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Tuesday, 16 December 1941

Mr FADDEN (Darling Downs) (Leader of the Opposition) .- The Opposition not only associates itself with the grave and important resolution before the House, but also wholeheartedly allies itself with the Government in the steps it has taken. I hasten to assure the Government that the Opposition is fully aware of the grave responsibilities that are cast upon it. For that reason 1 offered to the Government the wholehearted co-operation and practical support of the Opposition. We acknowledge that, at this time, national considerations should transcend all party political considerations. In the ranks of the Opposition are men who have had practical experience of administration in war-time, and we sincerely regret that the Government has not seen fit to take full advantage of their services. If the Government for various reasons, cannot accept our offer to assist the Ministers in their work, it should establish a supreme war council to include certain members of the Opposition, upon whom could be bestowed executive authority. It is the conscientious belief of the Opposition that a workable formula could be evolved whereby full use could be made by the Government of the ability of various honorable members on this side of the House, so as to lighten the burden of responsibility that is now borne by Ministers.

The war has assumed a very grave aspect. Within the last week the people of Australia have been awakened to a full realization of the nearness of the enemy to our shores. Warnings that were given about ten months ago, and which then were regarded in some quarters as merely alarmist, are now proved to have been soundly based. Fortunately, the Government then in office and the Advisory War Council assessed the position correctly, and, as a result, the nation is much better prepared to-day than it would have been if those warnings had been ignored. It is appropriate to state now that much has been done to lay a solid foundation for the defence of Australia since the fateful day in September, 1939, when we were compelled to declare war upon Germany. The developments that have taken place in that period of two years must not be dis regarded. Australia has been converted from an almost entirely primary producing country to what to-day is; relative to its population, the most highly industrialized nation in the world. This is due to the soundness of the war plan which was evolved by the Government of the day, and to that Government's determination in implementing its policy. We must not overlook the part that has been played by our industrialists, both employers and employees, in contributing to this development. I am confident that the people of Australia will wholeheartedly support this Government in its war effort. I appeal to them to fall in behind the' Government and give to it all the help that lies in their power, because in time of war a government must have the goodwill and the co-operation of the people if it is to do its work successfully. The difficulty of its task will not diminish while dissension exists within our ranks. The people of Australia must be prepared to do many things that hitherto have been foreign to them. They must awaken to a full appreciation of the fact that they cannot enjoy peace-time conditions while a war of such gravity as the present one is being fought. The Government will be called upon to do many unpopular things and to, implement much unpopular legislation. But the Opposition will not shirk the responsibility of aiding it in this task. Of course, our co-operation must be consistent with our opinions as to how the war effort should be conducted and as to how the resources of the country can and should be marshalled in order to meet the economic, financial and other, conditions imposed upon us by war. In view of this, 1 may be pardoned at ' this juncture for bringing to the notice of the Government an urgent defence matter. The Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) during his speech rightly mentioned the necessity for entire co-operation with our Allies. I consider that, to facilitate the work of defending Australia and to enable our man-power to be used to the best purpose in conjunction with that of our Allies, the Government should declare a zone of Australian defence within which our defence forces could be employed as required. The declaration of such a zone would be in keeping with the spirit and meaning of the Defence Act, which now specifies the Australian Commonwealth and its territories as spheres to be defended by the citizen army. Our frontier to-day is definitely in Malaya. Our destiny is linked with the fate of the Philippines, the Netherlands East Indies, Borneo, and the other stepping stones on which Japan is seeking to establish bases in a drive towards Australia, which it has already declared to l>e a potential victim in its so-called " coprosperity sphere ". Each of these bases is within what should bc made the defence zone of the Com in on wealth, and within this zone we should make the maximum use of our defence resources. I ask the Government to remove any artificial boundaries or other obstacles that might paralyse our best defence efforts should Japan break through to bases further south than those which it at present occupies.

In view of the dangerous practice, which is quickly growing, of circulating wild rumours regarding shipping losses and war activities generally, the Government should give careful consideration to the institution of nightly broadcasts, under the control of the Department of Information, which could be linked with the broadcasts of Mie British Broadcasting Corporation. These should be the only authorized sources for the broadcasting of war information to the public, and punishment should be meted out to persons who circulate unfounded rumours. The danger of these rumours and the disservice which they do to our war effort must be apparent to every honorable member.

In the 27 months of conflict through which we have passed, Australia, with the rest of the Empire, has become accustomed to the treachery of Hitler and Mussolini. Now, Japan, by striking without prior notice, lias revealed itself to be even more treacherous than the common enemy against whom 'we have been waging relentless war since September, 1939. For this country, Japan's entry into the war put an entirely new complexion- on international affairs. Hitherto, the scene of battle was far removed from our shores. Hundreds of thousands of our peace-loving citizens thought that there was not the remotest possibility of war being brought so close to us as it has been brought in the last week or so. To them, consequently, the news of Monday of last week was a rude awakening.

Even before the war with Germany broke out, there was considerable evidence that the Commonwealth Government was seised of (Jio gravity of the Pacific situation and was fully appreciative of its responsibilities and duties in the Pacific and the Ear East. The then Prime Minister, Mr. Menzies, made it clear in. April, 1939, that Empire consultations concerning the Pacific and the Ear East must be on the basis that the primary duties and risks in the Pacific should be borne by Australia and New Zealand. This envisaged greater diplomatic contact between Australia and the United States of America, China, Japan, the Netherlands East Indies and other countries bordering on the Pacific. His pronouncement was followed by a declaration that Australia would do all in its power to cultivate close relations with the United States of America and Japan.

Australia is a peace-loving country, and it has desired at all times, to maintain friendly relations with the Japanese nation. As evidence of this, a goodwill mission, headed by Sir John Latham, was sent to Japan some years ago. Further evidence of our desires in this direction was provided last year by the taking of the formal action to effect an exchange of Ministers between Australia and Japan. In August, 1940, the appointment of Sir John Latham as the first Australian Minister to Japan was announced. Sir John presented his letters of credence to the Emperor of Japan on the 24th December last.

At this juncture, I feel that it is appropriate that I should go back to the beginning of this year to show that the then Government was fully alive to the possibility of a " boil over " in the Pacific. In fact, Pacific affairs took such a serious turn in the first week of February last that a joint statement was issued by the then Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) and myself, in which we emphasized that there was no doubt about the seriousness of the international situation as it affected Australia. A few days later, the situation was such that the Government of which I was then Acting Prime Minister summoned a meeting of the Advisory War Council, and called the chiefs of staffs of the services to Sydney. The position was then fully discussed with the Commander in Chief of the Forces in the Far East, Sir Robert Brooke-Pop ham. The outcome of that meeting was that tlie present Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) and tlie present Minister for Supply and Development (Mr. Beasley) joined me in issuing a. statement in which we pointed out that it was the considered opinion of the Advisory War Council that the war had moved to a new stage, involving the utmost gravity, and that effective preparatory measures had been taken. Mr. Curtin supplemented tUe joint statement with an assurance to the Australian people that what was in hand was rightly in hand. He said: "We are in entire agreement, with what the Government is doing". There could be no clearer indication that both the Government and the Opposition members of the Advisory War Council realized the gravity of the Pacific situation and the need for Australia to be on the alert, than was provided by those statements by myself and by representative Labour leaders.

Australia had been given a warning that the disabling of the nation had become a major strategic objective of the enemy. It was emphasized, however, that not only did we desire peace with our neighbours bub also that we had actively sought to maintain peace with them. Consequently, there could have been no misapprehension as to the policy we wished to pursue.

We are now called upon to give constitutional endorsement to the declaration. <>f war upon Japan. In supporting the motion, I make it clear that the Australian Government and people arc just, as united and determined to fight vigorously and earnestly for victory as they were previously united and determined to strive vigorously and earnestly for peace. I t is my responsibility and duty to second tlie motion and this T emphatically do.

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