living to which the fifth principle of the Atlantic Charter is directed depends entirely upon the fruit of man's Labour, the goods he produces, the services he renders. His freedom to deal with and obtain the proper value of the products of his efforts must be acknowledged. Where all external trade is controlled by the States, questions of tariff cannot arise. Imports and exports will then be governed by what the Government believes to be in the best interests of its people as a whole. In what group or federation will Australia find itself? It seems to me all our hopes must be centred in the attainment of a federation between Great Britain, North America and Australasia. The achievement of a supra-national authority imposing its will upon all its subordinates throughout the world is no doubt generations and generations off, but an economic group of the Englishspeaking people of the world is not remote; it is something which can, and I pray will be, accomplished. Its common interests will anchor it to the world of reality. Its common background and culture will give purpose to its life. It will be strong enough to face any European or European-Asiatic combination, and powerful enough to trade on terms of at least equal opportunity with any nation or groups of nations throughout the world. It will be fundamentally our purpose to disarm our enemies, to render them impotent, and to keep them so whilst yet we struggle for ways and means of preserving the peace, and doing justice in accordance with the charter. To such a federation must Australia look if there is to be security for it in the Pacific. Australia's danger in this war, and therefore its interest in the peace, is deeper than that of any other nation. Including New Zealand, it numbers 9,000,000 people, surrounded by 1,000,000,000 coloured people. Unless this fact is kept clearly in the mind of every thinking citizen, when this war is through, we may easily resume our habit of enjoying the sun.

I could not hope in a speech of this character to deal with all the matters which are germane to the issues which I have raised. I have said sufficient, I hope, to establish the need for the Allied Nations to be collating, from day to day, all the material which the progress of the war reveals as throwing light upon the problems of preserving peace. Until final victory is ours, we cannot form any inflexible views, so great is the fluidity to which the world is being subjected ; but at least we can prepare our tentative plans so that when peace comes to us we shall have an intelligent appreciation of our problems. It is not for ourselves that we should labour, but for our children and the generations still in the womb of the world.

There is one subject, however, to which I desire to direct attention at this stage, and that is the population of this country. I do not make an extravagant statement when I say that, as Australians, we have almost commenced to die. If the rate of natural increase of population in this country which prevailed in 1915 had continued throughout the period from 1916 to 1940, we should now have had more than 800,000 additional young people between the ages of 1 and 26 years in Australia and our total population would have been nearly 1,000,000 more than it is to-day. It is not for me to deal now with the causes of this situation, but merely to direct attention to the facts. We cannot hope to hold this country, certainly not by our own strength, if our rate of increase of population is not substantially augmented.

Although during the war there has been an uplift in the birthrate, taking the period from 1921 to 1941 inclusive, one finds that the accrued- birthrate per thousand from 1921 to 1934 was upon an ever-diminishing curve. The net reproduction rate in that period was at its highest in 1922, when it was 1.376. It fell to less than unity during each of the years from 1932 to 1939. In 1940, it achieved unity and slightly improved upon that position in 1941. The significance of these figures cannot be overestimated. A net reproduction rate of loss than unity means that the adult population of a country is not being replaced. That is what has been taking place for some years past in Australia. The age groups of the country tell the same story.

I draw attention to this grave malady. Some way must be found - indeed, many ways may have to he found - to increase our population as rapidly as possible. I put aside for the moment the immigration method, important as it is, and I say that, not after the war, but now, we must direct our attention to the task of increasing the number of young people in our community. No doubt this problem is largely economic, but it is bound up, inescapably, with the security of the world and the faith and expectation of parents that their children, if born, shall not be destroyed again by war.

For 150 years we have had the great fortune to live in peace, and, compared with many other nations of the world, to live in plenty. "We have never, except spasmodically, measured up fully to our obligations in international affairs. The way is now open to us. Let us tread it with intelligence and courage. Let it be said of us hereafter that we who lived in these times, by the wisdom and foresight we displayed, kept this country secure, not only for ourselves, but also for those who will follow us.







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