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Tuesday, 29 November 1938

Sir FREDERICK STEWART (Parramatta) . - I take this opportunity to urge upon the Government, and particularly upon the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Hughes) the desirability of attaching more importance than has been given in the past to our representation at international labour conferences. [Quorum formed.] I urge this because I am one of those who have not yet lost faith in the possibility of international co-operation and because I believe that, in the discussions which take place at international labour conferences, there is really greater hope of regimenting international harmony than there is in the League of Nations Assembly itself. The international labour conferences are free of some of those trappings of diplomacy, which mark the meetings of the league, and it meets in a much more human atmosphere than do other instrumentalities of the league. Under the constitution which governs the conferences, every State Member is entitled to two official representatives, one representative of the workers and one of the employers, making four in all. I do not know that Australia has ever been represented by two official representatives. Rather is it the practice in selecting the Government representative not to ask who is the best representative available, but to choose a person who is likely to be in the vicinity at the time the conference is being held. In this respect, the method of selection differs from that which obtains in the selection of the workers' representative. He is chosen from a panel submitted by the workers' organizations, and he is recompensed from the time ho leaves Australia until he returns.

Mr GEORGE LAWSON (BRISBANE, QUEENSLAND) - The Government did not recompense me.

Sir FREDERICK STEWART - But the honorable member was the official representative.

Mr GEORGE LAWSON (BRISBANE, QUEENSLAND) - No, I was the representative of the workers.

Sir FREDERICK STEWART - At any rate, that is the practice in respect of the employees, whereas the practice in respect of the employers and of the official representatives is to select some one who adventitiously happens to be on the other side of the world. As an indication of the importance placed on the conference by other countries, in the year when I was privileged to attend the conference, there were no less than 29 representatives from the United Kingdom, 24 from the United States of America, 20 from Japan, and 26 from Italy. This suggests that the other countries do recognize in the conference a gathering which is of real importance, and I urge that, instead of depending upon some one who happens to be in Europe at the time, the Government of Australia should, in the selection of its official representative, adopt the principle of selecting a representative, perhaps from among the younger members of this House, who will derive experience from being the official representative.

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