Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Full Day's HansardDownload Full Day's Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Wednesday, 5 September 1945
Page: 0


Mr FORDE (Capricornia) (Minister for the Army) . - The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) made many points with which we all can agree. However, in fairness to the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt), I must point out that the Leader of the Opposition was not justified in criticizing my colleague as he did. He said that the attitude of my colleague toward? Great Britain merited the strongest criticism. That view is most unfair because. a« I know perfectly well, frequent consultations were held between the representatives of the United "Kingdom Government and the representatives of the Dominions, particularly Australia. A most friendly feeling existed among the representatives of the British Commonwealth of Nations; and I remind the Leader of the Opposition that the good relations among members of the British Commonwealth cannot be impaired by frank discussion.


Mr Spender - It all depends on what the Minister calls " frank " discussion.


Mr FORDE - The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. .Spender) must not interpret frank discussion as meaning hostility to a nation or to the representatives of that nation, simply because a disagreement occurs on matters of policy.


Mr Anthony - Is the conference which the Minister for External Affairs had with the press to be regarded as a frank discussion?


Mr FORDE - I see no reason why, on particular points, we should not differ frankly from the representatives of the united Kingdom Government of the day. I believe that they appreciated the forthright manner in which the Minister for External Affairs " pushed " the points which lie considered were of very great importance. The pace of the Big Four was ihe pace of the slowest member; and on many matters the representatives of the United Kingdom Government were quite in accord with the views of th* representatives of Australia, but the United Kingdom was one of the Big Four and, as such, was faithfully carrying out its undertakings entered into at the Yalta Conference.

As Deputy Prime Minister, I say that as the result of my experience in London and San Francisco, I have nothing but the very highest admiration to express for the representatives of the United Kingdom Government and of the Governments of the Dominions. The representatives of the United Kingdom Government were ever ready to assist Australia and the other Dominions. The suggestion that there was unfriendly feeling is a gross misrepresentation, and I- am sure that the representatives of the United Kingdom Government would be the first to admit that at San Francisco the Australian Minister for External Affairs did good work which will be recognized by historians.

Of few world conferences can it be -aid that every decision made was toward liberalization or that every change made was for the better; yet that is substantially true of the work done at the San Francisco Conference on the Dumbarton Oaks proposals. By common consent, the Australian delegation provided a large measure of the impetus for improvement. All members of the delegation played a part in that work, and I should like to take this opportunity to thank two honorable members of this House, the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) and the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pollard) for their co-operation, advice, and work for Australia, both at and outside the conference. The same tribute is due also to our colleagues from tho Senate, the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) and Senator Nash for their valuable co-operation. These four honorable gentlemen deserve our gratitude and, indeed, the thanks of this Parliament and of the people of Australia. I gratefully acknowledge also the work of the nineteen assistants, consultants and advisers attached to the Australian delegation. The Australian team was a fair cross-section of the Australian public, and, in fact, was selected for that purpose by the late Prime Minister, Mr. Curtin.

When the conference was first proposed, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) truly said that it would be the most important meeting' that- had been held up to that time. It was a great experience to meet the 2S2 delegates, representing the 50 United Nations, and 1,500,000,000 people. These delegates had with thom 1,444 assistants, consultants and advisers. In addition, the conference was attended by observers from important world organizations including the League of Nations, the Permanent Court of International Justice, the International La bow Organization, the United Nations Interim Commission on Food and Agriculture, the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration, and the Pan-Pacific Union.- Every person who attended the conference was actuated by one desire - to set up an international organization to ' outlaw aggression and end the dreadful wars which have been experienced by mankind. No human institution is perfect, but we all hope that as the result of the deliberations of the San Francisco conference, there will be set up an international organization, which, if real life is breathed into it by the 50 nations represented at the conference, will have power to outlaw aggressor nations.

Whilst, we can. rejoice at the successes of Australia, New Zealand and other nations at San Francisco, we cannot claim that the Charter is yet perfect, or even that it satisfies us in every respect. Our delegation did not make any pretence of that kind to the assembled conference; but. we acknowledged readily that it was the best organization upon which the 50 United Nations could agree at that time, and we pledged ourselves, accordingly, to make every effort, to have this Parliament approve the work of the conference. The Minister for External Affairs and I are now fulfilling that pledge, and, I believe that, we have the united backing of members of all political parties, and the unanimous support of the Parliament. The Charter already has been approved by several nations, ineluding the United Kingdom, the United States of America, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, France, Turkey, and Nicaragua, and I believe that before many months have elapsed, it will have been approved by practically every country which was represented at the conference. At the very least, critics of the Charterif there are any serious critics - should look at it in the spirit in which Thomas Jefferson regarded the new constitution of the young United States of America, when lie said -

There are indeed many faults which revolted mc a good deal in the first moment; but we must be contented to travel towards perfection step by step. We must be contented with the ground which the Constitution will gain for us and hope that a favorable moment will come for correcting what is amiss in it.

To-day, it is not a matter of merely hoping for some favorable moment but of working for that moment, by making early and effective use of the machinery which the Charter already affords us. The United Nations organization was conceived and built in a mood of downtoearth realism, which, however, has been devoid neither of hope nor aspiration: nor, indeed, of inspiration, lt reflects keen appreciation of the bitter experience of our failures with another such experiment in the recent past. The architects of the new organization have clearly studied the lessons to be learnt from the failure of the League of Nations. Moreover, we worked under the compelling pressure of two world wars rather than of one, and of a second war more ghastly and brutal, and, morally, as well as physically, far more destructive than the first. Consequently, we sought the workable rather than the ideal, and now we all have the inescapable responsibility of ensuring that the machinery provided by the Charter shall be more successful and more enduring than was that of the League Covenant. The delegations to the San Francisco conference have attempted something new in history. They were called together to establish the forms of peace before the terms of peace, or even peace itself, had been achieved. Though San Francisco was not a peace conference, the forms written into the Charter are already affecting the actual peace terms in Europe and the Far East, as is the very existence of the United Nations organization. Moreover, the development of the United Nations organization will itself bo affected by those terms of peace. That is why we can count ourselves fortunate to have before us now an instrument which promises to be workable and adaptable.

Reports of the conference have focused a great deal of attention on the 'Security Council as being the key branch of the organization. That council's work, concerned as it is with the prevention and settlement of disputes, is vital to future world peace and order, but the council is a! best a conciliation body, at worst a coercive authority, it is not, » creative agency, lt will, we trust, play a steadily diminishing role in a rapidly reordered world. Now is the time to stress what we nan and must do constructively with and through the organization. The Charter itself offers us the Assembly, the Economic and Social Council, the Trusteeship Council, the provision for regional arrangements, and the International Court of Justice as machinery through which positive and creative work can bo done to prevent; and even remove the causes of war and to enrich and stabilize peace. Either we accept and use this machinery to the utmost, or the Security Council will necessarily continue to hold the centre of the United Nations stage. Let us be frank with ourselves. There are features among the voting powers and procedures of the Security Council which we do not relish and which we tried to have altered, but we cannot fairly expect at this stage in the world's chequered history to establish an organization which is at once workable and yet unreservedly acceptable to all member nations. We must recognize the facts of international life in our time and strive to cope with them for the present and to refine them as opportunity permits. What is being created by this Charter is a. system under which - (a) all powers, great and small, disavow aggression; (b) all secondary and small powers will be effectually kept from committing aggression; and (c) the five major powers set up a consultative and judicial mechanism for adjusting disputes amongst themselves, or disputes in which they are interested. In a very real sense, the " Big Five " powers have been constituted special constables. The famous cartoonist. David Low, has amusingly but quite pertinently asked the question, "And vi who's to police the policemen?'" I believe that the answer to that question can only be put in this way: Should the police, who are, in the last resort, the " Big Five " working together, abuse their power or neglect their joint responsibilities, there can be no prospect of law and order. I know only one answer vo the question of what regulates and controls the strongest power in any community. It is law and the habit of obedience to law, and the sense nf those who command power that they can use that power only to uphold the law.

International law is, of course, far from .i perfect code, and the habit of obedience to it is not equal to the habit of obedience to the national laws of advanced countries. But the fact remains that there is no substitute for the bonds of law if peace is to endure. This Charter, which Parliament Ls now asked to approve, i3 another step on the long road which will lead sooner or later, we hope, to the establishment of fully effective law backed by effective force in the international world. For the time being, however, and until the world really does settle down, the Security Council will inevitably be the core of the United Nations organization. In the council there will be concentrated the representatives of the nations holding the world's predominant military power. This war never completely true of the League Council. It was to be so under the terms of the Dumbarton Oaks proposals, but it is likely to be more marked still under the terms of the final Charter. For, thanks largely to the efforts of the Canadians, Australians, and New Zealanders, most of the non-permanent members of the Security Council should be countries like Australia, Canada, and India, which in military strength are next to the " Big Five " and in righting qualities second to none.

Ifr. Spender - Such nations can be members for only two years.


Mr FORDE - Yes. Non-permanent membership must go round, and, I believe, rightly so.

Now that the Allies have completed the conquest of Japan we have not simply smashed a foe which sought to invade this country; we have also disarmed the last nation of military significance outride the now organization. We want certainty of effective action and just use of its power by the organization. For this reason we have accepted the lodging of responsibility for its use in the small, executive Security Council, where the powerful nations will collaborate. We recognize power as a measure of responsibility within the organization; we shall never, however, acknowledge power as a criterion of right. We do not want the organization to be merely a balanceofpower arrangement on a world-wide scale. We are only too well aware of the necessity for unity and unanimity amongst the Great Powers, but it must be unity and unanimity within the constitutional framework of the United Nations. On questions involving the application, of force we are rid - and, I believe, well rid - of the unreal and unfortunate League of Nations " unanimity rule ". This required concurrence of every member State - great or militarily insignificant - in vital decisions. To get rid of it we have accepted, albeit reluctantly, the rule requiring unanimity amongst the " Big Five " powers. In so doing we have abandoned the unreal and chosen the real picture of how power operates and is operated. Fully aware of my responsibility and the responsibility of the Government to the Australian people, I say that I see no workable alternative in the present state of international relations to this acknowledgment of the key position of Great Britain, the United States, Russia, France and China. Clearly, any breach amongst these powers, any failure of working unanimity, spells the descent of impotence upon the United Nation.1 organization. That is the lesson of the League of Nations. We must face the facts and accept, the formula which seems, after months of exhaustive consideration and debate, best calculated to sustain existing solidarity amongst the powers.

Before passing on from this aspect of the Security Council, I should perhaps summarize the voting position. I do it in this way : Decisions on procedural matters shall be made by an affirmative vote of seven members. Decisions on all other matters shall be by an affirmative vote of seven members including the concurring votes of the permanent members, provided that, in decisions involving peaceful settlement of a dispute, a party to the dispute shall abstain from voting. In response to a widespread demand at the conference for a clarification of the manner in which this formula would apply to specific situations, the sponsoring governments stated that the council will, by vote of any seven members, adopt or alter its rules of procedure, establish such bodies or agencies as it may deem necessary for the performance of its functions, and invite a member or non-member not represented on the council to ad hoc participation in its deliberations as provided in the Charter. In addition, the procedural vote - that is the majority vote of any seven members - will apply to whether or not a dispute or situation can be heard, considered and discussed. Thus, consideration and discussion cannot be prevented by any individual member of the council. It was on this point that Russia was at first unwilling to agree with the other sponsoring powers, but its agreement was finally given. Beyond this point, beginning with the institution of a formal investigation which might involve reports, hearing witnesses or other procedure, the sponsoring powers required that their votes must be amongst the majority of seven. When the council is considering measures of pacific settlement, this majority must include only such of the " Big Five " as are not parties to the dispute. But in the case of decisions involving determinations of threats to the peace or acts of aggression, and enforcement action, the unanimous vote of all permanent members, regardless of whether one of them may be a party to a dispute, will he required.

I trust that honorable members will find that analysis of the position helpful. It occurred to me last week during the cross-fire of questions which punctuated the speech of the Minister for External Affairs on this bill that some such straightforward statement of this complicated voting formula might help to clarify the debate. However, that issue, important as it was and is, must not preoccupy us to the exclusion of many other aspects of the Charter, nor must it blind us to our own signal successes in the shaping of the Charter and our advantages under its terms. I enumerate some of these advantages in this way -

(1)   We have asserted Australia's status as a " middle " or " security " power, and have won inclusion in the Charter of special consideration for such powers in elections to the non-permanent places on the Security Council. We have thus strengthened Australia's claim to frequent terms on that body.

(2)   We supported inclusion in the Charter of a provision that, before any country shall be called on to provide forces for action authorized by the Security 'Council, that country shall have a voice in deciding how its contingent shall be used. We have thus safeguarded our right to a voice in the disposition of the forces we shall hold " on call " for enforcement action under the Charter and subsidiary agreements.

(3)   We have won a very significant widening of the powers of the General Assembly, of which Australia shall at all times be a member. At the same time our exclusive rights of domestic jurisdiction in matters like immigration have been explicitly safeguarded.

It was thought at one stage that because of a clause in the proposals put forward by the " Big Four " that Australia's right to determine questions in relation to immigration was gravely in danger. I wish to pay a tribute to the assistance given to the Australian delegation by the delegation from the United Kingdom in the clarification of that point.


Mr Spender - Did not the delegation rather set up an " Aunt Sally " in order to knock it down?


Mr FORDE - No; legal members of the delegation who were consulted gave advice which showed that grave room existed for doubt about our rights, and we were successful in causing an amendment to be made which placed the power of the Australian Parliament in this matter beyond all question. To continue my enumeration -

(4)   We have won equally significant widening and clarification of the status and scope of the Economic and Social Council of which, as an advanced industrial nation, Australia has strong claims to fairly regular membership. In any case, the Charter provides that " the Economic and Social Council shall invite any member of the United Nations to participate, without vote, in its deliberations on any matter of particular concern to that member ".

I know that the efficacy of the provision that is now known as the "full employment " article has been questioned. As the result of the advocacy of the Australian delegation it was provided in that article that the United Nations shall promote -

(a)   Higher standards of living, full employ ment, and conditions of economic and social progress and development.

We were also successful in securing the insertion of the following article: -

All members pledge themselves to take joint mid separate action in co-operation with the organization for the achievement of the purposes set forth in Article .55.


Mr Spender - Of what use is that? What does it mean anyway?


Mr FORDE - It is an obligation which the United Nations have accepted. 1 believe that there will be much more prospect of securing full employment for the mass of the people because that article has been included in the Charter. It must be remembered that 50 nations have accepted the provision.


Mr Spender - We all agree to conduct ourselves as Christians, but that does not tret us very far in some cases.


Mr FORDE - That may be true, and I know that the mere fact of securing ti signature to an agreement does not ensure ipso facto that the agreement will be observed; but, at the same time, the signature can be regarded as an assurance that the agreement will not be broken with impunity. When 50 nations undertake an obligation of this description in a solemn assembly such as this was I consider that there is substantial likelihood that the provision will be efficacious. There is an assurance, in any case., that the problem will bo considered in some proper way. Any delinquent nation may be quite sure that it will be reminded of its delinquency before the bar of public opinion. I agree that we have no certainty that full employment will result from this agreement; nevertheless I regard this article as very important to the great mass of the people of the world.


Mr Spender - Does the agreement in regard to full employment carry with it any legal concept of the obligations involved, and, if so, will they mean the same thing in Australia as they will in Ethiopia?


Mr FORDE - I take it that full employment means full employment in all the countries according to their own standards. Full employment in Australia will mean full employment according to the standards of wages and conditions in this country. I appreciate that difficulties will be encountered in implementing this article. I realize, also, how.ever. that difficulties will be encountered in maintaining peace among the nations of the world. But because such difficulties will have to be faced we should not balk at the hurdle or falter in our striving to reach an ideal. This Government occupies the treasury bench to-day because it did not falter in striving for an ideal. The next points in my enumeration of the advantages of the Charter are -

(5)   We have won a provision that the Economic and Social Council may call special conferences on matters within its competence, to which Australia shall automatically be invited if they affect us in any way. This is potentially very important in the matter of promoting and sustaining full employment, to which the organization and its members are alike pledged.

(   6) We automatically enjoy full membership of the United Nations Trusteeship Council on placing any of our territories under trust.


Mr Spender - When once that is done.


Mr FORDE - .Quite so. The attitude of the Australian delegates on. the subject of trusteeship has been criticized.

I have been asked in what way trusteeship and mandates are related, and 1 have been reminded that after the last war certain mandates were issued. ] agree that mandates and trusteeship are related, but they are not identical. " Mandate " is derived from Roman law. and " Trusteeship " from Anglo- American law. Under Roman law, a mandate was an institution in which one person entrusted property to the care of another, to be dealt with in accordance with rules that were laid down by the owner. This idea was applied, under the League of Nations, to the administration of territories taken from Germany and Turkey in World War I. Article 22 of the Covenant of the League of Nations laid down, the principle that the administration of those territories was a sacred trust oil civilization. The mandate was an instrument in which the Council of the League of Nations defined the conditions under which the administration of the territories concerned were entrusted to the mandatory State. In effect, the mandatory State was required to regard the welfare of mandated territory as the primary object of its administration. Trusteeship is based on exactly the same principle - that the administration of dependent territories is a sacred trust of civilization, and that the trustee State is under an obligation to promote to the utmost the social, economic and political welfare and development of the territory concerned. The use of the term " trusteeship " has many advantages. In particular, it avoids any possibility of confusion between the mandate system established under the League of Nations, and tho international trusteeship system to be established under the Charter of the United Nations. Further, the term " trusteeship " is applicable to dependent territories in which the parent State already exercises full rights of sovereignty. The proposed international trusteeship system can be applied not merely to existing mandated territories and to territories detached from Axis powers as the result of World War II., but also to other dependent territories voluntarily brought under the system by parent States. One difference between the Covenant of the League of Nations and the Charter of the United Nations is that the Covenant laid down in general terms the conditions that were to be continued under the mandates. Under the Charter of the United Nations, however, the terms aro to be agreed upon in each case between tho trustee States and the organization. There was no desire on the part of the Australian delegation to interfere with the sovereignty of the parent governments, or with the management of territories handed over after the last war or to be handed over after this war. What we did was in accordance with the policy of establishing in this international organization the machinery by which the interests of dependent peoples throughout the world could be conserved and their conditions and welfare safeguarded.

The seventh advantage is that, in connexion wilh regional agreements, there is ample provision for an Australia-New Zealand, or a v.ider, regional defence arrangement, and for a South Seas regional commission, such as was envisaged by the Anzac Pact, to be developed and to operate within the. framework of the completed Charter.


Mr Spender - How would such a regional agreement come into being?


Mr FORDE - A regional agreement would come into being after consultations between representatives of the countries within a given area, and with the approval of the governments of those countries, but it would have to be with the approval of the Security Council, and could not operate outside the international organization. This provision for a regional arrangement in the South- West Pacific Area involves one of the most important considerations for us. Should there ever be aggressive outbreaks in the Pacific, and should there then be disagreement among the permanent members of the Security Council on the issue of enforcement action, we should be left to our own resources and those of our neighbours and friends. I have no doubt that we shall always have strong friends in other parts of the world, and they may even have well-equipped bases in or near our area. But they would still need time to come here and take a stand with us. Unfortunately, time is the crucial factor in war to-day, and it is likely to become even more vital in future; hence the importance to us of the right to make, as soon as possible, within the framework of the Charter, an effective regional defence arrangement with New Zealand and our other neighbours. We must be able to stand on our own regional feet ; at least, we must be able to stand against the first onrush, until enforcement action by the United Nations or other friendly action is forthcoming. The Charter allows us to take these precautions, and our future security requires that we shall do so promptly and well.

I think I can fairly say that the achievements of the Australian delegation at San Francisco did not end with the gaining of constitutional" advantages like these for Australia. The delegation, ably assisted as it was by advisers from all political parties and branches of industry in this country, helped very substantially in broadening, and, indeed, improving the Dumbarton Oaks proposals. One American journal expressed this opinion.

At San Francisco it has been the men from " down under " who have acted as the conscience of the Anglo-Saxon world.


Mr Holt - In saying that, is the right honorable gentleman trying to make a reflection on Great Britain?


Mr FORDE - No. Whenever there Ls a suggestion for the improvement of an international organization, which might be at variance with the views of some representatives -of the United Kingdom, the honorable gentleman tries to make it appear that there is a reflection on the United Kingdom. I have quoted the tribute that was paid by a weekly American journal to the delegates from " down under ", not only from Australia, but also from New Zealand, and, I presume, other countries.


Mr Holt - Was it the Journal American ?


Mr FORDE - I do not .at this moment recall the name. There is no justification for saying that in quoting that passage I am making any reflection upon the United Kingdom. I would not be a party to that, nor would my colleague. We have expressed a generous measure of praise of the foremost part that was taken by the United Kingdom delegates at San Francisco. They were most helpful, and, I believe, constructive. They certainly assisted the representatives of the Dominions to secure necessary amendments, which placed the Dominions in a much stronger position than they otherwise would have occupied.

Notwithstanding the setting up of this international organization, all defence schemes cannot be abolished in the Dominions or the democracies. We all sincerely hope that this international organization will function successfully, that it will outlaw an aggressor, and will put an end to wars for many generations. lt would bc too much to expect that it will end war for all time. We have to be not only optimists and enthusiasts, but also realists. Life has to be breathed into this organization, which has been set in motion and awaits the approval of the parliaments of 50 United Nations, representing 1,500,000,000 people. But there Ls no certainty that it will function successfully for all time. " To err is human ", and that being so, human institutions are imperfect. But the delegates of the 50 nations would have been recreant to their trust had they failed to reach an agreement on the setting up of an international organization. It remains for the parliaments, the governments and the peoples of all the countries concerned, to ensure that the organization shall operate. Australia must not be lured into a sense of false security by the setting up of an international organization of this kind, but must learn from the mistakes of the past, when this country and other democracies were allowed to drift into a defenceless condition, and were almost overrun by a ruthless enemy. Whilst it is absolutely essential to have an international organization with the power to enforce its decisions and, if necessary, discipline an aggressor, it is also extremely important to maintain in Australia and other dominions an effective defence scheme that will ensure the security of the respective countries. [Extension of time granted.] The defence organization maintained by us in the post-war years should be as powerful as possible and as numerous as we can make it. For that reason, we should encourage to Australia a greatly increased population, to share our privileges as well as the burdens and responsibilities of our defence. In saying that, I am not casting doubt on this international organization. We should strive to make it function successfully. But at the same time we must be realists. The representatives of 50 nations, and drawn from all parties, have had a hand in fashioning the Charter. The organization starts off as a genuine and widely international agency, with the goodwill of all peace-loving nations. Our best contribution to its successful, launching will be this Parliament's prompt and unanimous approval of its establishment. The Government now asks the Parliament to do that, so that Australia may be added to the growing list of nations that have given approval to what I believe to be the greatest and most constructive proposal ever made bv an international conference.







Suggest corrections