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Thursday, 24 September 1936

Senator ABBOTT (Kew South Wales) . - Honorable senators will agree that a great part of the speech of the Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce) was directed towards the amendment, which he himself suggested, and which had been circulated in his name. I shall confine my remarks at the outset to one or two either uninformed, or perhaps reckless, statements made by tho right honorable senator with regard to this matter. In suggesting his amendment as providing a better means of securing the objective, tho right honorable gentleman told the Senate that, if tho motion were carried in tho form in which I have placed it on the businesspaper, after being sent to the Secretary of State for the Dominions, through His Excellency the Governor-General, it would bo returned to the Commonwealth Government as His Majesty's adviser. I draw Ihe attention of the right honorable gentleman to the opinions on that subject expressed by one who is regarded as a high authority on dominion government and British political institutions. Keith, is the second edition of Responsible Government in the Dominions-

Senator Sir George Pearce - That edition was published before the Statute of Westminster was passed.

Senator ABBOTT - It was published in 1988. Does the Leader of the Senate suggest that the decisions of the Imperial Conference of 1926 alter the procedure in relation to this matter! Oan the right honorable gentleman produce any authority for such a statement? Even in the index, under the heading "King, His Majesty," Keith says -

Can only be advised through Imperial Ministers, through whose hands dominion recommendations must pass.

I think it will be found to be laid down by this and other authorities, that the Imperial Cabinet is the only cabinet which can advise His Majesty the King. The Minister's statement is wrong, as a statement of constitutional law.

Senator Brennan - The honorable senator is quite wrong. In connexion with the appointment of the GovernorGeneral, the announcement stated that the King had acted on the advice of his Australian Prime Minister.

Senator ABBOTT - That is so in matters affecting Australia. A perusal of the publication to which I have referred will bring that fact to tho minds of honorable senators. I refer particularly to pages 910 and 1228. At the latter page, Keith says -

Consequently, it would not be in accordance with constitutional practice for advice to be tendered to His Majesty by His Majesty's Government in Great Britain in any matter appertaining to the affairs of a dominion . . .

What the right honorable gentleman said is perfectly correct so far as it applies to our own affairs, but this motion does not deal with affairs which are primarily the responsibility of the Government of tho Commonwealth. On the contrary, it deals with an international matter affecting the people of the world. May, whose opinions will not be taken lightly in any parliament throughout the British Empire, has laid it down that either House of the British Parliament has a right to present either an address or a resolution to His Majesty as an expression of its opinion, and such action does not commit the Government. There is nothing to suggest that the Government is asked to sponsor my motion. It is true, as the Leader of the Senate has said, that he suggested that I should alter my original motion, which stood in almost exactly its present form; indeed, he enthusiastically drafted the alteration. I have it in his own handwriting. If that was done in a spirit of friendship, I appreciate the help of the right honorable gentleman, but lately I have had some reason to doubt his intentions in regard to this motion. It has been on the notice-paper for about fifteen months, and it is time that the Senate dealt with it in one way or another.

When I discussed this matter with the Leader of the Senate some time ago he suggested that the resolution should be sent to the general Assembly of the League of Nations, and his suggested amendment provided that it should invite the co-operation of the Prime Minister of Australia and the governments of the the British Dominions, India, and Great Britain; they were to be invited to co-operate by instructing their delegates to support the proposal at the general Assembly of the League of Nations. But when the motion, as amended in accordance with his suggestions, came up for further consideration, he said that be could not support it. I am a great believer in the League of Nations, and I want to see it flourish and achieve its objective of bringing about peace among the nations. But the Leader of the Senate, by his attitude to-night, is merely side-tracking my motion. I certainly shall not agree to that, nor will the Senate, if I know anything of its temper

Now the right honorable gentleman wants to refer the motion, not to the general Assembly, as he originally proposed, bitt to a subsidiary committee of the League of Nations, which is gradually losing some of its most prominent members. In the cable published in the press to-day, honorable senators will have read that one of the great European nations has withdrawn its sympathies from, and adherence to, the League. Is it suggested that this is the way to approach the people of Germany, Italy, Japan, or America? If I were to attempt to answer the contentions of the right honorable gentleman, I should probably not be in order.

The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. P. J. Lynoh). - The honorable senator will be in order in discussing the merits of the amendment.

Senator ABBOTT - So far from this being a futile suggestion, as some honorable senators have said, I point out that it has the support of some of the great minds of the world. Perhaps these inferior intellects are merely misguided fellows like the one who has the temerity to ask the Senate to carry thi3 motion and to suggest that he who exercises the greatest influence for peace in the world to-day - I refer to King Edward VIII. of England) - rather than the League of Nations in its present depleted state, should call the nations together. In no circumstances can I accept the amendment, and I invite the Senate emphatically to reject it.

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