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Thursday, 25 August 1921

Senator THOMAS (NEW SOUTH WALES) . - I was hoping that some other honorable senator would continue the debate. Although I cannot agree with all that Senator Gardiner has said, I think we are indebted to him for submitting this motion, if only for the reason that it has enabled us to hear the speech just delivered by Senator E. D. Millen. Personally, I am strongly in favour of the maintenance of the League of Nations. There is, however, an impression amongst a number of people in Australia that the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) is not too keen on the idea. And even Senator E. D. Millen, whosegood work at Geneva we' all recognise, appears to me to have come back, perhaps, a little disappointed as to what the League may find it possible to do in the future. In my opinion, we in Australia ought to do everything we can to assist the League in the work for which it has been created; indeed, I regard it as our great hope for the future. It may be that it will not dp all that is expected or desired; but another war is a prospect so awful that, as I have said, we ought to render the League every possible assistance in order to avert such a calamity. We might imagine, from what we hear, that very little will be done at the forthcoming Conference, but after the statement of Senator E. D. Millen to-day, it seems to me that business of great importance will come up for discussion. I quite realize that unless the Australian Government have definite knowledge of the reports to which reference has been made this morning, it will not be possible to give definite instructions to the Australian representative as to how he ought to vote. I feel very strongly that our representative must be an Australian, acting on instructions received from here, and the non-receipt of the reports render the position very difficult. I do not say that Mr. Shepherd may not be able to do what there is to be done. He is probably a very able and distinguished civil servant, who has done good work along certain lines; at least, I suppose that is so, or he would not be in ids present position. At the same time, I think we ought to have some one at the Conference to present the case for Australia in the best way possible. What might be regarded as one of the minor matters -to be considered is the cost of carrying on the League. And Senator E. D. Millen admits that this may mean for Australia some thousands a year. In my opinion, this is a matter of some importance, and it is worth while spending, perhaps, a thousand or two more in order to insure our proper representation. Under the circumstances, I do not urge that a Minister of the Crown should go, though if there bad been any suggestion to that effect I should probably have raised no opposition. All things considered, it may be just as well that a Minister was not selected; but without mentioning names, there are other Australians, whose appointment might have given more general satisfaction. For instance, Mr. Justice Isaacs is, I believe, at the present time in London. I do not know whether that gentleman would have been prepared to undertake such a mission.

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Would you suggest that a Judge is an entirely desirable person to take part in discussions on questions which may become very controversial out here?

Senator THOMAS (NEW SOUTH WALES) - I take it that what our representative has to do is to present the case for Australia. Such a representative could not, of course, decide matters on behalf of Australia, especially in view of the fact that the Government have not received the reports referred to by Senator E. D. Millen.

Senator Keating - The services of Mr. Justice Isaacs would have been most valuable in connexion with the proposals for an international tribunal of justice.

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Those proposals have been submitted to every Government.

Senator Keating - But they will come up for discussion at the Conference.

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Only as regards how many nations have accepted them.

Senator THOMAS (NEW SOUTH WALES) - I venture to say that if Mr. Justice Isaacs had been requested to represent Australia, and had consented to gO, the people of the Commonwealth would have been quite satisfied.

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