- The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 22 Apr 1948, p. 364-379
- Douglas, The Honourable T.C., Speaker
- Media Type
- Item Type
- The British Commonwealth of Nations as the greatest historical phenomenon of our time and probably of all time, made up of diverse peoples of many tongues, of many races, of many colours and of many creeds. Some amusing anecdotes about rivalries between some nations of the Commonwealth, such as England and Scotland. The role of the British Commonwealth and Empire in a bewildered world. A misperception of Britain by Canadians. Great Britain embarking on one of the greatest social experiments in all history; working out a pattern which may well determine the future history of mankind; demonstrating to the world that it is possible to have individual freedom and economic planning; that it is possible to have social justice and also Democracy. How that is so. Some things we tend to forget about Great Britain. The rehabilitation of Europe, and Britain's part in that. The British people beginning to rebuild their industrial potential. Some specific goals for this year. A review of some of the economic problems Britain is facing. Trade statistics for Canada, Great Britain, and the United States. Why these past trade practices cannot continue. The competitive relationship between the Canadian and American economies. Great Britain remaining our best and most reliable customer. The 1944 visit to Great Britain of a Minister of the Saskatchewan Government. The 1945 delegation to survey the situation and to bring back a report. Steps carried out since then. Agreements between Co-Operatives in Saskatchewan and Co-Operatives in Great Britain. A current delegation on their way to the British Industries Fair being held in London and Birmingham to study the various commodities which the British have on display there, with a view to seeing what commodities they have that we can use. Why this is being done. The speaker's conviction that every Government in Canada should take aggressive and immediate action along these lines, making it possible for the British people to set up the necessary credit so that they might continue to be our best customer in the future. Standing with Britain. Britain establishing a pattern for international cooperation. The British as the first to realize that Russia was going to be a problem. A look at what those problems might be. The tendency of people to lump Communists and Socialists together. The speaker's response to that tendency. The need for free nations to band together for the rehabilitation and reconstruction of Europe. Remarks about the future, and Great Britain's role in it.
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- 22 Apr 1948
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- THE BRITISH COMMONWEALTH IN A BEWILDERED WORLD
AN ADDRESS BY THE HONOURABLE T. C. DOUGLAS, B.A., M.A.
Chairman: The President, Tracy E. Lloyd
Thursday, April 22, 1948
DISTINGUISHED GUESTS, LADIES AND GENTLEMEN:
A member of the Club asked me last week if we were a political organization. My reply was "Why No": The Honourable T. C. Douglas is speaking to us next Thursday. Several months ago when we invited our Guest of Honour, of course, we did not know that there would be another election in our province and I always am mindful of the fact that the Honourable George Drew is a past president of The Empire Club. However, apart from all these complications, we welcome today to our Club the H'onourable T. C. Douglas, M.A., Premier of the Province of Saskatchewan, who is paying us a return visit, as three years ago this month he was also our Guest of Honour.
The Honourable T. C. Douglas came to Canada from Scotland in 1910 and was educated at Brandon College, Manitoba, and later took his Master's Degree from McMaster University. In Manitoba he won the gold medal in debating, dramatics and oratory and won fame in sports circles by capturing the lightweight boxing championship of Manitoba.
For soiree years our Guest of Honour was pastor of a Baptist Church and in 1935 was elected to the Dominion House representing the Welburn Constituency as a C.C.F. member. After nine years in the Federal House lie resigned in 1944 to accept the leadership of his party in Saskatchewan.
I will now call on the Honourable T. C. Douglas, who, will address us on the subject:"The British Commonwealth in a Bewildered World"
Mr. Chairman, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen: I should like first to thank the members of The Empire Club for their kind invitation to be here. Just three years ago this month I had the privilege of speaking to you before. I spoke here in Toronto on my way overseas when I was going to visit Saskatchewan Units in Great Britain and on the Continent and I can assure you it is a pleasure to be back here again.
I am also delighted to have an opportunity of speaking about the British Commonwealth of Nations, which is, after all, the greatest historical phenomenon of our time and probably of all time, because it is made up of diverse peoples of many tongues, of many races, of many colours and of many creeds. The fact that we live together under one flag and under one Sovereign doesn't, of course, mean that we have uniformity, that we all think alike, that we all agree. As a matter of fact, the British Empire and Common wealth had its nucleus in the English, Scotch, the Irish and the Welsh, and you couldn't imagine any four groups of people getting along less well than those four. The Irish used to spend most of their time stealing sheep and wives from the English. It was a national pastime.
And even now, when I go back, as I have done f requently, to visit my friends in Scotland and my friends in England, I find the rivalry still continues. I find that the people of England are still saying nasty things about those people "north of the Tweed". They told me in London that up in Scotland they have closed all the theatres on Saturday night because these Scotchmen all laugh ill church on Sunday morning.
They said that those Scotsmen up there are so tight that when Sir Harry Lauder was in London he came up to the theatre one night after a performance and they found a little boy crying. He said to the little boy, "What is the matter. Son?"
The little boy said, "I had a shilling and I lost it."
Sir Harry said, "Ye ha'ed a shilling and lost it. Dinna greet. Here's a match-look for it."
They were telling me in London about the Scotsman who came to spend his holidays in London and that about all he intended to spend--just his holidays. His friends gave him a very good time, they showed him the city. When his holidays were over he thought he ought to show his appreciation so he said, "Do you like fowl?"
"Oh, we love fowl, but we don't get much of it down here in London."
"Well, I have a bird at home that I will send you when I get back."
He went back to Scotland and weeks and months went by and no fowl arrived. When a year went by they got a post card, saying he was coming for a holiday again. His reception was a little less warm this time. They met him at the station and after a few casual preliminary remarks had been passed, one of his friends said, "Sandy, what about that chicken you were going to send us?"
"Oh", he said, "I forgot to tell you. It got better."
And I find whenever I go up to Scotland that the old rivalry is still there too. The Scotch say they don't mind these Scotch stories---"As a matter of fact we manufacture most of them ourselves." As a matter of fact a joke is about the only thing a Scotchman can enjoy at his own expense.
One of the fellows in Glasgow told me of a certain man in Glasgow who had been doing very well. He was making steady progress in the business in which he was engaged and finally had been given a promotion and was to be sent to England on a buying trip. All his cronies were so delighted at his promotion that they had a big party and saw him off on the train.
Two weeks later they met him at the station when he came back. "How was the buying trip, Mac? How did you get along with the English?"
"Oh", he said, "I didna meet any of the English. I just met the heads of the Departments down there."
One of the stories that the Scotch like to tell best is the story of the Scotsman who went to London and was doing very well when one of his English friends said to him, "How is it that all the good jobs in London seem to be held by Scotchmen? We had Ramsay MacDonald, and during the first World War, Sir Douglas Haig, and so on. You Scotchmen seem to grab all the good jobs in London."
Sandy replied, "It's brains. Up in Scotland we catch a certain kind of fish. When you eat it, it gives you brains."
Some time latter Sandy was going to Scotland for his holidays and his English friend came to him and said, "Sandy, here is a pound note. I wonder if you would get me some of the fish you have up in Scotland that makes the people so brainy?"
Sandy, being a Scotchman, took the pound note and a week later his friend got a parcel with one little emaciated fish in it.
When Sandy came back he said, "Did you get the fish?"
"Did you eat it?"
"Do you feel any different?"
Every time Sandy went on his holidays his friend came with the pound note, and he always got the fish. This went on for a long time, until one time the Englishman said, "Don't you think a pound note is a lot for a messy little fish like that?"
And Sandy said, "It's beginning to work! It's beginning to work!"
I don't want you to think that the Scottish people are always tight. As a matter of fact they are very idealistic. Somebody told me about two Scotchmen who had been at church. They had enjoyed the service very well until the collection plate was passed around, which is always an ordeal for a Scotchman. Sandy had in his pocket two coins--a "bawbee", as the Scotch call it, a copper, and a gold sovereign. Needless to say, he was intending to put the copper on the plate. By some horrible mistake he put on the gold sovereign and all through the balance of the service he squirmed and groaned, until his friend, Donald, said, "What's the matter? Why don't you sit still and listen to the Minister?"
"I can't sit still. I put a gold sovereign on the plate in mistake for a bawbee."
After the service, Donald said, "I tell you what to do. You go up to the front and explain to the Minister that you put a gold sovereign on the plate in mistake and maybe he will give it back to you."
Sandy was a good Presbyterian. He drew himself up to his full height and he said, "Nae, nae, I not ask it back. I gie it to the Lord--tae hell with it."
I want to say this afternoon something about the role of the British Commonwealth and Empire in a bewildered world. There is a tendency in our country today to discuss Great Britain in her time of difficulty and to treat her very much as one would treat a rather aged relative who has become a little eccentric and somewhat senile, and who must be hidden carefully out of sight and locked in the bedroom when some of the visiting cousins from the United States come in. We are rather apologetic for the old lady, because she is acting a little queer and having some troubles.
If three thousand miles of the Atlantic Ocean has given us that erroneous impression of Great Britain, then certainly it is an impression that ought to be corrected as quickly as possible.
As Beverley Baxter said a few weeks ago, Great Britain has embarked on one of the greatest social experiments in all history. Whether you agree with it or not, the fact remains that she is today working out a pattern which may well determine the future history of mankind. In a world torn between two ideologies, one of which stands for security without liberty, and the other for liberty without security, she is demonstrating to the world, as Prime Minister Atlee said, that it is possible to have individual freedom and economic planning, that it is possible to have social justice and also Democracy. She is trying to bring about that synthesis of political democracy and economic democracy, to demonstrate to mankind that economic planning and social security are not incompatible with parliamentary government. If she succeeds she may blaze a trail for the whole world.
There are those, unfortunately, on our side of the Atlantic, who sometimes for political purposes, and sometimes out of sheer ignorance, would like to magnify her difficulties, and even to find some comfort in her dire straits. Those people forget one or two things. They forget, first of all, that Great Britain has come through two major world wars within the lifetime and memory of most of us here, that in both of those wars she gave of her manpower and her substance without a stint, that she came out of the last world war having liquidated practically all of her great overseas investments upon which she depended for those invisible exports that enabled her to buy in every part of the world the raw material she needed for her great industrial regime. They forget also that since the war Great Britain, impoverished by the war, has poured into Europe three billion two hundred million dollars for the rehabilitation of the people of Europe.
I was never as proud of being a British subject in my life as I was in 1945 when I saw the British people on a mean and monotonous diet, with a limited ration of clothing, taking of their substance and shipping it into Europe, buying food from both Canada and the United States, thereby using up her rapidly dwindling supply of Canadian and American dollars, and shipping that food and other material to the people of Europe, doing without herself in order that she might feed the people of these countries, because she had been a long time in association with Europe, and she knows, as Abraham Lincoln once said, "No nation can long survive half slave and half free", so the world cannot long survive half full and half hungry. Great Britain knew, long before the rest of us realized it, that she must either feed the people of Europe or some day fight then, that she must either extend to them a helping hand or some day face them in combat.
The only possible rehabilitation of Europe was to begin with the kindliness and the assistance that would make it possible for Europe to stand on its own feet. She has poured of her treasure into Europe long before we or the United States had even begun. As early as 1935, as a matter of fact before the war, 80,000 refugees were in Great Britain and were being kept by the British Government. During the war I saw them flying Jewish children from displaced persons' camps, from Europe, over to Britain, and there at the airports British families and British agencies were coming to take the children into British homes. Even while the war was still on they were moving Dutch children from Holland over to Britain, there to be fed and to be taken care of before they could be sent back to their own parents. Even while the war was still on British ships and British workmen were helping to repair the dykes of Holland. Britain was giving of things that she needed herself to assist in the establishment of Europe.
Let us not think of Britain as a tired old lady, who is just a little queer in the head. Great Britain came out of the war, as I said, not only with her overseas investments almost completely liquidated, but with her great industrial potential, much of it destroyed by bombing; the rest of it, obsolete, because during the war she had not been able to replace it and it was worn out.
The British people have begun to rebuild that industrial potential, to build it by doing without the things they need daily in order to buy capital goods to stimulate the productivity so once more she may become one of the great trading nations of the world. She set for herself goals. They have had remarkable success in attaining those goals.
This year they have set as their target a fifty per cent increase in exports over 1938. I believe they may reach it. Last year they set as their goal something over 4.5 billion dollars. They reached 4.5 billion dollars, which was only 6 percent short of the target they set of some 27 per cent increase over 1938 exports.
I sometimes meet cynical and skeptical people who think that the common man is innately selfish and that he will not cooperate for the general welfare of the community. I maintain he will cooperate for the general welfare of the community if he himself feels that he is going to participate in that benefit.
In spite of the fact that collective bargaining agreements with labour unions in Great Britain last year provided for a reduction in hours, the trade unions did not take that reduction in hours, but worked the same hours and in a great many of the industries actually increased their hours by two and a half hours a week. That is why they were able to increase their exports 27 per cent over the 1938 level.
I am not suggesting for a moment that Great Britain has no economic problems. Her economic problem mainly is that since she has liquidated her overseas investments she now hasn't credit in various parts of the world that enables her to buy the things she wants and she can only pay for the things she wants by exporting manufactured commodities.
As most of us know, for thirty or forty years, Great Britain has been our best customer. We, on the other hand, have been the United States' best customer. So we had a three-way trade route agreement. We sold to Great Britain, we established credits in the sterling area. Because of her overseas investments she was able to transfer those credits to the American market and we were able then to buy with the credit the things we needed on the American market.
That, Ladies and Gentlemen, is no longer possible. Britain can no longer establish those great credits on the American market, and she and we face a very serious situation.
I was looking at some trade statistics the other day that I think are worth while. I will not worry you with a lot of figures. In 1946 we exported to Great Britain 587.5 million dollars worth of goods, and we imported from Great Britain only 141.3 million dollars worth of goods. In 1947, last year, we sold to Great Britain 751.2 million dollars worth of goods, and we bought from her only 188.6 million dollars worth of goods.
In other words, we have been selling to Great Britain more than four times as much as we buy from her. If one looks at our export position we find that Great Britain is our best customer, particularly for agricultural and primary products.
Again, in 1946, for instance, our total export of agricultural products-that includes some inedible commodities, such as hides and so on--in 1946, our total exports were 937 million dollars. Of that amount, Great Britain bought 397 million. The United States was our second best customer with 212 millions.
Last year we exported 1,015 million dollars worth of agricultural commodities, of which Great Britain bought 460 millions, and the United States bought a little less than 160 millions.
In other words, Great Britain has been buying about forty percent of the agricultural commodities which we export. The United States has been buying about fifteen per cent.
That cannot go on. It could go on in the days when Great Britain had great investments in the United States and could transfer our credit from the sterling area to the dollar area. Great Britain is going to be faced with one of two alternatives: Either she must start to find agricultural commodities in other parts of the world where she can pay for them in sterling, or she must be able to sell us sufficient goods to give her credit in Canada to buy Canadian commodities. It is just as simple as that.
In the Province of Saskatchewan we have been keenly aware of this problem for many years. Canada, of course, is primarily a great exporting nation, and in Saskatchewan our economy is almost entirely dependent upon the export of wheat, live stock, poultry products, mineral products and timber. We have recognized for a long time that if the day should ever come that Great Britain hadn't the necessary credit to buy our commodities that we would have an economic depression.
It is all right to talk about economic integration with the United States. There is a place for that. The fact remains that our economy and the American economy are not complementary, they are competitive. As far as Western Canada is concerned we export in competition with the United States, the same products that the United States exports. We can find no market there in normal times. Our market must still be Great Britain and Europe and possibly Asia. Great Britain has always been and I think can remain, our best and most reliable customer.
With that in mind in 1944 we sent a Minister of the Saskatchewan Government over to Great Britain to survey the situation. In 1945 we sent a delegation made up of business men leaders of the Co-Operatives and Farmers Movement, to survey the situation and to bring back a report. We have carried that a number of steps. First of all we set up in London a Saskatchewan Agent-General to promote trade-a two-way trade that would benefit both the British people and ourselves. We have made available to British business firms lists of commodities which cur people need which we think can be produced in Great Britain. We have made available to our business people and to our Co-Operatives in Saskatchewan, lists of British commodities which are available with prices and specifications.
We have been able to arrange for direct agreements between Co-Operatives in Saskatchewan and Co-Operatives in Great Britain, to exchange on a barter basis--that our cooperative flax-crushing mill is able, for instance, to exchange linseed oil for jute, manufactured in the co-operative mills in Great Britain on a straight trade basis.
The Government has been able to arrange for the bringing in of British cars, British tractors, which we are using on our Experimental Farms and University Farms as demonstrations for the farmers, to see if they can be used and to see if they are practical.
We have been able to get the interest of British shipping firms to bring ships into Port Churchill, and to bring British goods to Port Churchill, and for us to ship back wheat and timber from Port Churchill, with the result that last year we had the biggest amount of business go through Port Churchill that has ever gone through that Port in its peacetime history.
At this very moment a delegation is leaving Canada, a Saskatchewan Delegation, made up of business men, leaders of the Co-Operative Movement and the Farmers' movement, and they are on their way to the British Industries Fair being held in London and Birmingham, to study the various commodities which the British have on display there, with a view to seeing what commodities they have that we can use. It is not being done on the basis of some misty sentiment. It is being done because we recognize if we are going to sell wheat and bacon and beef and eggs and poultry and timber to the people of Great Britain we must make it possible for them to sell some of their commodities in our country and in our province.
I am sure you will not think I am boasting when I say this, that I am convinced that if every Government in Canada took aggressive and immediate action along those lines we could do a great deal toward making it possible for the British people to set up the necessary credit so that they might continue to be our best customer in the future as she has been in the past, and for us to say to the British people now, that whereas in 1940 and 1941 she stood alone, to say to her that she no longer stands alone and that we stand with her.
I have said something about the pattern which the British people are building up within their own nation. The British people are doing more than building up a pattern in their own country, a pattern which I think may eventually be followed in various forms by various parts of the world, but she is also establishing a pattern for international cooperation.
The British were the first to realize that Russia was going to be a problem. If you take the trouble to look at the meetings of the Big Four, the conferences in 1945 and 1946, you will notice that Mr. Bevan was voting against Mr. Molotov, whereas Mr. Byrnes was often voting with Mr. Molotov, because the British leaders knew something about Communism. They knew what Communism stood for. I am not one who thinks Russia wants war. I don't think Russia wants a war. I don't think Russia is in any position to fight a war. All the best authorities believe that at the present moment Russia is not in any position to fight a war. We have mistaken Russia's intention. The British people didn't make any such mistake. The British people knew the Communists. They recognized that one of the aims of the Communists is to keep a country in a constant state of turmoil so you may create a revolutionary crisis in which a small group may seize power and establish a dictatorship. So their plan was on the international scale to perpetuate chaos, to continue disharmony, because they knew that a Europe on the way to recovery, a Europe imbued with hope would be poor ground for Communist propaganda. But a Europe dismayed by chaos, despondent with despair and frustrated with impotence would fall into their hands like a ripe plum.
So they obstructed at every turn any attempt to rehabilitate Europe, believing that out of the chaos and the despair and the misery of Europe would come a great proletarian dictatorship.
There are people on this side of the Continent who, for one reason or other, like to lump Communists and Socialists together. As a Socialist, I never get angry about that, and I never protest about it, because I think if they are so stupid as to believe it I wouldn't convince them anyway, and if they are doing it with their tongue in their cheek, it doesn't make any difference anyway. But people who lump them together do a great disservice to men like Attlee and Bevin and Morrison and Schuman of France, and Spaak, of Belgium--these men who stand like a bulwark against the menace of Communism sweeping right over Europe. These are the men who recognized long before we did, that if Europe is to be saved from despair, free nations must band themselves together for the rehabilitation and reconstruction of Europe.
So the British Commonwealth, which before took in the United Kingdom and her Colonies and the Dominions across the sea, is today bringing into the ambit of its influence the people of France and of Belgium and Holland, and Luxembourg, and the Scandinavian countries, and now that the so-called Marshall Plan, or the European Recovery Programme is in progress, the United States now is becoming a part of the same programme.
You see what is happening. The British Commonwealth, the principle of the free association of Free Nations is being enlarged, so that today, for the first time, instead of merely standing back and railing against the menace of Communism, we have given dynamic, democratic action of the free nations banding themselves together for their mutual protection and for their economic advancement.
Does that mean, you may ask, that we are not going to have one world, but two worlds? Not necessarily. Prime Minister Attlee said in one of his speeches in the British House of Commons "The United Nations is still the overriding factor in Britain's foreign policy." I think that is true. I think Britain still hopes for one world, but if she can't have one world, at least she is going to have unity of the free world to work together and to prevent freedom being taken away from them, one by one.
Personally, I am not as pessimistic about the future as some. I believe that if the free nations come together as they are doing that it is not too much to expect that they may yet persuade the Soviet Union of two things.
First, that she need not fear aggressive encirclement. That fear and distress and suspicion is there, and with some justification in days gone by. And, second, it is not impossible to believe she may yet be persuaded that in her own best interests, instead of obstructing the recovery of Europe, that she is better to co-operate with the free nations of the world in rebuilding, not only Western Europe, but the rest of the world. I think it is not too much to hope that.
So the British are working for it. The British have never indulged in the sort of hysterical outbursts about Russia that sometimes characterize public utterances on this side of the Atlantic. The attitude of the British people with reference to Russia has been that of co-operation, if possible, but firmness, if necessary. Maybe out of that policy they will bring the nations of the world together.
Great Britain has had three great eras. The first great period was the period when the Empire was being formed-a period when we were conquering parts of the world, sometimes by fair means, sometimes by foul--the days when the missionary led the way, followed by the trader and then the flag and then by the British navy. But the great Empire came out of it.
The second period was in the l9th century, when Great Britain and her Commonwealth and Empire bestrode the world like a Colossus, when the economic power and the British Navy and the British Army Maintained the Pax Britannica. It was a great era. It had some defects but it was a great era.
We are now moving, in my opinion, into the third period, when Great Britain, no longer is the greatest economic or the greatest military power in the world. It certainly isn't. But it is a period when her capacity for moral and spiritual leadership may yet make her the recognized leader of the world, when she is working out, not only within her own borders, but in her relations with other nations patterns which may well blaze trails for the rest of the world to follow.
Churchill coined one of the fine phrases during the war when he said, "This is our finest hour". Well, after Dunkirk was one of their finest hours, but the day may yet come, Ladies and Gentlemen, when their finest hour will be when the British Commonwealth in a bewildered world, by her example of how free nations can freely associate for their mutual benefit may have extended her influence and have brought more and more nations into association, until the time shall come when the United Nations shall become what it was hoped it would be, a World Government, a World Parliament, a World Court whose decisions would be backed by a world police force.
Is that to much to hope for r Surely not. Surely not when a Commonwealth which started with some English and Scotch and Irish fighting among themselves, and which has now grown until today it includes in its influence the people of France and Belgium and Holland and the Scandinavian Countries, surely it is not too much to believe that the same principle and the same free association of free people will one day envelop the earth.
These things shall be: a loftier race Than e'er the world hath known, shall rise With flame of freedom in their souls And light of knowledge in their eyes.
They shall be gentle, brave and strong, To spill no drop of blood, but dare, All that may plant man's lordship firm On earth, and fire and sea, and air.
New arts shall bloom of loftier mould, And mightier music thrill the skies, And every life shall be a song, When all the earth is paradise.
THE PRESIDENT: I will ask Mr. Arthur Slaght to thank the speaker on your behalf.
MR. ARTHUR G. SLAGHT: Mr. President and Ladies and Gentlemen: I am very happy indeed to have been asked by your President to perform this pleasant task. I feel assured that after the magnificent address to which you have just listened I can say to our guest of today, the Premier of Saskatchewan, that we are all deeply indebted to him for the thoughtful, clear and forceful address which he has just delivered.
I have known our guest for a good many years, perhaps longer than most of us. We entered the House of Commons together in 1935--he, from his Province, and I, from the District of Parry Sound, and we sat opposite each other for nine years, I think it was, until he went to another field where he has distinguished himself greatly. We don't all agree with some of his political doctrines, but that, I think, can make our tribute to him today all the greater, because he has discussed a topic of vital interest to every Canadian.
We used to row across the House, politically, as I remember it, in no uncertain tones. I am not sure that I knew at that time about his prowess in the boxing field, but I do think I can say that I agree with the Governors of the University of Manitoba when they conferred on him the Gold Medal for Dramatic Oratory.
You have listened to an unique address today, and I have been listening to speeches in courts and in Parliament for forty-eight years, and I say, with all sincerity, and I know I speak for you all when I say--we used to call him "Tommy" in the House of Commons, he is now the Premier of Saskatchewan--from the bottom of our hearts we are grateful to you, Mr. Premier, for your masterful address. (Applause.)