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Thursday, 25 August 1921

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) -I can. That is a matter in which Australia is directly and peculiarly interested.

Senator THOMAS (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Australia is interested in every item that is to be considered by the Assembly.

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Of course she is, in a sense. There is, for instance, the question of the opium traffic, and its probable effect upon the world. But Australia is not, perhaps, so directly affected in that subject as in the question of the distribution of costs.

Senator THOMAS (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Then the Minister puts money above everything else?

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - I do not ; but I want honorable senators to take a larger view of the position. At the last Assembly the distribution of costs was considered, and, to the best of my ability, I made a strong protest against Australia being called upon to pay the same proportion as the great Powers of the world, as much, for instance, as Great Britain andFrance, and,' as much as the United States of America would have paid if she had remained a member of the League. This arrangement was due to the fact that, owingto the short time at the disposal of delegates when drafting the covenant at Paris or Versailles, it was decided that the I expenditure should be distributed among the Nation members on the same basis as the costs of the Postal Union. But the total expenditure of the Postal Union is about £5,000 per year, and, therefore, the distribution of the cost is not so important to the countries that are in the Union. The Australian representatives at the gathering which determined the question of, distributing the costs of the Postal Union, no doubt with some pride, took the view that as this was a country of great distances we were entitled to be regarded as a first class Power. Therefore, we were placed in the first category, and pay first class costs. As I have already shown, that did not matter very much when dealing with an expenditure of £5,000, spread over all the members of the Postal Union, but when we apply that system to the League of Nations, the Budget of which now exceeds £1,000,000, and, in my opinion, it will not be long before it reaches £2,000,000, it becomes a matter of supreme importance to Australia. Speaking from memory, I think Australia's share of the liability is now in the neighbourhood of £60,000 per year.

Senator Duncan - It is not worth it.

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Whether it is worth it or not is another matter. It isdistinctly unfair that Australia should be called upon to pay towards the maintenance of the League as much as Great Britain, Prance, or any of the other great Powers.

Senator THOMAS (NEW SOUTH WALES) - We have the same voting power, I suppose?


Senator THOMAS (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Well, that may be all right.

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - If, as Senator Thomas suggests, it may be all right, then why, I ask, should Brazil, a country of 30,000,000 of people, contribute only about 9s. for every £1 paid by Aus tralia on this basis?

Senator Duncan - It is ridiculous.

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) -It is unjust to Australia. If all the nations were equal, something might be said in justification of the system.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Did I understand the Minister to say that the League of Nations is now costing Australia £60,000 a year ?

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Approximately, that is the amount.

Senator Duncan - We ought to submit a motion to withdraw from the League,

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - At the last meeting of the Assembly I put the Australian position, and pointed out how manifestly unfair it was that a country like Holland, with 8,000,000 of people, and Brazil, with a population of 30,000,000, should be paying infinitely less than Australia. With the active assistance of Mr. Balfour, the British representative at the last meeting of the Assembly, I did my best, and, I venture to say, not unsuccessfully, in getting the Assembly to recognise the unfairness of the present system. But it was not possible to secure a definite decision-, because, with a number of large Powers benefiting by the existing arrangement, it is not difficult to imagine the facility with which objections could be raised to any alternative suggestion. The Assembly, recognising the unfairness of the present system, appointed a Committee with instructions to prepare a new scheme, certain indications being given as to the lines it should follow, for presentation at the forthcoming meeting.

Senator Lynch - That, at least, is important.

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - It is important. The Assembly, as I have said, not only admitted the injustice of the present scheme, but it went further, and I. think I may say that my action was a factor in bringing about that result. It agreed that if it were found that any member of the League was paying, under the present system, more than it should pay, it would pay so much less in future years under the new scheme in order to re-adjust the position that had been created. It is important, as Senator Lynch has indicated, that the Assembly has adopted this principle. The only matters for consideration now are the de tails of the organization necessary to give effect to it. .

Senator THOMAS (NEW SOUTH WALES) - They are fairly important.

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - But seeing that the Assembly has adopted the principle and agreed to the lines which the new scheme should follow, they are not as important as the honorable senator believes. Matters of procedure, and possibly an examination of the figures presented, will certainly not be big subjects for consideration. Therefore, no one can say that those who attend this Assembly will be engaged upon a high mission, or that the details of the new scheme will be a very vital matter. At the most Australia may becalled upon to pay a few thousand pounds more under one scheme than under another. The main factor is that the principle has already been admitted that in future the cost should be distributed, not in an arbitrary way, but with some regard to the trade and importance of the various members of the League. In fact, this matter could have been dealt with outside the League altogether.

The belief that this Assembly is not in itself as vitally important as were previous meetings is proved by the action taken by other members of the League. New Zealand is to be represented by its High Commissioner, and Great Britain, which at the last assembly had two member of the Cabinet, Mr. Balfour and Mr. Fisher, and also an ex-Minister, Mr. Barnes, is now sending a member of the diplomatic service to represent it.

Senator THOMAS (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Who is he?

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Sir JamesBennell Rodd.

Senator Duncan - I have never heard of him.

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Although previously Great Britain was represented by Mr. Balfour, a man universally recognised as one of the greatest mental forces in the Empire, having looked over the business to be transacted, as the Australian Government have done, the British Government have come to the conclusion that it is not of first class importance, and are content to have Great Britain, with all its varied and complicated interests, represented by a gentleman of whom an honorable senator says he has never heard, and of whom I have never heard.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - I am sorry to hear that admission from the Minister.

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - I know nothing of this gentleman's capacity or standing. I merely state that I have never heard of him before.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - He is one of the leading lights of Britain's diplomatic service. 1 think his latest position was that of Ambassador at Rome.

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - According to a footnote to the cablegram in the Argus announcing his appointment, he has represented Great Britain at Berlin, Athens, Paris, Zanzibar, Cairo, Stockholm., and Rome.

Senator THOMAS (NEW SOUTH WALES) - If he has been Ambassador at all those places, he must be a man of high standing.

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) -At any rate he is not now a member of the diplomatic service. It may please honorable senators to make out that he is an outstanding figure in the Empire, but with all due respect to him, and with every desire to handle his name lightly, it is not one that would occur to the minds of honorable senators as being that of a man whom Great Britain would choose to represent it at the Assembly of the League of Nations if it desired to be represented by one of its leading men. It is clear that the British Government are sending this ex-official rather than a member of the Cabinet because they take the view which we take, namely, that the matters to be discussed will not be of sufficient importance to justify the action they took on previous occasions in being represented by leading members of the Cabinet. South, Africa is sending its High Commissioner. It is also true that the Union Government has appointed Lord Robert Cecil, but I would hesitate to say that his appointment is due to his knowledge of South African affairs or sentiment. He has been appointed because, like General Smuts', he has been a great advocate of the League of Nations. General Smuts, because' of his great interest in this body, and his desire to see that some one should be in attendance who, in a sense, has been a sponsor for the League, has appointed Lord Robert Cecil asone of South Africa's representatives, although the interests and sentiment of the Union will actually be represented by its High Commissioner. Lord Robert Cecil owes his position entirely to the at- titude he has taken up towards the League. So far as I know, Canada has not yet announced the name of its representative, but it is only a week away from Geneva.

The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon.

T.   Givens). - Order! The honorable senator's time has expired.

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - I have concluded all I wish to say.

Senator THOMAS (NEW SOUTH WALES) - I would like to move that the Minister's time be extended.

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