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Tuesday, 2 April 1957

Mr CASEY - I am glad that my honorable friend has thought fit to ventilate this question because, although I have informed, in some detail, all the women's organizations concerned in this matter, I have reason to believe that there is still some misunderstanding of why Australia, after a long association with the Commission on the Status of Women, now proposes to resign from it. The simple facts are these: The commission has existed in its present form for eleven years. Of those eleven years, Australia has been a member for no less than eight years. We went off the commission for three years in the early 1950's in favour of New Zealand, which was very keen to go on to it. Now, after eight years of membership of the commission - and I agree with the honorable gentleman that we have had a constructive record, and that we have been well represented by very representative women over the whole of that period - we believe that it is reasonable for us to go off, particularly because Canada, which has never been on the commission, is most keen to get on. There has become a convention that there shall never be more than one non-Asian Commonwealth member on the commission. So I believe that the decision is a proper one, and that we should give w»y to r>:?r sister Dominion of Canada which, as I have said, is very keen indeed to get on to the commission. There is considerable pressure, as I understand it, from widespread women's organizations in Canada which want to know why they have never been represented on this commission.

Dr Evatt - Is there any limitation of numbers?

Mr CASEY - Yes.

Dr Evatt - Could that not be amended so that Australia might be kept on?

Mr CASEY - I suppose it could be done, but it is not a thing that could be done easily or readily, lt would have to be agreed to by a very large number of other countries. As I have said, I think we have had our fair share of membership of the commission. Australia is represented on no less than 22 instrumentalities of the United Nations and also on another 22 or 23 international organizations and associations that are not directly under the aegis of the United Nations. Representation on such a large number and variety of bodies of that sort produces a considerable strain on our resources of suitably trained personnel. I do not really believe, sir, that the situation permits of any reconsideration of our decision, having regard to the interests of our sister Dominion of Canada.

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