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Thursday, 28 November 1935

Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia) (Minister for External Affairs) [8.40]. - It is axiomatic that any motion directed towards the promotion of peace among the nations of the world must commend itself to the sympathetic consideration of honorable senators. Senator Macartney Abbott has broken new ground in submitting this motion, and he is to be congratulated on the interest he has displayed in the subject and on his action in bringing it before the Senate. Before we commit ourselves to this motion, however, we have to ascertain its value to achieve the purpose to which it is directed. A common language would probably lead to a better understanding between the peoples of the world but one would be extremely optimistic to take the view that a common language of itself would necessarily bring about international peace. If we look back on history, certain events immediately spring to mind. For instance, we readily recall the terrible American civil war. At that time, the population of the United States of America was much more Anglo-Saxon than it is to-day, and I think it is correct to say that the language almost generally in use was English. But, notwithstanding the fact that the American people had a common language and practically a common religion and common ideals, a great fratricidal conflict occurred. Also, we recall the civil war in England* in the time of Charles I. There is no doubt that, at that time, the English people had a common language. These two examples from the history of our own race should prevent us from being unduly optimistic and assuming that the adoption of a common language among people of different races and holding different ideals will necessarily make for international peace. Of course, this is not a fatal objection to the promulgation of the idea embodied in the motion. However, I have to speak, not in my own behalf, but on behalf of the Government. This motion, if agreed to, will commit the Government to a certain course of action. I recall remarks made to me by the late Senator E. D. Millen on his return from Geneva where he bad attended the Assembly of the League of Nations. He had an extremely critical mind, and when I asked him for his impressions of the League, he told me that he thought those directly connected with the League were too idealistic, that they refused to come down to earth, and that they did not pay sufficient regard to practical things. The Government feels that any proposition it places before the League of Nations should have the support of educated public opinion, and that it should not do anything which might make the League appear to be merely a debating society. Public opinion has first to be formed amongst the nations themselves, and the Government's view is that before attempting to obtain international action it should have the support of the Australian people. Even Senator Abbott will agree that up to the present there is no definite public opinion in Australia upon this subject.

Senator Abbott - There is a considerable volume of public opinion.

Senator Sir GEORGEPEARCE.No one can say that so far public opinion in Australia has been educated as to the need or desirableness of the course of action he suggests. While the Government is particularly sympathetic towards the ideal expressed in the motion, it feels that it would be premature to place the subject upon the agenda of the League of Nations at this juncture. The Government feels that there should be more education on the subject in Australia, and I think that through the press and by other means the honorable senator himself is doing good work in that direction.

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