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
Thursday, 25 August 1921

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for Repatriation) . - I think the Senate will recognise with me that Senator Gardiner has lessened the seriousness of my task by the nature of his remarks. No one could listen to Senator Gardiner without realizing that he was not seeking to defend the reputation or standing of Australia as a member of the League of Nations, but was endeavouring to make a bitter and vitriolic attack upon the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes). When a question was asked regarding this appointment I gave a reply which possibly did create the impression that the Prime Minister himself had made this appointment. Nothing could be further from the facts. The Prime Minister and the Cabinet exchanged cablegrams regarding this appointment, . in the fullest sense of the word, and, whether the selection is a wise one or not, the appointment must be accepted as having been made by Cabinet after consultations between the Prime Minister and his Government here.

Senator Lynch - The impression created is otherwise.

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - It is quite possible from what honorable senators have said to me that it is so, and I desire to say, frankly, that at the time I made the statement I was not aware that a cable received from the Prime Minister, which was read at a Cabinet meeting during my temporary absence, disclosed that cables passed between the Government and the Prime Minister, and that the appointment was made with the concurrence of Cabinet. That clears the Prime Minister from any responsibility of not consulting with his colleagues.

Now I want to deal with the appointment itself. As to Australia's attitude towards the League of Nations, it is well known that Australia wishes that League well.

Senator THOMAS (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Australia?

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Yes; and there is no sane man in Australia who will not share in that wish. There may' be different measures of confidence in ite capacity to achieve its high purpose, but there can be no doubt in the mind of any sane and humane man that behind the League there must be the best of good wishes for the success of its purpose.


Senator THOMAS (NEW SOUTH WALES) - I am. glad to hear the Minister say that.

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - I say it, yet I entertain very grave doubts of the of the League to accomplish its purpose. I wish it, from the bottom of my heart, the success which I doubt if ifc can attain. It will be in the minds of honorable1 senators that between the last meeting of the Assembly and the meeting which is now under consideration, there has been a shortening of the period of notice. The present meeting is not being held twelve months after the last, but only about nine months, owing to the fact that, although at the last meeting, it was determined to hold the succeeding one in November, it is being held in September.

Senator Lynch - There was ample time to send a representative from Australia.

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Ample time in certain circumstances, but I point out that there was that shortening of notice In view of the distance to be travelled by a representative of Australia, the Government were entitled to pay some regard to the matters to be brought forward as set out in the agenda paper of the proposed Conference. If it were merely a matter of sending a delegate from here to Sydney, the position would be quite different. In view of the considerable lapse of time involved Sn despatching some one from Australia to the Conference, there was an obligation upon the Government to see whether the business to be transacted was of such a character as to justify the adoption of that course. Do honorable senators know what is contained in the agenda paper of this Conference ?

Senator Payne - No; that is the trouble.

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Yet there is a tendency in certain quarters to denounce the Government in connexion, with this matter. The* business includes the election of a. Committee to report upon the credentials of representatives, a purely formal procedure; the election of a President to preside over the meeting of the Assembly; the examination and adoption of agenda; and the nomination of the Committees. The Conference divides its work amongst Committees, in accordance with a system well known in other countries, though not adopted here. Of the remaining twenty-one items of the agenda paper, I think there are only two which refer to matters other than the reception of reports from Committees appointed by the last Assembly to deal with the various questions to which the reports refer.

It became necessary, in order to make this Ian effective instrument for gathering the Expression of the opinion of the several nations, that the various matters to be dealt with should not be considered by. delegates to the Conference for the first time when brought before them there, but should be referred to theft respective Governments, in order that those Governments might instruct their delegates as to the attitude they were to take up. Had twelve months elapsed between one Conference of the Assembly and the next, it would have been possible for this to be done. Senator Lynch will now see why I have stressed the feature of the shortening 1 of the time between the two Conferences. In a circular dated 11th May last), the Government were informed that any! reports received from the Committees would be considered by the Council. That is the procedure followed. Reports go to the Council first, and they are then sen!) on with such comments as the Council i thinks fit to make. The circular stages -

Any reports from these committees received in time will be considered by the Council on Oth 1 June, together with certain, other questions included in the agenda of the Assembly. All I documents will be circulated to the members of the League as soon as possible after this meeting of the Council, but it is probable that some of the reports of the Committee will not be available before the end of Juno.

Such of the reports as were prepared were to ;be received by the Council on 9th June, and not one of those has reached Australia yet. Allowing time for the transport of communications, and for meetings of the Council, and the preparation in report form of any comments which the Council chose to .make, it would have been at least the 20th June before these matters were available for distribution to the various nations of the world that are members of the League. Such reports could not have reached here at i the earliest before the end of July, and, as a matter of fact, they have not yet been received. In the circumstances it 'will be seen that it would have been impossible for Australia to send back any comment which the Government of this country, in their turn, desired to make.

As reports have not yet reached us, the Government have not been in a position to instruct any delegate regarding them. I mention this because, had this Assembly been meeting twelve months after the last, it is possible that the difficulty would have been avoided.

Senator Lynch - Will the Minister inform honorable senators as to the two items on the agenda paper which he says deal with matters other than the reception of the reports?

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Perhaps it is as well that I should read the whole of the agenda paper ; honorable senators will then know just what business the Assembly is called on to do. I have already mentioned the election of a Committee to report on credentials; the election of the President and six Vice-Presidents for the duration of the Assembly; the examination and adoption of the agenda, and the nomination of committees. Then the following matters are included: -

General report on the work of the Council since the first session of the Aasembly.

General report by the Secretary-General upon the work of the Secretariat, and upon the measures taken to execute the decisions of the Assembly.

Report by the Council on the conclusions of the Committee on amendments to the covenant.

Report by the Council on the conclusions of the Committee appointed to examine the scope and intentions of article18 of the covenant from a legal point of view.

Report by the Council upon the conclusions of the temporary commission on the reduction ofarmaments.

Report by the Council on the conclusions of the International Blockade Committee.

Report by the Councilon the Advisory Economic and Financial Committee.

Report of the Advisory and Technical Committee on communications and transit.

Report of the Technical Committee of the International Health Organization of the League.

Presentation by the Council of the reports of the Advisory Committee on the traffic in opium.

Senator THOMAS (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Does the Minister say that all those matters are to be discussed by the Assembly that is now to be held?

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - The various reports will be discussed, but not one of them can finally bind Australia until the Government have an opportunity of dealing with them.

Senator THOMAS (NEW SOUTH WALES) - There are very important matters coming before the Conference for discussion.

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - That is so, and I might ask whether Senator Thomas would care to be placed in the position of attending the Conference as a representative of Australia, knowing that the Government has had no opportunity to consider these proposals, and instruct him as to the attitude to be taken in connexion with them.

Senator THOMAS (NEW SOUTH WALES) - I consider them of sufficient importance to justify the attendance at the Conference of the best man that Australia could send.

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - That is to say, if action might be taken at the Conference which would bind the Government.

Senator THOMAS (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Not necessarily.

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - I say that, personally, I should hesitate to accept the responsibility of going to the Conference to speak for Australia unless I had previously conferred with the Government, and were in unison with them as to the attitude I might be instructed to take up.

Senator THOMAS (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Then wo might just as well send a messenger?

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - It is an entire exaggeration to say that we might just as well send a messenger because we desire some effect to be given to a certain policy that has been agreed upon. The agenda paper contains also these items of business: -

Report by the Council on the typhus campaign.

Report from the Committee appointed to examine the organization, &c, of the permanent Secretariat and the International Labour Office.

Report by the Council on the International co-ordination of intellectual work.

The allocation of the expenditure of the League, including the report by the Council on the conclusions of the Committee appointed to study this question.

Suggest corrections