Diary of a Labour Man 1917- 1945

Full text. Editor of the 'Westralian Worker'


Westralian Worker, 5 September 1924, page 10

'A Bulwark Against War'. Mr Curtin Welcomed Back To W.A.

Notwithstanding weather conditions that were very disagreeable, a large audience assembled at Unity Theatre last Friday night to hear an account of the Sixth International Labor Conference at Geneva and to welcome home Mr J. Curtin (editor of the "Worker"), who was Australia's Labor delegate to the conference.

A feature of the gathering was the fact that the platform was occupied by three Ministers of the State Labor Government.

Mr S. Munsie, M.L.A., Honorary Minister, president of the State Executive of the A.L.P., presided. He said it gave him pleasure on behalf of the Movement to extend a hearty welcome home to Mr Curtin, whose experiences he felt sure would prove of value to the workers of Australia, and who was, in his opinion, the best delegate that Australia could have sent.

The Premier, Mr P. Collier, said that from the first they were all satisfied that Mr Curtin would do honor to Australia at the International Labor Conference. These conferences were one of the few good things that had come to Labor out of the war. Nothing but good could arise from international gatherings of this kind. Unfortunately in the past

They, Had Not Received the Publicity

and been given the attention they deserved. All were pleased to have Mr Curtin back with them, and they hoped that his health had benefited by the trip.

Mr A. McCallum, Minister for Works and Labor, said it gave him great pleasure to join in the welcome home to Mr Curtin, and he hoped that arising from the Sixth International Labor Conference some tangible benefit would accrue to the workers of the Commonwealth. Up to date no good had come to the workers of Australia from these conferences, not because the conferences had been failures, but because the Governments of Australia had failed to ratify the decisions that had been arrived at. The conventions of previous conferences should have been ratified by the Parliaments of Australia because of the moral effect it would have on other countries that were more backward in the matter of industrial and social legislation than we were. When the backward countries came up to our level

We Could Then Make Further Advances

As Minister for Labor he had made various researches which had convinced him that we were not as advanced as we thought we were. Other countries were catching up to us, and indeed were passing us. We had stood still since 1914. The International Labor Office should stimulate reforms in all countries, and in that way would do an immense amount of good. It was a great advantage to now have among us a man who had been to an International Labor Conference, and who had a first-hand knowledge of many subjects of great importance to the workers. As soon as he (Mr McCallum) heard that Mr Curtin was to go to Geneva he was delighted because there was no one in the industrial movement that he had more confidence in. The result of Mr Curtin's visit was bound to do the Labor Movement a lot of good. No Labor delegate previously had been able to command notice in the cables. In that respect for a start Mr Curtin

Had Done the Movement a Service.

He hoped that their delegate had improved in health because such men needed to be at their physical best to perform the important work which the Movement required of them.

On rising to address the gathering Mr Curtin was tendered an ovation. He said it was inspiriting to come back and be welcomed in such a manner. The trip to Europe had done him a lot of good physically and he felt as well now as ever he had felt in his life. He was sorry that in the past the reports of Labor delegates to the conferences had not received the consideration they should have received. He had not stayed long in Europe because he wished to get back in time to submit his report to the Federal Parliament before it went into recess. While the business of the conference was fresh there was a better chance of it securing the attention it deserved.

The Peace Treaty cast the obligation on our Federal Government of being represented at these conferences. For the sake of the dignity and prestige of the Commonwealth

We Should Be Fully Represented,

but instead of the Federal Government being represented by two delegates at the Sixth Conference, its one delegate, Sir Joseph Cook, did not attend at all. Furthermore the employers' delegate and the workers' delegate from Australia were not supplied with advisers and assistants, with the result that when the Conference delegated certain subjects to committees (which sat simultaneously) the Australian delegates could not secure for their country the representation to which it was entitled.

Among the representatives of Great Britain, France, and Germany were Cabinet Ministers, and many men of ambassadorial standing in Europe were in attendance. Under these circumstances it was regrettable that

Australia's Representation Was Inferior

in point of numbers and status. And it was discreditable to find Australia's representatives at such a conference at a great disadvantage in the matter of equipment.

One of the most important passages in the Versailles Treaty declares that social justice is the basis of world peace. Therefore in trying to secure social justice for the peoples of the world, the International Labor Organisation is engaged upon a work of the greatest possible importance. "The abolition of war is the supreme issue facing Europe today," said Mr Curtin. He said that one of the outstanding impressions of his trip was that the masses have the fear that war will come again in this generation. The efforts of the MacDonald Government to bring about the pacification of Europe had won for it the respect and admiration not only of the British public but also of the Continent as well. There was an intense desire on the part of the people of Europe that the efforts of the MacDonald Government should be successful.

Reverting to the Work of the Conference,

Mr Curtin said there were about 150 delegates present, and also about the same number of advisers. The Conference concerned itself not so much with the formulation of new principles as with the report of the Director. The report traced the progress that had been made and revealed the fact that in the ratification of past conventions many countries were in default. Notable in this respect was Australia. As a matter of fact Australia had not yet ratified the Eight Hours Convention which had been prepared at the 1919 Washington Conference. The failure of the Commonwealth in this respect had caused surprise everywhere, and not a little resentment.

Mr Curtin said he felt keenly humiliated on account of Australia's neglect. This nation had signed the peace treaty as a separate entity, and had pledged itself to the International Labor Organisation. By ignoring the decisions of the organisation it was

Repudiating Its Contract

and was treating the Versailles document as "a scrap of paper." It was turning its back on its promise to the workers, and was impeding the development of social justice, out of which was to come world peace. Instead of wrangling about reparations the task before mankind was to secure social justice. They should concern themselves about the future, not the past. (Applause)

While at Geneva he had taken full advantage of the presence of workers' representatives from thirty-nine countries ...conditions and the outlook of Labor. He was satisfied that the worst was over, and that the trade unions were being restored. Their membership was on the increase, and their funds were being built up. While there was some dissatisfaction in England with the progress of the MacDonald Government's domestic policy, it was recognised that that policy could make little headway until peaceful conditions prevailed in Europe. Before the problem of poverty could be settled, the monster of war and militarism had to be put in its cage. (Applause) In this great work

The Assistance of Russia and America was Required.

A moral principle had powers which were almost unlimited, and if humanity could be united in the pursuit of things vital to our civilisation, peace would be assured.

The International Labor Organisation was in its infancy, and it needed everybody's support and encouragement. It was the world's hope. He was sorry that Australia was a defaulter in respect to the conventions of past conferences. Australia should be one of the first countries to ratify the conventions. Properly supported and assisted, the International Labor Organisation could be made

.. To Stand as a Bulwark ..

against war and reaction; it could be made an instrument to search and to win things that will make this world a better place than it is. (Applause)

On the motion of Messrs. J. J. Kenneally and A. Clementson, a hearty vote of thanks was tendered to Mr Curtin and the other speakers.

John Curtin Prime Ministerial Library. Records of the Australian Labor Party WA Branch. 'A Bulwark Against War'. Mr Curtin Welcomed Back To WA. Westralian Worker. 5 September 1924, page 10. JCPML00984/136.