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Tuesday, 16 December 1941

Dr PRICE (BOOTHBY, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) .- I wish to make a few observations at this grave moment,, first because I warned -the House very definitely on the 27th August when tie Menzies Government was in office, and again, on the 5th November, after the Curtin Government had assumed control of the treasury bench, that Japan was about to strike, in fact must strike for one important reason, namely, lack of oil. Secondly, I speak now because, particularly after hearing this debate, I believe that there are still some Australians who do not realize the terrible prospects which confront this country. The position to-day is this: The grouping of world powers which had been expected and foretold by political geographers for twenty year3, has occurred, and there is no other great power which can affect this conflict in any way. The last two countries to join in the conflict have immense strength, but on a very different basis. Immediately Japan brings into the fight experienced and organized forces, 70,000,000 regimented people, an experienced navy of 260 warships, and 6,500,000 conscript soldiers. Fortunately, Japan has very few material resources to carry her through the long war which inevitably, must result. America bring3 in a much larger nation of 140,000,000 people, but it is a nation which is only partly organized. Compared with the Japanese army of 6,500,000 men, America has less than 2,000,000 troops- 300,000 regulars and 1,500,000 partly trained conscripts. America's navy of 320 warships has already suffered great losses, and so far, we know little about its air force, because it has not yet been tried. Onthe other hand, the Japanese air force is very much better than we expected. However, America's resources are ever so much greater than those of our new enemy, and will be the deciding factor, provided we can hold out long enough. According to the latest figures, America is building 367 warships compared with 38 vessels under construction in Japan. Apart from the battles for Britain and the Atlantic, Australia has faced two great threats : The first came from southeastern Europe and north-eastern Africa, and was beaten by the magnificent defence of the Russians, and the splendid work of the British Commonwealth of Nations in Libya, Syria, Iran and Irak, and no less important inGreece and Crete. When the story of the Australian ImperialForce is written, and we realize the full significance of the delays occasioned to Hitler by the successive British campaigns which enabled Russia to struggle on to the winter, and gain time to organize new armies, the part played by Australian soldiers will be revealed as no mean contribution to the victory which we are confident will be attained at a future date. Now Australia faces a much graver and more immediate danger from the north and north-east. Before the entry of Japan into the war, experts believed that American dreadnoughts on their flank at Hawaii, and American defence preparations in the Philippines, would prevent Japan from striking south. We know now that these hopeswere false. Tremendous and successful attacks have been launched on the American possessions, accompanied by assaults on British territories. These attacks have revealed grave miscalculations of Japanese strength, and now Pacific countries are in intense danger. I believe that, at present, Australiawill face no more than serious raids and interruptions to communications, but I agree with the right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies) that these raids will most certainly come. If the Japanese can strike over distances of 3,000 and 4,000 miles at Hawaii, and even on the Pacific coast of America in the very teeth of the American Navy, how can we expect to fare any better when our possessions and our coastline are only about 1,500 or 2,000 miles from the Japanese-occupied Marshall and Caroline Islands? We are informed that the latest Japanese submarines have a cruising range of 16,000 miles. For the moment attacks on our shores may be only raids aimed at disrupting our production, and, more important still, diverting us from the defence of an area which is absolutely vital to us, namely, Singapore. Only Singapore has the docks to accommodate and repair the battleships which, despite recent disasters, are probably essential to Australia's defence. Yesterday, I obtained an interesting book which has just arrived from the United States of America. It was written by Captain W. D. Puleston, who was head of the American Naval Intelligence. This leading American naval expert analyses the position in the Pacific and forecasts what has already taken place. He names three places which are vital to the defence of Australia and of the whole of the western Pacific. The first place is Singapore, the gateway to Australia, which has the only facilities available for repairing allied capital ships. If we lose Singapore we cannot expect the help of a major capital fleet. The second place is the Philippines where there are docks for repairing large cruisers but not capital ships. Captain Puleston points out that the Philippines form an advance post for the defence of Australia, the Dutch East Indies and other south Pacific territories, and also for an attack upon Japan. The third place which the writer regards as vital is Guam. He contends that it is essential to retain Guam as a base midway between the Philippines and Hawaii, particularly for the refuelling of the smaller American ships. But what is the position to-day? Guam is already lost, and the Philippines and Singapore are sorely beset. I do not wish to be controversial; I do not propose to discuss what this government or that government has done, but I do believe that we should have national political unity in this country to meet the present emergency. The public demands that unity. Personally, I welcome the offer of the Leader of the Opposition, and I hope that a method will be found by which unity can be achieved in this crisis. The nation demands not promises and fair words, but acts. As the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) said, it wants the Government to be ruthless and to take any action which it considers necessary for our national defence.

Mr Rosevear -What does the honorable member mean by "ruthless"?

Dr PRICE (BOOTHBY, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - I mean what the Prime Minister means, but it is not being ruthless to say in one breath that every gallon of petrol must be conserved, and then, in another breath, to say that further petrol economies will operate from the 1st February next, when a cut of only 20 per cent, will be imposed. Unless direct action be taken, we may encounter fluctuations between the high peaks of public fear and enthusiasm in the face of real danger from raids and the valleys of complacency which can only hinder our war effort. . The time has come for Australia to regiment and, if necessary, use all available resources of wealth, industry, man-power and woman-power. I wish to be quite definite about this matter. I should be prepared to go just as far as they have gone in England and New Zealand. If it will please the public to have a small capital levy, then I do not mind. If it is necessary to place certain war industries more under the control of the Government, once again I do not mind. I believe that everything should be " all out" in this emergency. The Government should ask Parliament for the fullest possible power, whether it is to be used or not, and Parliament should grant that power without dissent. I am very sad that this trouble over conscription for overseas service is being encountered. I contend that the Government should have power to impose conscription if necessary. I quite agree that if our cities were bombed and men saw their women and children torn to pieces by explosions, there would be such a torrent of volunteers that conscription would not be required. With Japan breaking through our line in the Pacific, with Guam gone, and with Wake Island and Midway Island in danger, the question may not be whether we shall send conscripts to reinforce our forces overseas, but whether we can send reinforcements abroad. I believe that the Government should have this power in case it should be needed. [ welcome the suggestion of the Leader of the Opposition that we should proclaim an Australian zone of national defence in the Pacific and that we should be able, if necessary, to use Militia formations within that zone where, as I have said, Singapore, the Philippines and other places are absolutely essential to our defence. Russia has adopted that system. That nation sent conscripts beyond its boundaries in order to fight Finland and Rumania. Great Britain and New Zealand have adopted it. The Netherlands Government has already sent forces to aid our forces at Singapore. As has been pointed out, the United States of America Senate, by no less than80 votes to none, has decided that conscript forces shall be used, if necessary, to protect the western Pacific.

The time has come for us to be forthright and tell our people of the alternatives that are involved in victory or defeat. I speak of this with great emphasis because, for sixteen months in the early stages of the war, when I gave broadcast talks on current events, my addresseswere censored so that I could not tell listeners to the fullwhat might happen to Australia andwhat the democracies were really fighting against. Victory will mean the retention of the White Australia policy the maintenance of one of the highest living standards in theworld, and the continued improvement of our social system. Defeat will mean,what I do not believe is clearly realized even yet, namely that, for the first time in centuries, a yellow people may control the remnant! of awhite race. To Japan, Australia is no mean prize. We have the iron and the coal that it needs desperately for its industrial development. Our settled areas - not the wild outback, the bush country - and our climate are highly suitable to the Japanese people. Aswas hinted tactfully by the right honorable member for Kooyong, the Japanese are a most kindly race - to theirown folk. But the record of their armies in China shows, in the words of an actual observer, " A bestial cruelty that would prove instructive to the most sadistic German ". One cannot believe that those

Australians who are still mispleading " democratic rights ", in order to shelter the neglectful, realize what we really face. If the worst came to the worst and a part of this country were occupied, there would be no hope of that racial cooperation within the country that we would get from a yellow race like our gallant allies, the Chinese, who co-operate splendidly with white races. The record of the Japanese in Hawaii - we have just learned about their fifth-column activities there - shows that, of all oriental peoples, they co-operate least with white people of any stock. The position that I have outlined - and I have not exaggerated it one iota - should lift all patriotic Australians above what are now minor matters, political, social and economic, and unite us with one tie - the tie of the blood brotherhood of our white descent. Overnight, we have been thrown back into the Dark Ages, when yellow races poured into civilized Europe. But there is every hope that, if we can hang on, the immense force of the Anglo-American democracies will be organized and regimented with our own in a total war effort that will bring victory. I believe, as the right honorable member for Kooyong has hinted, that the time between now and the achievement of that victory will test to the utmost the fibre of our young Australian nation. In order to win through we must cast aside every hindrance to national defence.

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