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Wednesday, 23 March 1927

Senator PEARCE - Yes, the old basis was perfectly satisfactory. A question arose as to the scope of the League. This subject was dealt with by the First Committee in connexion with the proposals made by Viscount Cecil in relation to the interpretation of the preamble and articles 3 and 4 of the covenant. This proposal raised the question as to what matters were " within the sphere of action of the League or affecting the peace of the world " in the meaning of the covenant. On this point, it is as well that I should read extracts from Mr. Latham's speech in the First Committee. The report of the delegation states -

Mr. Lathamsaid that lie thought that the League would make a mistake if it sought to net iu matters plainly outside its jurisdiction, lt had been founded to safeguard the peace of Hie world. If its founders had wished to make i he League responsible for all matters which affected international relationships they would not have considered it necessary to include in the covenant a number of provisions conferring jurisdiction in specified international questions.

Mr. Lathamwent on to say ;

He thought, however, that it would be an advantage to sketch the general outlines of a policy for the League, without attempting to bind it permanently. Its activities might be divided into two classes: - Matters which were more or less critical and likely to disturb the peace of nations, and matters of general interest in which international co-operation was desir- able and which the covenant placed within the sphere of action of the League.

As to the first class, all members, by adhering to the covenant, had bound themselves to submit to the authority of the League, except in cases covered by Article 15, paragraph 8, which dealt with matters of domestic jurisdiction.

Under the second heading the League could not adopt any decision which would become binding upon its members, and he hoped that this class of activity would not become predominant lest the idea should be developed that duly made decisions of the League were not effectively binding. Every country desired to be master of its own internal policy, and he thought it would be to the advantage of the League if it kept that fact very clearly in view.

I think that all honorable senators will heartily endorse the attitude which Mr. Latham and his co-delegates took. In another portion of the report Mr. Latham states -

In addition to the matter dealt with above much of the time of the Assembly and its Committees was devoted to other important matters which demanded close and careful consideration. Satisfactory progress was made on such matters as health, intellectual cooperation, protection of women and children in the near East, traffic in opium, child welfare, and slavery.

I am sure that honorable senators will acknowledge, from what I have said and from the extracts made from the report, that the Australian delegation safeguarded the position of Australia in the League. They took a leading part in its deliberations, and it is gratifying to know that their view-point on those world affairs in which Australia is vitally interested apparently meets with the approval of other leading nations.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

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