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Thursday, 25 August 1921

Senator GARDINER (New South Wales) . - I thank those honorable senators who have supported me. Having regard to the opinions expressed by Senator Thomas, Senator Fairbairn, Senator Keating, and Senator Lynch, and the obvious fact that their views are concurred in by those who have not addressed themselves to the question, I hope the Government will recognise that even at this late hour another appointment should be made.

Senator Fairbairn - Orthe Government should add to the appointment already made.

Senator GARDINER - Yes. The Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) has laid it down that the Seat of Government is in Australia, and that his absence from Australia does not alter that fact. The Government have been given a clear indication of the views of the Senate and the people of Australia as to the appointment which has been made, and they would be well advised in taking prompt action to make another selection. I do not want to drift into personalities, but Senator E. D. Millen took me to task because he assumed that I was disappointed to discover that the appointment of Mr. Shepherd was made, not by

Mr. Hughes,as I had said, but by the Government. In reply, I propose to quote a report of what the honorable senator himself said in answer to a question addressed to him on Tuesday last. The report, which is as follows, shows that his reply conveyed to others the impression that it certainly conveyed to me : -

The Ministry, when the appointment was first taken into consideration, communicated with the Prime Minister, and asked him to consider the possibility of obtaining a suitable representative in London, as time was short and the distance great. He had no information as to the reasons which had actuated Mr. Hughes, or as to the inquiries Mr. Hughes had made. He only knew that Mr. Hughes had appointed Mr. Shepherd.

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - I have the Hansard report before me. There are two points to consider, and the first is that, as the reports show, I said that the action was initiated by the Government.

Senator GARDINER - That statement appears in the report I have just quoted. I desired merely to show that I was not alone in the view I took of the honorable senator's statement. Here is another newspaper report of the honorable senator's reply to the question -

He, Senator Millen, had no information as to the reasons that had actuated the Prime Minister in making the appointment, or as to the inquiries the Prime Minister had made. He only knew that the Prime Minister had informed the Government by cable that the appointment had been made.

With that information before me, I naturally concluded that Mr. Hughes had made the appointment before bringing the matter under the consideration of the Government. If I displayed anger in my references to the Prime Minister, the occasion was one on which a man might well be angry and yet sin not. The Government do not seem to realize the importance of the League of Nations. Senator E. D. Millen has endeavoured to minimize the seriousness of the action taken by the Government in appointing Mr. Shepherd, by stating that the agenda paper is not important. The business so far set down forconsideration, according to the agenda, is not of the highest importance, but it may be added to. By the courtesy of Senator E. D. Millen, I have obtained a copy of the agenda paper, and I draw attention to the following note in it by the Secretary-General, which seems to have been included as a warning to every country to be represented -

The Secretary-General has the honour to circulate the agenda for the second session of the Assembly which has been approved by the Acting President of the Council -

He begs to draw the attention of the members of the League to rule 4 of the rules of procedure of the Assembly by which any member of the League may, at least one month before the opening of the session, request the addition of additional items in the agenda.

Can we minimize the importance of an Assembly of the League of Nations that is governed by rules under which any question of which notice has been given one month before the date of meeting may be brought forward and discussed?

Senator Lynch - Thequestion of racial equality, for instance, might be brought forward.

Senator GARDINER - That springs at once to one's mind. Any such question might be brought forward at this short notice.

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - But the rules also provide that when notice of additional business is given, the various members of the League shall be so advised by cablegram. No notice of additional business has reached the Government.

Senator GARDINER - When does the Assembly meet?

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - On 5th September.

Senator GARDINER - In any event, the fact that business of the highest importance may be brought forward at comparatively short notice renders it necessary that Australia should be represented by the best available men. Take, for instance, what happened in connexion with the report of the Finance Committee at the last gathering of the League. Senator E. D. Millen represented us on that occation, and it is quite possible that but for his action the cost of management might have gone on increasing. His protest against these increasing costs, even if it did not bring about a reduction, will prevent their further growth.

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - And I (should like to say that the most efficient aid I had came from Sir William Meyer, an official of the Indian Government.

Senator GARDINER - No doubt the honorable senator was supported in his protests. The League of Nations may not do its business as expeditiously as the Senate does.

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - It deals with it in much the same way.

Senator GARDINER - At all events, it is of the utmost importance that we should be represented by trained men who can anticipate what is likely to arise from a certain set of facts. It is ability of that kind that makes all the difference between good and poor representation. No matter what the business paper may be, Australia demands that at a gathering of such importance it shall be adequately represented. I shall conclude by earnestly appealing to the Government to consider whether, having regard to the views expressed during this debate and public opinion generally, it is,even now, too late to provide for the more adequate representation of Australia than the present appointment will give us. I beg leave to withdraw my motion.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn. later-

Senator GARDINER asked the Leader ofthe Government in the Senate, upon notice -

1.   Has Mr. M. L. Shepherd been appointed to represent Australia as sole Commonwealth delegate at Geneva?

2.   Were there not any office boys or messengers in the High Commissioner's Office who could have been spared to fill this important position?

3.   Does the Government consider its action in making this appointment fair to either Australia or the League of Nations?

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - The answers are -

l.   Yes. 2-3. Yes; in view of the nature of the business appearing on the agenda paper, and having regard to the elements of time and distance. The only question which will arise in which Australia is directly or particularly interested is the apportionment of the costs of the League amongst its several members. The] unfairness of the present method, as it affected Australia, was put before the Assembly at its previous meeting byme, and the Assembly admitted the principle contended for byauthorizing a Committee to present and prepare a more equitable system. The matter is now one of detail and internal organization, rather than of principle. In the circumstances the Government is satisfied that the Acting High Commissioner, Mr. Shepherd, will adequately safeguard Australian interests.

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