House of Representatives
14 August 1925

9th Parliament · 3rd Session

Mr. Speaker (Rt. Hon. W. A. Watt) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.

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Mr SPEAKER (Rt Hon W A Watt:

-Just before the adjournment of the House in connexion with the welcome to the American Fleet, I received the following cablegram : -

Members Empire Parliamentary Association in Parliament of United Kingdom desire to present to Commonwealth Parliament Speaker’s chair for new Federal Parliament House, Canberra. Chair would be replica of that in our House of Commons. Telegraph whether this presentation would be acceptable.

H. Whitley,

Speaker, House of Commons.

Joint President, United Kingdom Branch,

Empire Parliamentary Association.

Because of the all-night sittings immediately preceding the adjournment, which honorable members have probably not yet forgotten, and for other reasons, I was unable to announce the receipt of the cablegram immediately it was received; but during the adjournment I sent the following reply to the Speaker of the House of Commons: -

Have much pleasure in accepting, on behalf of the House of Representatives, Speaker’s chair, so gracefully and generously offered for House, Canberra,by United Kingdom Branch of Empire Parliamentary Association. Resolution of House will be proposed when House re-assembles in about three weeks.

A. Watt, Speaker. 21st July, 1925.

I understand that the Right Honorable the Prime Minister will submit ft motion of acceptance of this welcome gift, and I content myself, therefore, with saying, as the presiding officer of the House, how keenly I am sure honorable members appreciate this characteristic act of cordiality and friendship by the members of the parent branch of the Empire Parliamentary Association. I hope, as I trust we all hope, that this gift will adorn our House for many a generation, and that it will always be regarded as a visible link between the imperial mother of parliaments and the daughter institution in Australia.

Prime Minister and Minister for External Affairs · Flinders · NAT

– Every honorable member will cordially endorse your action, Mr. Speaker, in replying, on behalf of the House, to the cablegram sent by the President of the United Kingdom Branch of the Empire Parliamentary Association, which conveyed this most generous and welcome offer to the Parliament of Australia. We are all desirous of having, at Canberra, a replica of the Speaker’s chair in the House of Commons, because all our parliamentary institutions are based upon those of the motherof parliaments, and because we are all anxious to maintain those constitutional principles which have for so long guidedthe land from which we have come. Thisis but another example of the beneficial work which is being done by the Empire Parliamentary Association in promoting the interchange of visits between members of the various parliaments of the Empire, an instance of which was the recent visit paid to South Africa. I understand that it is the intention of the Australian Branch of the Empire Parliamentary Association to invite every otherbranch of the association to send representatives to Australia next year. We may, therefore, hope that if this visit is brought about it will provide an appropriate occasion for the presentation of this chair to the Parliament of Australia. The motion, which I now submit, will, I am sure, commend itself to every honorable member. I move -

That the offer of the United Kingdom Branch of the Empire Parliamentary Association, to present to the Commonwealth Parliament, a Speaker’s chair for use in the Parliament House, at Canberra, be most cordially accepted, and that Mr. Speaker be requested to convey to the Speaker of the House of Commons. Joint President of the United Kingdom Branch, the sincere thanks of the House for such a valued gift, and its warm appreciation of this expression of good will towards oar Commonwealth from the members of the Home Parliament.


.- I have great pleasure in seconding the motion. We all greatly appreciate the generous offer that has been made by the United Kingdom Branch of the Empire Parliamentary Association. It is further evidence of the benefit to be derived by association with this organization. I understand that many honorable members of this House are members of it. I have been associated with it since its inception, and recently, when I visited London, although many members of the United Kingdom Branch were absent in South Africa at the time, the secretary immediately got in touch with me, and made my stay in the Motherland as pleasant as possible. We ought to do everything we can to foster such a valuable institution, and I think that all honorable members should become associated with it. I join with the Prime Minister in hoping that, as a result of the invitation extended to other branches of the association to visit Australia, we shall, in the near future, have another opportunity to thank the United Kingdom Branch more fully than we can at the present moment.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

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– As so far only copies of the reports of the Tariff Board on agricultural implements have been distributed and only to a limited number of honorable members, will the Minister for Trade and Customs say when correct copies will be generally available?

Minister for Trade and Customs · MARTIN, NEW SOUTH WALES · NAT

– I hope to place the report of the Tariff Board on the table at the next day of sitting.

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– I desire to address a question to you, Mr. Speaker. It concerns the privileges of honorable members and others associated with this House, and has reference to the control of the steps in front of this House when any demonstration is taking place. On some occasions, during processions, the naval or military authorities take over the control of these steps, and honorable members of this House, as well as officers of the House, have been subjected to gross insults from them. I protest against either the naval or the military people being given control of Parliament House steps, and I should like you, Mr. Speaker, to say why the steps are from time to time handed over to them, and why the President of the Senate and you, sir, who are the custodians of the privileges of honorable members in this regard, should allow it?

Mr SPEAKER (Rt Hon W A Watt:

– Honorable members are, no doubt, aware that the Joint House Committee controls this building as a whole. When requests are made for the use ofthe steps in front of Parliament House on important public occasions they are referred to the committee, if it is possible to get a meeting, and, if not, to the President of the Senate, who is its chairman. The President usually confers with the Speaker, who is the vice-chairman of the committee. In connexion with the march of the American sailors through the streets of Melbourne, the Government asked the President of the Senate, through its Reception Committee, for the use of the steps, and the request was granted in the ordinary way. I doubt if such a request from the Government has ever been refused. However, in view of what has recently happened, and more particularly because of the statement that honorable members have been subjected to insults, I shall take an early opportunity of conferring with the President of the Senate, and probably with the Joint House Committee, to prevent a recurrence of complaints in the future.

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– Will the Prime Minister confer with the Western Australian Government in regard to the exceedingly limited area in that state in which it is proposed by the Commonwealth to grant a £1 for £1 subsidy for the boring for oil? Some of the geological authorities of Western Australia hold the opinion that there are parts of the Kimberley districts, other than those recommended by Dr. Wade, in which it is possible to find oil, and I think their opinion should have some weight with the Federal Government before its proposals are finalized.


– The Government’s policy in this regard is perfectly clear and definite. It is proposed to subsidize oil boring, to the extent of £1 for £1, in any area in Australia where, according to authoritative opinion, as opposed to interested opinion, there is the possibility of oil being found.


– Is the Government adhering closely to the opinion of Dr. Wade?


– At the moment his opinion is the only authoritative statement we have.

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Tariff Board’s Report


– Having regard to the importance of the Tariff Board’s report upon the duty on agricultural implements, will the Minister for Trade and Customs supply a copy of the report to each honorable member?


– Yes.

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– Can the Prime Minister say whether the Commonwealth is committed to a large expenditure in connexion with the continuance of the Wembley Exhibition, and whether large losses have been sustained?


– Subsequent to the determination that the Wembley Exhibition should be continued this year, negotiations took place between the Australian and British Governments, as a result of which the British Government gave a subsidy of £50,000 towards the expenses of the Australian portion of the exhibition. Upon that basis the Commonwealth resolved to participate in the exhibition this year. It isestimated that over and above that contribution of £50,000, Australia will probably have to find approximately £30,000.

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– Upon the notice-paper this notice of motion appears against my name : -

That, in view of the large available surplus, the increase of old-age and invalid pensions be given favorable consideration at once.

I ask you, Mr. Speaker, what steps I am to take regarding that motion in view of the fact thatthe Government has decided to propose to Parliament the increase which I suggested?


– I do not think the honorable member really desires any guidance from the Chair in this matter. I suggest that this is a matter for conference between himself and the Government

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Accommodation of Privately-owned Aeroplanes.


asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -

  1. Does the Government allow privatelyowned aeroplanes to use departmental hangars ? If so, under what conditions?
  2. Is any charge made? If so, how much, and on what basis is it computed?
  3. Does the price for use of hangars vary? If so, why?
  4. Is the Government in favour of encouraging civil aviation? If so, will the Minister abolish fees for the use of departmental hangars until such time as the industry is sufficiently advanced to justify private expenditure on hangars?
Minister for Defence · CALARE, NEW SOUTH WALES · NAT

– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as. follow: -

  1. Yes, conditional on floor-space being available.
  2. Yes. The charges are -

AA. Aeroplanes ofless than500 square feet -1s. 3d. daily, 7s. 6d. weekly.

  1. Aeroplanes from 500 to 900 square feet - 2s. 6d. daily, 15s. weekly.
  2. Aeroplanes from 900 to 1,350 square feet - 3s. daily, 20s. weekly.
  3. Aeroplanes from 1,350 to 1,800 square feet - 3s.6d. daily, 22s. 6d. weekly.
  4. Aeroplanes over 1.800 square feet- 4s. daily, 25s. weekly.

These charges are based on the number of square feet of floor-space occupied, computed by multiplying the span by the overall length of the aeroplane.

  1. No.
  2. Yes. The charges for hangar accommodation have recently been reduced by 50 per cent., and are now considerably below the corresponding charges in England and elsewhere. It is not proposed to make any further reduction at present.

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asked the Treasurer, upon notice -

Whether he will make arrangements for the alteration of the financial year from the 30th June to the 30th September, so as to do a,way as far as possible with the necessity for Parliament meeting during the winter season?


– The matter will receive consideration.

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Collection in South Australia.


asked the Minister for

Trade and Customs, upon notice -

What was the amount collected as excise duties in South Australia for the years 1921-2, 1922-3, 1923-4, and 1924-5?


– The figures are as follow : -

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Personal Explanation


.- I desire to make a personal explanation. During the debate on the Immigration Bill, the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath) stated, according to the report in Hansard at page 1120 -

The honorable member for Fawkner was chairman of a wages board, which, on his casting vote, decided that 14s. per week was sufficient to maintain a woman and her little children.

He said, also, that that fact would be useful information to put before the electors of Fawkner during the forthcoming election campaign, and he concluded by saying that in so acting I was doing the work of my class, for which I was well paid. Subsequently, the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) said that when I, as chairman of a wages board, had a chance to give whiteworkers 16s. a week for making nightdresses I had voted for a wage of 14s. per week. That, he said, was a fair and just representation of my attitude at that time towards trade unionism. I shall place before the House a short statement of the facts connected with that wages board. In 1897 the wages board system was introduced in “Victoria, and I had the honour of being invited by its members to preside over the board appointed to deal with the whitework trade. One of the duties of the board was to fix a minimum wage to be paid to workers over eighteen years of age. At that time the trade was very disorganized and irregular, women entering it at various ages for various reasons. After a protracted discussion as to what would be a fair minimum wage for girls of eighteen years of age and upwards, the board came to a deadlock, the employers expressing their willingness to vote for 13s. a week, and the representatives of the employees contending for 16s. a week. As chairman of the board, I said that I was not in a position to give a casting vote without making further investigations, and, with a view to informing myself of the existing conditions in the trade, I carefully investigated the books of various reputable firms in Melbourne, and consulted with the then Chief Inspector of Factories (Mr. Harrison Ord). I found that the then ruling minimum wage for girls of eighteen years of age was 7s. 6d. a week. A girl might possibly have entered the trade a week before attaining the age of eighteen years, and, having no experience, she had to start at the beginning, and learn the trade. That accounted for the low minimum wage then obtaining. I told the board that I could not be a party to raising the minimum wage - not the living wage - from 7s. 6d. to 16s. per week at one bound, but that if the employers’ representatives would agree to a minimum of 14s. per week I would give my casting vote in favour of that wage. That was done, and 14s. per week was, by my casting vote, fixed as the minimum wage to be paid to any girl over eighteen years of age, however inexperienced. Subsequently, the board came to another deadlock in regard to the piecework rates, and was dissolved. A new board was appointed, and applied itself to the same task as its predecessor had faced. After discussion and investigation, that board, comprising four representatives of the employers and four representatives of the employees, unanimously fixed16s. per week as the minimum wage to be paid to women over twenty years of age, and no protest was heard from any quarter. Whereas by my casting vote the wage had been fixed at 14s. a week for girls over eighteen years of age, the new board unanimously specified a minimum wage of 16s. a week for any woman over twenty years of age. I find on inquiry of the Federal Statistician that 14s. per week at that time was equivalent to 28s.1d. to-day. That means that if the board of which I was chairman were to-day assessing the minimum wage to be paid to an inexperienced girl of eighteen years of age, employed in the whitework trade, it would fix a wage of 28s. Id. a week. To-day, the wages in Victoria in this trade are fixed by law. Girls under the age of 21 years have to serve four years before they can claim the minimum wage. They have to learn their trade. The wage for the first year is 10s. per week, for the second year 15s., for the third year 22s., and for the fourth year ,30s. per week. Those are the wages ruling to-day. My action 28 years ago, when we were pioneering in this matter, was called in question, and I leave it to every unprejudiced mind in the House to say whether my determination on the facts before me was, as the honorable member for Ballarat said, a. decision that 14s. a week was sufficient for the maintenance of a woman and her little children. The honorable members for Ballarat and Hindmarsh, in their attempt to vilify me, have been guilty of the grossest and most wanton misrepresentation.

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The following paper was presented : -

Canberra - Report, of Operations of Federal Capital Commission for Quarter ended 30th Juno, 1925.

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Report or Australia’s Delegates

Attorney-General · Darling Downs · NAT

– I lay upon the table of the House the report of the Australian delegation to the Fifth Assembly of the League of Nations, and I propose to conclude my remarks by moving that the paper be printed.

I desire, in the first place, to express my appreciation, not only of the privilege enjoyed bv me in representing my country at the Fifth Assembly of, the League of Nations, but also of the hearty cooperation of the delegates and substitute delegates who were appointed to represent Australia at that Assembly. I assure honorable members that the task placed upon us was no light one, and that the delegates’ and substitute delegates found the whole of their time closely occupied with the consideration of the many problems that came before them during, the sittings of the Assembly.

I shall commence my remarks by dealing with the matter whose importance, to some extent, overshadowed other work : I refer to the Protocol for the pacific settlement of international disputes. Had it not been for the Protocol, the other work which was accomplished by the Fifth Assembly during its sittings would have been sufficient to attract considerable public attention.

The most pressing question at the Assembly was undoubtedly that of the limitation of armaments. The subject is not new, but from the very inception it has been regarded as one of the most important of the League’s problems. The Treaty of Versailles contains the following article dealing with the position of Germany: -

In order to render possible the initiation of a general limitation of the armaments of all nations, Germany undertakes strictly to observe the military, naval, and air clauses which follow.

Article 8 of the Covenant of the League of Nations declares that -

The members of the League recognize that the maintenance of peace requires the reduction of national armaments to the lowest point consistent with national safety, and the enforcement by common action of international obligations.

The article requires the Council, taking account of the geographical circumstances of each state, to formulate plans for such reduction for the consideration and action of their several governments. As soon as the League of Nations was organized, steps were taken to give effect to this obligation to’ reduce armaments. Before the meeting of the First Assembly of the League in November, 1920, the Council constituted the permanent commission under the obligation contained in article 9 of the Covenant. The Financial Conference, which was summoned by the Council just prior to the meeting of the First Assembly, met at Brussels, and recommended that the Council should confer at once with the various governments -

With a view to securing a general reduction of the crushing burdens, which on their existing scale armaments still impose on the impoverished peoples of the world, sapping their resources and imperilling their recovery from the ravages of war.

The First Assembly instructed a temporary mixed commission, consisting not only of the technical, naval, military, and air experts, but also of representatives of employers and employees, financial experts, aud men of political experience, to prepare reports and proposals for the reduction of armaments, as provided in article 8 of the Covenant. In 1921 the matter came before the Second Assembly, which instructed the temporary mixed commission to submit proposals for a reduction of armaments, which, in order to secure precision, they suggested should be submitted in the form of a draft convention for adoption by the nations. The temporary mixed commission made its report, which came before the Third Assembly. It defined certain principles which it thought might serve as a basis for a draft convention for the reduction of armaments. At the Third Assembly was passed the famous resolution known as the Fourteenth Resolution, which laid down the following principles: -

  1. No scheme for the reduction of armaments can ever be really successful unless it is general:
  2. In the present state of the world, the majority of Governments would be unable to accept the responsibility for a serious reduction of armaments unless they received in exchange a satisfactory guarantee for the safety of their countries.
  3. That a guarantee can be found in a general defensive agreement binding all countries to provide immediate and effective assistance in accordance with a pre-arranged plan in the event of any of them being attacked.

The Assembly concluded by instructing the temporary mixed commission to prepare on those lines a draft convention. This draft convention was presentedto the Fourth Assembly in the form of what is known as the Treaty of Mutual Assistance. This was sent on by the Fourth Assembly to the governments of the members of the League for their consideration. Quite a number of governments responded, but many did not. Some nations were prepared to accept the Treaty, while others were not It was, therefore, finally rejected. That was the position when the Fifth Assembly met. By that time the proposal for the reduction of armaments had been thoroughly investigated and examined by technical experts, and by the temporary mixed commission. It had been discussed before four assemblies, which all realized the urgent nature of the problem and the pressing need Tor its solution. When the Fifth Assembly met, the replies of those governments which had responded were placed before it. At that stage the problem seemed almost incapable of solution. The proposal to bring about a reduction in armament was brought up at the Fifth

Assembly by the British and French governments. The settlement of disputes by arbitration was suggested. The then Prime Minister of Great Britain, Mr. Ramsay MacDonald, said: - “The one method by which we can approximate to an accurate attribution of responsibility for aggression is arbitration.” He also proposed that the compulsory provisions of the Statute of the Permanent Court of International Justice might be examined, and suggested that some such step would be necessary as” a preliminary to a conference on disarmament. He also said to the Assembly -

The British Government thinks that the matter should now be explored, beginning with the Covenant, andapplying the Covenant to our present circumstances, and in the spirit of the League of Nations developing a policy that will give security and reduce armaments.

The French Prime Minister approved of the suggestion that arbitration should be the test of aggression. He favoured the acceptance of arbitration. He said -

Arbitration is essential, but it isnot sufficient; it is a means, but not an end. It does not entirely fulfil the intentions of Article 8 of the Covenant, which . . . are security and disarmament. We in France regard these three terms - arbitration, security, and disarmament - as inseparable.

Throughout the debate it was emphasized that without some form of security nations could not be expected to agree to reduce their armed forces. The principles of the Covenant were generally supported, and there was an. eager ness to explore any avenue that would lead to the desired haven. Accordingly it was resolved that -

The Assembly,

Noting the declarations of the Governments represented, observes with satisfaction that they contain the basis of an understanding tending to establish a secure peace.

Decides as follows:

With a view to reconciling in the new proposals the divergencies between certain points of view which have been expressed and, when agreement has been reached, to enable an international conference upon armaments to be summoned by the League of Nations at the earliest possible moment:

  1. The Third Committee is requested to consider the material dealing with security and the reduction of armaments, particularly the observations of the Governments on the Draft Treaty of Mutual Assistance prepared in pursuance of Resolution XIV. of the Third Assembly, and other plans prepared and presented to the Secretary-General since the publication of the Draft Treaty, and to examine the obligations contained in the Covenant of the League in relation to the guarantees of security which a resort to arbitration and a reduction of armaments may require :
  2. The First Committee is requested -

    1. to consider, in view of possible amendments, the articles in the Covenant relating to the settlement of disputes;
    2. to examine within what limits the terms of Article 36, paragraph 2, of the Statute establishing the Permanent Court of International Justice might be rendered more precise, and thereby facilitate the more general acceptance of the clause; and thus strengthen the solidarity and the security of the nations of the world by settling by pacific means all disputes which may arise between States.

No other indication was given to tho committees as to the lines upon which they should work. I was asked to accept the position of chairman of the First Committee, and as I felt that the request was an honor to Australia, I undertook the heavy responsibility of that office. I ask honorable members to consider the problems with which the committees were faced, and would remind them that, although the Protocol has not been accepted, those problems are still facing the world and demanding a solution. For that reason I feel that any person who can make suggestions of a constructive character will render a service to the whole world. The heavy burden of armaments was recognized by the representatives present, and a real desire to do something in the direction of a reduction of armaments was evident throughout. The committees were not composed of visionaries or idealists, but of men of experience, including prime ministers, foreign ministers, ambassadors, and leading jurists, mauy of whom had had actual experience of the horrors of the great war, and were anxious, if possible, to avert another such catastrophe. From my knowledge of them I do not hesitate to say that there was a real desire on the part of the delegates to arrive at some scheme which would secure the peace of the world. To give honorable members an indication of the situation as it presented itself to some of the delegates, I cannot do better than quote the remarks of Dr. Benes, who was one of the keenest men at the conference, and largely responsible for the Protocol. When speaking at the council meeting, in March last, he said -

I shall take the liberty of putting opposite these important facts certain other facts which are of no less importance, and whose significance seems to me prophetic for the future. The war destroyed four great empires in Central and Eastern Europe, demolished ancient frontiers, established some ten new states, upset dynasties, unchained social revolutions, destroyed communications and financial systems, put down whole ruling classes and so forth, and produced a most incredible intermingling and incredible cross-currents in the interests of states, nations, and classes. The war set nations against each other in this part of the world, and created problems of hitherto unknown complexity. From Finland in the north, through the Baltic Republics, Poland. Germany, Czecho-Slovakia, and Austria, down the valley of the Danube to Constantinople and Southern Greece, you have regions where thousands of conflicts may break out, beginning today by tho murder of a frontier guard or the desecration of a flag, and easily ending tomorrow in a terrible war. To-day all these countriesare tired of this state of affairs. They long to be at last delivered from this intolerable position. They know that they have many problems that are almost insoluble psychologically through direct negotiations, and have wished to find methods other than violence and direct action to solve these problems.

A great deal was accomplished in a very short time. The First and Third Committees worked both night and day. I remember that on one occasion I remained in the chair for six hours without a break. It was realized that the Protocol produced under such conditions must contain imperfections. Dr. Benes in this connexion said -

We were in no way unconscious of the fact that there were some rather important imperfections and shortcomings in the work that hail been performed so rapidly in a few short weeks of feverish labours.

That describes exactly the feverish rush to which the delegates were subjected. Problems arose one after the other with amazing rapidity, and the marvel is that at such conferences a Protocol could have been evolved which should receive such a measure of support as has been accorded to this one.

I should like to give a brief outline of the Protocol to show the manner in which it attempted to deal with the various problems which arose. The primary object was to get a conference to agree to the reduction of armaments. But certain nations contended that before they could agree to any reduction of armaments they must have some guarantee of security. It was pointed out for instance that a nation might have as its neighbour a manufacturing people, capable at short notice of utilizing their factories for the manufacture of munitions of war. A nation with such a neighbour would realize that it could not agree to disarm unless some guarantee of security were given. But that alone was not sufficient. Something in the nature of the pacific settlement of disputes was also necessary. The problems of disarmament, security, and the pacific settlement of disputes were so closely interwoven that they could not be considered separately. The general aim of the Covenant is to establish the solidarity of the members of the international community. This the Protocol recognizes. The preamble to the Protocol sets this forth, and asserts that a war of aggression constitutes a violation of this solidarity, and is an international crime. It expresses the desire to facilitate the complete application of the system provided in the Covenant for the pacific settlement of disputes between States, and for ensuring the repression of international crimes. The purpose desired to be realized, as contemplated by Article 8 of the Covenant, is the reduction of national armaments to the lowest point consistent with national safety, and the enforcement by common action of international obligations. There is no obligation under the covenant in “no” case to resort to war.. Under Article 12, the members of the League agree “ in no case to resort to war until three months after the award by the arbitrators - or the judicial decision - or the report by the Council.” Again, under Article 15, if a dispute comes before the Council, and the Council fails to reach a report which is unanimously agreed to by the members thereof other than the representatives of one or more of the parties to the dispute, the members of the League reserve to themselves the right to take such action as they shall consider necessary for the maintenance of right and justice.

The Protocol seeks to reduce the area of possible conflicts - to close gaps in the Covenant. Under Article 2 of the Protocol, the signatory states agree in no case to resort to war, either with one another or against a state which, if the occasion arises, accepts all the obligations of the Protocol. There are, however, two exceptions: first, when a state is acting in resistance to acts of aggression,- and, secondly, when it is acting in agreement with the Council or the Assembly of the League of Nations in accordance with the provisions of the Covenant and of the Protocol. An addition to the Covenant is also contained in Article 3 of the Protocol, under which the signatory states agree to accept the compulsory provisions of the Statute of the Permanent Court of International Justice in the cases covered by paragraph 2 of Article 36 of thaiStatute. This acceptance is without prejudice to the right of any state, when acceding, to make reservations compatible with the clause. The legal disputes covered by this Article are - (a) the interpretation of a treaty ; (6) any question of international law; (c) the existence of any fact which, if established, would constitute a breach of an international obligation; («7.) the nature or extent of the reparation to be made for the breach of an international obligation. These disputes were regarded in the nature of legal disputes, and it was felt that the proper body to settle them would be the Permanent Court of International Justice. In connexion with this court, I should like to remove a little misapprehension that exists. The question has been asked, “ Who will comprise this court?” I remind honorable members that the court has been in existence lor some time. It was created on the 16th September, 1921, and was opened on the 16th February, 1922. The court operates in two ways - it may deal with cases between parties, and it may give advisory opinions. Up to the close of the Fifth Assembly, three judgments had been given in cases between parties, and no less than ten advisory opinions had been expressed by the court at, the request of the Council. Of these thirteen cases Great Britain was concerned in three, one of which was a case between parties, and two of which were advisory opinions. The court has, of course, been functioning since the returns were prepared. The court consists of eleven judges and four deputies, who are selected, not as representing individual nations, but for their special qualifications. The aim is to secure representation of the main forms of civilization and the principal legal systems of the world. Lord Finlay, a British subject, is a mem-‘ ber of the court, and Mr. John Bassett Moore, one of the greatest international lawyers of the United States, is also a member, although the United States is not a member of the League. The Article is an agreement to take advantage of the compulsory jurisdiction of the court. The nations, having agreed not to resort to war, had to adopt some other means of settling disputes. As a result of the discussions at Geneva, some of the articles in the Covenant of the League are now better understood than they were. Australia, with other signatories to the Peace Treaty, has accepted under the Covenant certain definite and distinct obligations. It is agreed in Article 12 of the Covenant that should there arise, between any of the parties, a dispute likely to lead to a rupture, it should be submitted either to arbitration, to judicial decision, or to inquiry by the Council. The parties agree that whenever a dispute arises which is recognized as suitable for submission to arbitration or judicial settlement, and cannot be satisfactorily settled by diplomacy, they will submit the matter to arbitration or judicial settlement. Those are the definite obligations contained in the Covenant, but certain gaps were left in it. The aim of those who drafted the Protocol was to follow as far as possible the spirit and lines of the Covenant, and to fill in the gaps left in the Covenant. The Protocol provides several alternatives. Under the Protocol the signatories agree in no case to resort to war. They agree to follow the procedure set out in Article 4 of the Protocol. This procedure is designed to make more’ complete the provisions of paragraphs 4, 5, 6, and 7 of Article 15 of the Covenant. In the event of the dispute not being settled by the Council under the Covenant, the duty is then cast upon the Council of trying to induce the parties to accept a judicial settlement, or to submit the dispute to arbitration. If they cannot agree to do that, and if one of the parties desires arbitration, that party may apply to the Council, .and a committee of arbitrators will then be appointed, as far as possible by agreement between the parties. If neither of the parties wants arbitration, the Council must again take the matter up and endeavour to obtain a settlement. If in the end the Council fails to reach unanimity, it must submit the matter to arbitration. Honorable members will, therefore, see that in the end there must be arbitration.


– That is dealt with under Article 4 of the Protocol. If the parties cannot agree as to arbitration, the Protocol sets out the conditions of the appointment of arbitrators. In the final resort the Council determines the composition, powers and procedure.

Mr Mann:

– If one nation refuses to submit the dispute to arbitration, how can it be forced to do so?


– That party would be guilty of a breach of the Covenant. I shall deal with that phase of the subject later. The honorable member raises the question whether it is possible to provide a system to settle disputes without force as a final resort. Article 4 of the Protocol makes provision for the appointment <;f arbitrators. The Protocol provides that in the settlement of disputes there is first conciliation by the Council. That method will probably be the most generally used. The Council has power, from time to time, to obtain advisory opinions from the Permanent Court of International Justice. Then there is arbitration by agreement, and, finally, compulsory arbitration. On the important question of domestic jurisdiction, paragraph 8 of Article 15 of the Covenant provides -

If the dispute between the parties is claimed by one of them, and is found by the Council to arise out of a matter which by international law is solely within the domestic jurisdiction of that party, the Council shall so report, and shall make no recommendation as to its settlement.

First the Council has to find unanimously that the matter is solely one of domestic jurisdiction. If the Council disagrees, and there is no unanimous finding, the parties may try to settle the dispute by conciliation, friendly negotiation, and goodwill. In the end, however, the final arbiter might be war. The aim of the framers of the Protocol was to cover all possible forms of dispute, and to provide for peaceful settlements in all cases. It is very important that honorable members should know what Article 5 of the Protocol means. Let as assume that a dispute has reached the final stage of compulsory arbitration. In the course of the arbitration proceedings a nation may contend that immigration is a matter of domestic jurisdiction. The party raising that question has the right to take it to the Permanent Court of Internationa] Justice, and it must be submitted to the court through the Council. The court has to decide whether - and these are the words of the Covenant - the dispute arises out of a matter which by international law is solely within the domestic jurisdiction. The decision of the permanent court is final, and it is not necessary that it should be a unanimous decision.

Mr Maxwell:

– What is the effect upon the party against whom the decision is given ?


– He is bound by it. If he disregards it he becomes an aggressor under conditions which I shall explain presently. Nations which accept this article in the Protocol agree that if the court gives a decision they will honour the obligation they have accepted. The question has been raised of the right of nations concerned in a dispute to be represented on the court. The Statute of the Permanent Court provides that if it includes on the bench a judge of the nationality of only one of the parties, the other party may select from among the deputy judges a judge of its nationality. If there is not among the deputy judges a judge of that nationality, the party may choose a judge, preferably from among persons who have been nominated as candidates. If the court includes on the bench no judge of the nationality of the contesting parties, each of these may select or choose a judge. Thus, every litigant before the court may have upon the bench a member of its own nationality. The question arises as to a decision by the court on matters affecting domestic jurisdiction. For instance, is immigration a matter which, by international law, is solely within the domestic jurisdiction ? I looked into the matter very carefully beforehand, and the view I held very strongly was that it was inconceivable, on the authorities, that any court could possibly hold, or any lawyer could possibly advise, on the existence of international law as it is to-day, that immigration was not a matter which, by international law, is solely within the domestic jurisdiction. My honorable colleague is aware that this question gave him and myself a very great deal of anxiety. We obtained the opinion of one of the most eminent authorities we could get, and that opinion, which was in agreement with our own, has been confirmed by other outside opinions.

Mr Gabb:

– Could that not have been stated definitely in the Protocol?


– Domestic jurisdiction covers an exceedingly wide range of questions, and the attempt to include one or two in the Protocol might lead through the non-inclusion of others, to an interpretation which might prove to be embarrassing. It seemed quite clear that immigration is a matter of domestic jurisdiction. On this question I should like to refer honorable members to an opinion given by Professor Charteris, Professor of International Law in the University of Sydney, who is an authority of very high repute in Australia. Dealing with this aspect of the matter, he says -

As to the two points upon which the Protocol has been adversely criticized in the Australian press, it is conceived that the autonomy of Australia in respect of her immigration policy is not endangered by either. Hostile critics have not infrequently betrayed ignorance of the present rights and liabilities of Australia under the covenant and have compared the Geneva proposals with the present state of unchallenged autonomy (which is due to the virtual acquiescence of Japan in the White Australia policy), and not (as they should have done) with the position in which Australia would find herself under the covenant if Japan were to raise an “ acute dispute “ over this policy. There seems, indeed, to be no reason to dissent from the legal opinions which the Australian delegation was reported by Mr. Bruce in Parliament to have received in Europe to the effect that the White Australia policyis exposed to no new risk under the Protocol as compared with the covenant.

Later on he adds -

Having regard, then, to the limited function of the court and to the practical certainty of a favorable opinion, it is conceived that Australia would gain an advantage in the right which the Protocol would give her of demanding, first, arbitration of the dispute, and thereafter an opinion of the court, on her plea under Article 15 (8) of the covenant, which would be automatically binding on the arbitrators.

Honorable members will see that this matter was watched very carefully by my colleague and myself, and our opinion on the subject has been confirmed. Article 10 of the Protocol deals with the conditions under which a state refusing to accept a decision that a matter is one of domestic jurisdiction becomes an aggressor.

Mr Maxwell:

– Is Australia prepared to accept an adverse decision upon a matter like that?


– I feel perfectly certain that there is no danger of such a decision, and that the White Australia policy is not threatened or endangered by the Protocol. This question of what constitutes domestic jurisdiction actually came before the Permanent Court in connexion with a dispute between Great Britain and France concerning Tunisian affairs. France said that the matter in dispute was a matter of domestic jurisdiction, and Great Britain contended that it was not. The dispute went before the court. I want honorable members to bear in mind that tho court does not consider the policy followed in a matter of domestic jurisdiction. It has no authority to decide whether the policy followed is right or wrong : that is for the nation who carries it out to determine. The court decides simply as to the matter of power - is it or is it not within the power of the state, that is, is it, or is it not, within its domestic jurisdiction according to international law ? The matter to which I have referred having been taken before the court, it expressed the opinion that -

The question whether a certain matter is or is not solely within the jurisdiction of a state is an essentially relative question; it depends upon the development of international relation. Thus, in the present state of international law, questions of nationality are, in the opinion of (lie court, in principle, within this reserved domain.

The court decided that, so far as nationality is concerned, the conferring of nationality rights is a matter within the jurisdiction of the country concerned.

Mr Fenton:

– Does Dr. Pollock, the great jurist, agree with that?


– I have not his opinion on that particular point, but I have it on another aspect of the Protocol, which I shall quote presently. I want, at this stage, to make some reference to a difficulty which arose during discussion before the First Committee. Japan moved an amendment which gave rise to considerable apprehension at the time. It was stated in terms which seemed to suggest the possibility of constituting the Council a court of appeal from a decision of the Court. On that occasion I had to leave the chair, and address the Committee on the amendment. I made the position very clear so far as

Australia is concerned - that if the court gave its decision we should be entitled to hold to that decision very strongly. However, the matter was finally reconsidered, and practically the terms suggested by the British delegates were accepted. I direct the attention of honorable members to the last part of article 5 of the Protocol. which says that if the question is held by the Court or by the Council to be a matter solely within the domestic jurisdiction of the state, this decision shall not -prevent the consideration of the situation by the Council or by the Assembly under article 11 of the Covenant. I point out that this does nothing more than simply preserve all existing rights that are to-day contained in the Covenant. It does not carry the matter any further. Under article 11 of the Covenant it is the right of any particular nation to bring before the Assembly or the Council any circumstance whatever affecting international relations which threatens to disturb international peace, or the good understanding between nations upon which peace depends. The view put by the British delegate before the committee as to the meaning of this last paragraph of article 5 was accepted unanimously, as shown in the report of the rapporteurs. If under paragraph 8 of Article 15 of the Covenant a unanimous decision is given by the Council that decision stands and is binding. If, in the exercise of the right which a nation possesses under Article 11 of the Covenant to bring the matter again before either the Council or the Assembly, the same question is raised, neither the Assembly nor the Council can interfere with the decision previously given. So that the position under the Protocol would be that if a country has been given a verdict in its favour on a question, of domestic jurisdiction, and the nation adversely affected by the verdict exercises its right under this particular article to bring the matter again before the Council or the Assembly in order to have it reconsidered, all that could happen would be that there might be friendly suggestions, friendly intercourse, a suggestion for instance to the nation in whose favour the verdict had been given that its policy was not being carried out in a humanitarian way, and that it might consider whether it could not come to some agreement.

Mr Coleman:

– Moral suasion.


– Yes, moral suasion.

Mr Maxwell:

– Would the nation in whose favour the decision was given have the right to refuse to discuss the matter further ?


– The nation in whose favour the decision is given is the only one that can re-open the decision in any way. If it objects and insists upon its rights under the decision, neither the Council nor the Assembly can take those rights away. They cannot be taken away except with the consent of the nation in whose favour the decision has been given. Honorable members will see that the article is a very important one, and it gave rise to a great deal of discussion. The position in regard to domestic jurisdiction is that so far as it is protected by the Covenant, it is at least equally protected under the Protocol.

There is agreement not to resort to war, and there is to be arbitration or judicial proceedings or inquiry by the Council of the League in substitution. The Protocol has declared that a warof aggression is an international crime. That leads us to the next problem, which is one of the most difficult which the nations have had to face, and that is to determine what constitutes aggression. The question had been before experts, and they reported practically that it was impossible to define what constitutes aggression, because of the peculiar complications of international relationships. It is very difficult to determine in the course of the international relations between two nations which nation is guilty of aggression. The Treaty of Mutual Assistance did not satisfy, and it was decided to approach the question from a new angle to see if it was not possible tolay down certain rules, rules of presumption, and say that in the event of certain things happening, a particular nation should be deemed to be an aggressor. The Protocol by Article 10 lays down as a general proposition what constitutes aggression, and says that every state which resorts to war in violation of the undertakings in the Covenant or in the Protocol is an aggressor. It is an exceedingly difficult problem for the Council to define who is or is not an aggressor, and, accordingly, certain auto matic rules were laid down. In the event of hostilities having broken out between two countries, the position is that, unless the Council unanimously decides otherwise, a state is presumed to be an aggressor under the following circumstances : -

  1. Refusal to submit the dispute to arbitration, judicial settlement, or inquiry by the Council;

That is to say, if a nation has refused to submit a dispute to the procedure for the pacific settlement of disputes provided for by articles 13 and 15 of the Covenant as amplified by the Protocol, if it has gone to war after having definitely agreed to submit all disputes to arbitration or to a judicial settlement, or to inquiry by the Council, in other words, if it has violatedits international undertakings and gone to war without submitting the dispute to pacific settlement, it is deemed to be an aggressor.

  1. Refusal to comply with a judicial sentence, arbitral award, or unanimous recommendation of the Council;

That is to say, if it has submitted its case to arbitration and the decision has gone against it, and in defiance of the decision and of its obligations of compliance under the articles of the covenant, it has gone to war, it is likewise presumed to be an aggressor.

  1. Disregard of a unanimous report of the Council, a judicial sentence, or an arbitral award recognizing that the dispute between it and the other belligerent state arises out of a matter which by international law is solely within the jurisdiction of the latter state; nevertheless the state shall only be presumed to be an aggressor if it has not previously submitted the question to the Council or the Assembly in accordance with Article 11 of the Covenant.

These last-mentioned cases are those which arise out of questions affecting domestic jurisdiction - when a state has disregarded the unanimous recommendation of the Council or a judicial sentence or an arbitral award recognizing that the dispute between it and the other state arises out of a matter which, by international law, is solely within the domestic jurisdiction of the latter state, nevertheless, such a state will only be presumed to be an aggressor if it has not previously submitted the question to the Council or the Assembly in accordance with article 11 of the Covenant.

Mr Maxwell:

– I have never understood that provision.


– I shall explain it. When a decision has been given by the court and embodied in an arbitral award, the nation which refuses to recognize the award and goes to war in disregard of it is presumed to be an aggressor. But if, instead of going to war at that stage, a nation which has had an award given against it takes the matter to the Council or Assembly, and the point is not settled there, it is not “ presumed “ to be an aggressor if it then goes to war, although it is still open to the Council to exercise its ordinary powers and declare it to be an aggressor. If the Council cannot agree upon the question as to who is the aggressor, instead of depending on the unanimity which is necessary in the case of the rest of the provisions of the Covenant, it is open to it, acting if needs be on a twothirds majority^ to enjoin upon the belligerents an armistice, and fix the terms of it, and supervise its execution, and the belligerent which refuses to accept the armistice or carry out the terms fixed by the Council is then presumed to be an aggressor. Upon that particular clause there was some difference of opinion in the committee. I had better explain exactly the position which arose. Japan moved the omission of the words that a nation which disregarded an arbitral decision that a matter in dispute was one of domestic jurisdiction was to be deemed to be an aggressor. The Australian delegates were opposed to that proposal. We could see no reason why that award should be any different from any other. It was in connexion with that matter that trouble arose. Finally, after a meeting of certain delegates, the First Committee agreed to a compromise on the lines contained in the Protocol. I do not say that I am satisfied with it as it is now, because I think that no discrimination should have been permitted : but at the same time it is clear that if there is a war of aggression in violation of the undertaking of the Covenant and Protocol, the Council mav find the aggressor in the wrong, and the country attacked may secure the support of the League of Nations.

The next point to be considered is the matter of sanctions or securities in the event of a war of aggression. Tn the event of hostilities having broken out, and r.he fact of aggression having been presumed or found, the Council must call on the signatory states to apply forthwith against the aggressor the sanctions provided for by Article 11 of the Protocol.


– The Minister’s time has expired. Is it the pleasure of the House that he have leave to continue his speech ?

Leave granted.


– I thank honorable members. The Protocol provides that these sanctions shall apply immediately, and they are contained in Article 16 of the Covenant. They are what are known as the economic sanctions; that is to say, the right of blockade, and also obligations relating to military or naval movements as set out in the Covenant itself. I do not wish to go into details. I merely wish to make it clear that this part of the Protocol adds no new sanctions, but simply makes existing sanctions more precise and definite. Sir Frederick Pollock sets out the position very clearly. He says, “ Articles 10 to 13 do not purport to create any new substantive duty, nor do more than point the way that every loyal member of the League would wish to follow. Loyal and effectual co-operation against any aggressor is the tenor of Article 11. I find there only a more explicit declaration of what is already implicit in the Covenant.” On a breach of the Covenant occurring, this Protocol applies, and the sanctions are put into operation forthwith. The sanctions provided by the Covenant are, first, the severance of all trade or financial relations, the prohibition of intercourse between nationals, and the prevention of all financial, commercial, or personal intercourse between States ; secondly, it is the duty of the Council to recommend to the several governments concerned what effective naval, military, or other forces the members of the League should severally contribute to the armed forces necessary to protect the covenants of the League. Under the Protocol, the nations affirm their obligation to cooperate loyally and effectively in support of the Covenant and in resistance “<o any act of aggression ; but there is nothing in it which gives power to the Council to call upon any nation to give any definite assistance of a particular kind. It is still left open to- tlie countries concerned to decide the nature and the extent of their respective contributions, and a special clause was inserted, at the instance of Denmark, providing that geographical considerations and considerations of the state of a country’s armament, should be taken into account. The suggestion that the Council would have the right to call upon the British Navy is unfounded. It is still left open to any country to determine its own contribution. This fact was made very clear in the Rapporteur’s report, which is in the nature of an official commentary on the Protocol.

That, generally, is an outline of the methods by which the Protocol will be worked and enforced. There are other provisions in it to prevent warlike preparations - see Article 7 - and generally to restrain nations from acts which might constitute threats of aggression - see Article 8.

Mr Coleman:

– That is all based on the holding of a disarmament conference.


– The Protocol could only come into force if a disarmament conference were held and a disarmament agreement arrived at. The « Protocol provides for holding that conference, and if the results of it are favorable, the nations ratifying the Protocol will be bound by its provisions. However, it has riot been accepted generally. The Protocol came before the Council in March last, and was passed on to the next Assembly. When the Protocol came before the First Committee for its final stages, I made it clear that neither the Australian Government nor the Australian Parliament was committed to a single paragraph contained in it. The committee was of opinion that the best thing the Assemby could do would be to adopt a resolution which, while welcoming the Protocol, would recommend its acceptance to the earnest attention of all the members of the League.

Mr Coleman:

– How many countries have ratified it?


– Before the Australian delegation left Geneva ten countries had attached their signatures to it, and since then seven others have done so, but only one country, Czecho-Slovakia, has yet ratified it. The idea seems to have got abroad that the Governments represented at the Assembly were committed by the mere passage of the

Protocol by the Assembly. That is not so. The resolution passed was for the purpose of referring the Protocol to the Governments concerned for their earnest consideration and its acceptance. The Commonwealth Government, after considering the matter very carefully, decided that it could not sign the Protocol.

At Geneva, working under the conditions in which we found ourselves, it was realized that an absolutely perfect document had not been produced, but, at the same time, we recognized that it was an earnest attempt to arrive at a solution of the difficulties facing us. Many and varied problems were dealt with. It waa believed that the Protocol should be sent to the different governments for their consideration. If the draft Protocol can in any way contribute towards the peace of the world, great good will be clone to civilization. My own conviction as regards the Protocol is that it needs further consideration. The article dealing with compulsory arbitration as a final resort needs further investigation. A country is accepting a serious obligation when it binds itself beforehand to accept the finding of arbitrators, no matter what may be the matter in dispute or the nature of the controversy. Moreover, I recognize that the circumstances of the British Empire are peculiar. It is made up of many nations, and the bearing of the Protocol upon the Empire generally must be carefully thought out before the document could be signed. The article regarding presumptions as to aggression needs careful revision. Australian experience of industrial arbitration has shown the difficulty of deciding whether or not an award has been broken. Another important provision which calls for the closest scrutiny is that which declares that, in the event of war, the aggressor nation shall be made to pay all the costs of military action and reparation; but its territorial integrity and political independence shall remain intact.

Mr Coleman:

– All those objections could have been met by amendments suggested by the Commonwealth Government.


– We had to decide whether or not we should accept the Protocol, and so enable a conference to be held. These problems, and others, require very full investigation. Even the representative of Italy, who was so strongly in favour of the Protocol, pointed out at the meeting of the Council of the League last March -

The too rigid legal structure of the judicial procedure for the definition of disputes between states is certainly a defect, for those disputes are not always essentially legal disputes.

Viscount Ishii, the head of the Japanese delegation, said -

The Japanese Government has not yet completed its study and examination of this allimportant question of the pacific solution’ of international conflicts. It is, therefore, not yet in a position to define its attitude one way or another.

Mr. Unden, the representative of the Swedish Government, said -

The Swedish Government has submitted the Geneva Protocol to a thorough examination by a sub-committee appointed for this purpose. The committee, which was instructed to study the question, both from the legal and political points of view, has not yet finished its work. My government, which attaches the greatest importance to the work which was done at Geneva last year, and especially to the introduction of the principle of compulsory arbitration into the framework of the Covenant, cannot give a final opinion on the Protocol before the report of the committee has been delivered. .-^j

I have indicated to honorable members the attempt which was made to solve those many difficult and far-reaching problems. I believe that at the last Assembly this endeavour was advanced further than ever before, and that there will be found in the Protocol principles which will find their place in the final document by which nations will ultimately be pledged to the pacific settlement of international disputes. The time occupied in the consideration of the draft Protocol has not been lost. These vast problems can be solved only by progressive development, and by presenting and examining plan after plan. I realize also that the reduction of- armaments, to be effective, must be general; and the United States of America and Germany must be parties to the agreement. We should consider the position of that other great Englishspeaking nation, and endeavour to facilitate its entrance into this arrangement. In the Protocol is an article which provides that if a dispute arises between a signatory state and another state which is not a signatory, and not a member of the League, the latter is required to adopt the procedure accepted by the signatories; if it fails to do so, if it resorts to war, it is practically in the position of an aggressor. It was suggested that this provision might prove to be an obstacle to some states, for example, the United States of America.

Mr Charlton:

– Of course, the United States of America would have a say at the conference.


– I am merely pointing out one of the obstacles to the adoption of the Protocol in its present form by all nations, and the need for making it easier for all to subscribe to it. The United States of America favours the principle of a world court of international justice. To the League itself, the United States of America, although not a member, is rendering valuable assistance. One of its nationals is a member of the Permanent Court, and another is acting in an administrative capacity in connexion with the financial and commercial restoration of Hungary. A representative of the United States of America also took a prominent part in the conference in regard to the control of the international trade in arms. Although the United States of America is still merely an observer of the League’s work, it is a sympathetic and helpful observer.

The Assembly dealt with other important questions, including the control of international trade in armaments, the control of the private manufacture of arms, chemical and bacteriological warfare, and the publication of a military year-book. A committee of experts has been formed to consider the progressive codification of international law so that there may be developed a clearly defined code of international relationships. Excellent work has been done in connexion with the various technical organizations. Through the activities of the finance committee the financial and commercial rehabilitation of Hungary is taking place, a bank of issue, independent of political and governmental control, has been established, and administrative reforms have been introduced. The fact that a number of nations were willing unselfishly to apply their combined abilities and energies to the re-establishment of a former enemy nation is an affirmation of a new and noble principle in international affairs. Other matters dealt with were health organization, traffic in opium, traffic in women and children, the promotion of child welfare, refugees, the protection of women and children in the Near East, and slavery. As those and other matters are fully set out in the printed report which has been circulated, I ask honorable members to excuse me from dealing with them in detail. If they will study that report they will see that the League has gained a firm footing amongst the nations of the world. Its organizations are at work bringing together different peoples, teaching them to co-operate for the advancement of mankind generally, and trying to induce them to study together in times of peace problems that are common to them all. Representatives of some fifty nations assembled last year at Geneva for the purpose of promoting the peace of the world. The Council is sitting practically continuously throughout the year to deal with problems as they arise. The permanent secretariat, presided over by a British national, Sir Eric Drummond, and with a capable staff, handles important world questions, prepares the business of the Council and the the Assembly, and deals administratively with various countries and organizations. If we contrast the achievements of the League and its everyday work with the conditions that existed before the war, we must admit that a considerable advance has been made in the interests of world peace and civilization. Of course, the League is not perfect; like all human instrumentalities, it is fallible, but it is animated by high ideals; it is working along right lines to achieve them, and although we may not agree with all that it does, it is our duty to stand by it. When we consider that up to a recent date the treaties registered, or of which notice of renewal or denunciation had been given under the Covenant number 829, of which 267 have been registered by Great Britain, we must realize the importance of the British Empire in its relations with other nations. Our Empire is touching many nations and races in all parts of the world ; it is anxious for peace, and is working through the League to that end. Australia is a mem ber of the Empire family; it, too, desires peace, and I believe that it has its mission to perform in promoting peace in the Pacific. Working with the British Empire through the League of Nations it will be able to do its part in the prevention of war and the uplifting of mankind. I urge my fellow-citizens to take a deeper interest in the affairs of the League, and to realize that Australia, having accepted the status of a nation, must accept the duties and responsibilities of nationhood. Whether or not we like it our country is in the stream of world events, and as a nation we must play our part in international affairs. I believe that Australia will stand by the League of Nations, and will endeavour to so improve its methods that it may become an effective instrument for the preservation of peace and the advancement of the progress of the world. I move -

That the paper be printed.

Sittings suspended from12.57 to2.15 p.m.


.- In submitting my report to the House, I desire, in the first place, to avoid as far as possible traversing the ground that has been covered by the Attorney-General (Sir Littleton Groom). I congratulate him on his full and fair report on the work of the League of Nations. I endorse his remarks respecting the cooperation of the whole of the delegates in an endeavour to promote a better understanding between the nations of the world and to bring about disarmament and peace. The advice of Sir Joseph Cook, who, as honorable members know, has attended many of these conferences, was of considerable assistance to the delegates. Sir William McBeath performed his duties very satisfactorily during the time that he was there. No representative of Australia could have done more than Mrs. Allah did in the despatch of her duties. She carried them out in an earnest and conscientious manner, and displayed great ability. As the AttorneyGeneral pointed out, the work at these conferences is somewhat different from what, perhaps, honorable members imagine. The Assembly when it meets usually discusses the work that has been carried out by the Council since the last meeting, and afterwards the questions that have to be dealt with are allocated to several committees. Consequently the delegates from the various countries are divided. In the Assembly itself only one vote can be given on behalf of any country, and that vote, of course, is exercised, and properly so, by the head of the delegation. In the committees the procedure is somewhat different, inasmuch as each delegate who is appointed can vote on any* matter under discussion. I was appointed to No. 2 and No. 4 committees, and I consider it my duty, before dealing with arbitration, security and disarmament, to give some outline of the business transacted at the representative committees that I attended. I do not intend to traverse the whole of the business, because to do so would take too much time, but as I was sent to the Assembly as a representative of Australia it is only fair to the House and to the country that I should refer to some of the very important proposals that were discussed. The second committee had the following subjects referred to it: -

Technical Organizations

The work of the Committee on Intellectual Co-operation, which included Senator Ruffini’s Scheme for the Protection of Scientific Property.

Economic and Financial Matters

Organization for Communications and Transit

Report on Health Organization of League. I wish to deal briefly with a few of these matters. The committee on intellectual co-operation is a very important institution in the affairs of the League of Nations. It is endeavouring to find remedies for the evils from which (he intellectual world has suffered since the war, and to stimulate and establish intellectual co-operation between nations. National committees have been set up in many countries to co-operate with the international committee. Books and publications have been sent to many institutions in Europe. The French Government offered to grant a million francs to establish in Paris an international institute of intellectual co-operation. I realize how necessary it is for the work of the League of Nations to be a success, and to that end I contend that all institutions of an international character should be located in what might be termed neutral territory, so that they would have an international significance. Once an institution is established in any particular country, whether it be in Great Britain,

Australia, or any other, it loses its international aspect, and becomes a national project. Therefore, if the work of this committee is to be successful, the centre of international institutions should be at the seat of the League of Nations, which is in Switzerland. Until this is done we shall not obtain the healthy co-operation that should exist between the different nations to make these institutions a success. The establishment of an international institution in any particular country at once gives that country an additional prestige to the detriment of other nations who are endeavouring to co-operate in the work. Because I hold that view, I opposed the offer of France. At present we are spending over £6,000 per annum at Geneva itself on international institutions. The sum offered by the French Government, which was 1,000,000 francs, may seem a lot of money, but at that time it represented only £12,500 in our currency, because the value of the franc was 85 to £1. Since then the franc has further depreciated, and to-day 1,000,000 francs would be worth something between £8,000 and £9,000 in our money. This offer was discussed by the committee. Quite a number of representatives including British, Dominion, and Swedish representatives came to me and admitted that my contention was correct, yet strange to say, the only vote recorded against this proposal was my own. One thing to which I object in regard to the procedure at the League of Nations is the feeling that all proposals that are brought forward should be agreed to. They are not debated as they would be if before this deliberative assembly. There is too much give and take between the representatives of the various nations. This is a distinct weakness, and if it continues the work of the League will lose weight among the nations. If an institution of intellectual cooperation were established in Australia, would the other nations of the world consider it an international institution, and would they co-operate with it as they should ? I venture to say that they would not. An international institution of intellectual co-operation established in France will not be a success, because the other nations will not wish to give undue prestige to that country.


– It deals with specific international problems, such as scientific investigation. The offer of France came before the Assembly. The practice there is to drop any question that is not carried unanimously. I again voiced my view, although I did not have a vote. The Attorney-General approved of my contention, but he was not prepared to vote against the proposal. Sir James Allen, if the matter had come to a vote, was prepared to vote with me. I am not finding fault with the French Government ; I wish to see the League of Nations grow and flourish, and I cannot see how that can happen if nations are permitted to establish international institutions in their own territories. All that will be gained by the acceptance of the offer of the French Government, if the institution succeeds at all, will be simply an addition to the prestige of France. She will practically be the seat of culture, invention, and so forth, in the eyes of the world. The League of Nations cannot succeed if we carry on along these lines. After this proposal was approved by the Assembly, in fact, on the 26th September, two days afterwards, the Italian Government offered to subscribe 1,000,000 lire, representing £8,000, to found at Rome an institution for the unification of private law. Important work had already been done in this respect by Great Britain, France, and Italy, but because the offer of France had been accepted a similar privilege could not be withheld from Italy. These institutions when established in Paris and Rome cannot have an international aspect. To bo international, and to gain the co-operation of all the nations, such institutions must be located in the territory of the League of Nations, to disseminate from there throughout the world information of benefit to mankind. Our intention is good, but the manner in which we are carrying it out will defeat the object that wi’ have in view. Senator Ruffini’s scheme for the protection of scientific property will be dealt with by the International Intellectual Institution to be established at Paris. This matter was evidently discussed at the conference held in 1922, because a report concerning it was dealt with at the conference in 1923.

The committee on intellectual cooperation requested Senator Ruffini to draw up a report dealing with the protection of scientific property. In that report, which was submitted to the League of Nations in 1923, Senator Ruffini recommended that provision should be made for the discoverer of a patent to receive the full benefits of his discovery, and for the prevention of the exploitation of his idea by individuals, companies, or syndicates. That recommendation was adopted, and a convention submitted to the various nations which are members of the League. Dp to last year only twelve nations had replied. Some of the replies were favourable; other nations, while expressing sympathy with the principle, pointed out that they could not accept the whole of the recommendations. The League is desirous of obtaining an expression of opinion from the various countries regarding this convention, so that the work can be carried on from year to year until a recommendation acceptable to the nations of the world is evolved. So far as I am aware, Australia has not yet considered this matter. This and other matters should be dealt with, and the League of Nations informed of our views ; otherwise it is idle for us to send delegates to the League of Nations from time to time.

Another matter dealt with by the committee was the loan to Hungary, to which the Attorney-General has referred. Honorable members will remember that Austria received a loan which stabilized her finances. In her case several other countries provided security for the loan. The loan to Hungary was 250,000,000 gold crowns, but, instead of other countries providing the security, Hungary earmarked certain taxes on sugar, salt, and tobacco to meet the interest on the loan, and also to provide a sinking fund. The arrangement, which is working satisfactorily, has had the effect of stabilizing the currency in Hungary. Sufficient revenue Las been obtained from the taxes to pay the interest, provide a sinking fund, and allow a small margin. The League of Nations has already done excellent work in connexion with many European countries.

A report was submitted to the League dealing with the work of the organization for communications and transit. In this connexion I wish to refer briefly to the manner in which travellers are hampered by the intolerable passport system now in operation. Wherever a traveller goes he has to carry his passport, and be ready to present it on demand. In some countries both he and his belongings are examined. This system, which grew up largely during the war period, should be discontinued. On one occasion, as I was travelling on a crowded train to Switzerland, when we reached Bellegarde, a few miles on the French side of the border, a French officer boarded the train. I was unable to understand his remarks, and, despite his gesticulations, I remained where I was. My secretary interpreted his actions to mean that we were to alight, but I replied that that could not be so, as we had not reached our destination. Still, when we discovered that we were the only two passengers remaining in the train we alighted with our baggage. We then found that we had to proceed along the platform for a distance of 200 or 300 yards, and carry our baggage with us. Our route took us through a subway. Our progress was slow, and there was a considerable number of passengers ahead of us, but eventually we learned the reason for our enforced leaving of the train - the French officials were examining the passengers’ luggage. The inconvenience and loss of time did not affect me much personally, but I was impressed with the hardship that it imposed upon aged women, many of whom were in the crowd carrying their luggage. As all the other passengers were similarly situated, no one could render them any assistance. If it was necessary for the luggage to be examined, I contend that the examination should have taken place on the train, so that passengers should not have been inconvenienced in the manner that I have mentioned. We were treated as if we were a mob of cattle. My experience at that station, and on other occasions, has convinced me that greater attention should be given to the passport, system.

Mr Maxwell:

– Did the honorable member continue his journey in the same train ]


– Yes. I was permitted to re-enter it without difficulty. When the report of the organization for communications and transit came up for discussion at the conference I brought this occurrence under the notice of the committee, and stated that I considered that such treatment was humiliating, and should be discontinued. Feeling the matter keenly, I spoke rather warmly, with the result that the French delegates met the next day, and, later, communicated with their Government. The following day an announcement was made that the procedure was to be altered. That some good was achieved by my protest is shown by the fact that on the return journey I was not interfered with, and was able to obtain some sleep.

Mr Mann:

– Did the alteration apply only to the delegates to the League of Nations ?


– No. I met a pressman in London some time later, and he informed me that as the result of my protest he had been able to get through without difficulty.

I desire now to refer to the excellent work done by the committee appointed to deal with budget and financial questions. The expenditure of the League of Nations this year is estimated at about 22,658,13S gold francs. Every item constituting that total is brought before the committee, and is carefully scrutinized. On page 477 of the report the following appears : -

The examination of the budget for 1925 as a whole is proof not only of the sound basis on which the services of the League of Nations arc organized, but also of the results of the careful financial policy which it has unfailingly pursued. It is no longer necessary to engage in fiercely discussed campaigns for economy; the departments themselves endeavour by well considered financial planning to exercise the utmost economy, in close co-operation with the Supervisory Commission in dealing with the funds of the League. The result is that the financial year 1923 closed with a net surplus of 2,774,854.86 gold francs. According to the resolutions already voted part of this surplus (1,635,274.41 gold francs) will be distributed to the members of the League by way of refund of temporary contributions to the working capital fund. The remainder will be used to meet part of the cost of erecting the International Labour Office building. Moreover, as the League’s financial situation has made it possible to complete the purchase of the Hotel National, and thus to ante-date the final payments by two years, it will be seen that the League of Nations, in addition to carrying out its full programme of work, and actually extending the sphere of activity of certain of its technical organizations, has become the owner of a building valued at 5,500,000 Swiss francs, has succeeded in carrying out a considerable part, of the constructional work in connexion with an important building to house the International Labour Office, and is preparing to establish itself permanently in a building erected at its own expense on the land generously presented by the Republic and Canton of Geneva, and also by the city of Geneva. lt has, in addition, established a working capital fund of nearly 4,000,000 gold francs.

That, in a nutshell, is the financial position of the League of Nations. Many of the nations forming the League are unfinancial, eight of them being in arrears with their contributions for 1923 to the extent of 2,8S2,031 francs, or £144,101. Requests have been made to the League for a reduction of the contributions, as it is claimed that in some cases they are too heavy. These matters are all investigated by the finance committee. The International Labour Office will be paid off by the end of 1925. The erection of an assembly hall, at a cost of 4,500,000 gold francs, spread over three years, has been decided on, and already the expenditure of 250,000 francs f4r preliminary expenses has been approved. The plans for this office will be open to competition throughout the world. The expenditure of the League of Nations is divided into a total of 932 units, of which Australia is responsible for 26. There are 35 units available owing to the resumption of payments by the Argentine. These will bo distributed by the Committee on the Allocation of Expenses. Last year Australia paid £25,500, and I anticipate that a similar sum will be required this year.

I now wish to refer to a more important matter emanating from the recent conference of the League of Nations which has already been dealt with by the AttorneyGeneral. I do .not intend to traverse all that the honorable gentleman has said, but I want to place before the House my view of the Protocol, and especially of those clauses dealing with domestic jurisdiction. I can only say that I endorse what the Attorney-General has said regarding the interpretation placed upon those clauses. From many of the articles which I had the privilege of perusing I am convinced that a good deal of misapprehension in regard to those clauses existed in Australia when they were written. That that was so is not surprising, because when the statements offered the terms of the Protocol had not been made available, and, consequently, they were based on cabled reports only. Because of that, wrong judgments were formed in Australia in connexion with matters of domestic jurisdiction, and particularly with respect to the White Australia policy, which, it was said, would be jeopardized if the Protocol were adopted. I do not think that there is the slightest justification for that statement. If the Protocol were put into operation, the White Australia, policy would be very much strengthened. I have heard some honorable members ask for the opinion of Dr. Benes. On page 494 of the text of the debates, Dr. Benes states the position as clearly as it can be stated, and expresses views that I hold myself. He says -

According to the system laid down by the Covenant: -

The dispute arises.

In cases where neither the arbitral procedure nor the- judicial settlement provided for in Article .13 of the Covenant is applied, the Council meets and discusses the dispute, attempts to affect conciliation, mediation, <fcc.

If it be unsuccessful and war breaks out, the Council, if unanimous, has to express an opinion as to which party is guilty. The members of the League then decide for themselves whether this opinion is justified, and whether their obligations to apply economic sanctions become operative.

The Council then has, by a unanimous decision, to recommend military sanctions.

If unanimity cannot be obtained, the Council ceasing to take action, each party is practically free to act as it chooses.

That is what would happen under the Covenant, and I feel sure that no one will contend that it is satisfactory. We cannot hope to get disarmament and peace under a covenant which leaves the nations to decide whether they will take action. The Protocol, in the words of Dr. Benes., will apply in the following way: -

According to the new system defined in the Protocol, the situation is as follows: -

The dispute arises.

The system of peaceful settlement provided by the Protocol comes into play.

The Council intervenes, and. if after arbitration has been refused, war is resorted to if the provisional preventive measures are not observed, &c, the Council decides which party is the aggressor, and calls upon the signatory states to apply the sanctions.

This decision implies* that such sanctions as the case requires - economic, financial, military, naval, and air - shall be applied forthwith, and without further recommendations or decisions.

We have therefore the following new elements: -

  1. The obligation to apply the necessary sanctions of every kind as a direct result of the decision of the Council.
  2. The elimination of the case in which all parties would be practically free to abstain from any action. The introduction of a system of arbitration, and of provisional measures which permits of the determination in every case of the aggressor.
  3. No decision is taken as to the strength of the military, naval, and air forces, and no details are given as to the measures which are to be adopted in a, particular case. None the less, objective criteria are supplied which define the obligation of each signatory; it is bound, in resistance to an act of aggression, to collaborate loyally and effectively in applying the sanctions in accordance with its geographical situation and its particular situation as regards armaments.

That is why I said that the great omission in the Covenant has been made good.

It is true that no burden has been imposed on States beyond the sanctions already provided for in the Covenant. But, at present, a State seeking to elude the obligations of the Covenant can reckon on two means of escape: -

  1. The Council’s recommendations need not be followed.
  2. The Council may fail to obtain unanimity, making impossible any declaration of aggression, so that no obligation to apply military sanctions will be imposed, and every one will remain free to act as he chooses.

We have abandoned the above system, and both these loopholes are now closed.

That is the position, in a nutshell, and it shows that the Covenant is unsatisfactory. The Covenant has, in fact, been proved unsatisfactory in the disputes that have occurred since the League of Nations was created. The Protocol includes the principle of compulsory arbitration; but we cannot have compulsory arbitration unless penalties are imposed upon those who refuse to obey the decisions reached. I have heard honorable members object to the imposition of penalties; but I fail to see how the nations of the world can bring about disarmament unless there is power to enforce decisions. In the Australian arbitration court system, there are penalties to prevent breaches of awards. It has been urged that the Protocol will place Australia ata great disadvantage in enforcing its White Australia policy. Under the Covenant, as honorable members will see if they read it, we cannot depend upon the assistance of other members of the League if an

Asiatic nation starts a dispute with us. The Council must first decide unanimously which country is the aggressor; and even if it does so decide, the other members of the League cannot be compelled to assist the country attacked. I fail to see that the position of Australia is better under the Covenant than under the Protocol. The Covenant confines us, in the event of a dispute about our immigration policy, to such assistance as we can get from within the Empire. Some honorable members contend that we should not refer such a question as the White Australia policy to an international court of justice. What obligation is there upon us, they say, to refer a question of domestic concern to an international court? If we accept that view, how can we solve the problem of disarmament? Is it not essential that there should be some authority to which to appeal? To-day it is left to the Council of the League of Nations, which must be unanimous. It has been said that, as Great Britain has a representative on the Council, nothing injurious could be done to Australia. It is possible, however, that exception would be taken to Great Britain having a representative on the Council if the White Australia policy were in question, because, technically, Great Britain would be involved. As it is provided that no representative of a country interested shall participate, Australia would probably have no voice in the decision. Even if that objection were not taken, we should not get any assistance from members of the League. Under the Protocol, the dispute would first be submitted to the Council, and then to arbitration. When the arbitration stage had been reached we could raise the question whether it was a matter of domestic jurisdiction, and that question would be submitted for decision by the international court of justice.

Mr Maxwell:

– Does the honorable member advise our acceptance of obligations which, in certain eventualities, would require us to send a military force abroad to enforce the settlement of international disputes?


– We should not be compelled to send a military force abroad. The Council is required to decide whether a sanction shall be put into operation, and it is then left to each nation to decide whether it will send a force, having regard to its geographical position. The international court has been in existence for a number of years, and has already given a decision in this matter. It is well known that international law is not concerned with immigration. If the international court reports that a dispute is a question of domestic concern, the arbitrators are bound to award accordingly, and no action can be taken. The Council can mediate, but it cannot upset the decision of the international court. I took the trouble when in England to consult Sir Cecil Hurst, for I was not prepared to advocate the Protocol if it would endanger the White Australia policy. I should be the last man to do that. The members of the Australian delegation did their best to prevent any interference with that policy, and it was due largely to them that the Japanese amendments were accepted in the form they were. Sir Cecil Hurst is the legal adviser to the British Government. I asked him what he thought of the matter, and he said, speaking of paragraph S of article 15 of the Covenant, “the matter is to be decided by international law.” Does any one imagine that judges who are chosen because of their merit, and who are men of integrity, would do anything contrary to the law? If international law clearly sets out that immigration is a matter of domestic concern, the court can give but one decision. We put the matter in this way -

Supposing that an Asiatic nation picked a quarrel with Australia on the White Australia policy, and when the latter came before the Council, Australia claimed that the matter was one of domestic jurisdiction.

If the Council unanimously decided that Australia was in the right, its decision would be binding on the Asiatic nations; but if the Council failed to arrive at a unanimous decision, then the aid of the League could not be invoked.

He explained that the International Court of Justice came into existence in 1921, and first met in 1922. The President is elected for three years, and his term of office has just come to an end. The court consists of fifteen members, and the necessary quorum for a sitting is eleven. The members of the court are selected as individuals on their own merits, but there must not be two drawn from the same country. They are elected equally and simultaneously by the Council and the Assembly of the League. The British Judge is Lord Findley, who was Lord Chancellor, and for years AttorneyGeneral. In Sir Cecil Hurst’s view, immigration- legislation does not come within the province of international law, and Australia cannot be worse off under the Protocol than under the Covenant. That is the considered opinion of a man who should know, and who is charged with very heavy responsibilities. Australia is really in a better position under the Protocol than under the Covenant. Why is this ? It is because if an aggressor failed to comply with the provisions of the Protocol, the sanctions would be immediately brought into operation, and other countries must then do their part. They must cut off trade relations with the aggressor, and must come to the assistance of Australia in her hour of need. That is a very different position from that which we occupy under the Covenant, because under it we could get absolutely no assistance in this particular matter. Yet we are told that the White Australia policy is endangered under the Protocol. I say that our position is infinitely stronger under the Protocol than it is under the Covenant. The Protocol would secure us the protection of other nations of the world, whilst under the Covenant we are given no guarantee of such protection.

I shall say something with respect to the amendment submitted by the Japanese delegation, because I want to let honorable members know that the Japanese saw the position in which Japan would be placed under the provisions of the Protocol. It had been drawn up and approved of by many delegates, including our Attorney-General, who was on the committee. I had not seen it at this particular time. Honorable members must understand that my knowledge of it was gained from what happened in the Assembly and at the meetings of the British Empire delegation. I want to make clear the purpose of the amendment moved by the Japanese delegates to Article 5 of the Protocol. It reads -

The provisions of paragraph 8, Article 15, of the Covenant shall continue to apply in proceedings before the Council.

If in the course of an arbitration, such as is contemplated in Article 4 above, one of the parties claims that the dispute, or part thereof, arises out of a matter which by international law is solely within the domestic jurisdiction of that party, the Arbitrator shall on this point, take the advice of the Permanent Court of International Justice through the medium of the Council. The opinion of the Court shall be binding upon the Arbitrators, who, if the opinion is affirmative, shall confine themselves to so declaring in their award.

The Japanese delegates wanted to amend that article by adding the following words, and honorable members will note the significance of the proposed amendment: -

The above provisions leave unaffected the Council’s duty of endeavouring to conciliate the parties so as to ensure the maintenance of peace and good understanding between the nations.

If that amendment had been accepted we should have been brought right back to the position under the covenant.

Mr Coleman:

– It was a very subtle amendment.


– Yes, it was. The Japanese saw the position in which they were placed by the Protocol in regard to this question about which we are so much concerned, and it was in order to escape from that position that they moved their amendment. According to the information conveyed to me at the meeting of the Empire delegation which I attended, in speaking to their amendment the Japanese delegates urged that the International Court of Justice should be eliminated from the Protocol altogether. They did not want the International Court of Justice. In view of this statement, what will now be said by those people in Australia who are so anxious that we should not go to the International Court of Justice? When the Japanese were beaten in that contention, they took up another ground, and talked about calling a further convention of the nations to alter international law. This plainly indicated that the Japanese delegates recognized clearly the position in which Japan would be placed under the Protocol. I am sorry to have to refer by name to the J apanese in this connexion, because I have no desire to create any illfeeling, but a reference to the action taken by the Japanese delegates is unavoidable. As the amendment was finally accepted it left the Japanese in no better position than they were in before their amend ment was submitted. Now under Article 5 they can still go to the Council, which can still use conciliatory measures, but it cannot interfere with a decision of the international court, and that court has already given a decision that immigration is a matter of domestic jurisdiction. That was a unanimous decision, there being no dissentient from it. The only thing which could prevent its operation would be the action of nations concerned in entering into separate agreements abrogating the provisions of international law. Australia has not done that. It has not entered into any agreement to abrogate the provisions of international law so far as its domestic jurisdiction in the matter of immigration is concerned. In the circumstances I quite fail to understand the strong exception taken here and elsewhere to the Protocol. This matter was discussed in the open Assembly. I knew at the time that I would not be a member of either of the committees. The Attorney-General (Sir Littleton Groom) was rightly appointed a member of them, and I took no exception whatever to that. I realized, however, that it was necessary that I should make my views known, and in order to do so I had to get my name down on the list of speakers in the Assembly. A delegate could not rise in his place there, and expect to be called upon to speak. If he desired to speak to any question he had to give in his name beforehand, and he could then speak if an opportunity were afforded him to do so before the discussion of the particular question was concluded. In the early stages of the debate - I think I was the third speaker on the subject - I made my position as clear as I possibly could. I pointed out that it was my object, as I thought it was the object of the people of Australia, that something tangible should be done towards bringing about a reduction in armaments, and providing some method of settling international disputes without recourse to war. I pointed out that five years had elapsed since the war, and that we were in exactly the same position as at the time the League of Nations was formed. Whilst very much good work in connexion with European affairs had been done by the League, I pointed out that so far as the world generally was concerned, and so far as Australia was concerned, something tangible in the way of disarmament was required to relieve the nations of the heavy burden they had to carry. I urged that there should be a world’s conference, without any conditions whatever, to discuss the position. I realized that so long as Germany, America, Russia, and Turkey were outside the League we could not expect that anything satisfactory in the matter of disarmament or maintenance of peace could be accomplished. The British Prime Minister (Mr. Ramsay MacDonald) pointed out very clearly that he was in favour of arbitration, and also was prepared to have a world’s conference. M. Herriot said that so far as France was concerned she must have security before she could enter into any agreement with regard to the matter or could take part in any conference. He pointed out that France had nations on her borders who might become aggressive at any moment, and said that in the circumstances he could not possibly agree to anything in regard to disarmament without some guarantee of security. As the AttorneyGeneral mentioned this morning, the difference between these two views is what the committee had to consider in preparing some draft which might lead to a conference. The only way in which the question can be successfully dealt with is by having a world’s conference of the nations without any conditions being laid down. Let the nations meet and discuss the position. Let them go into all the details of the matter, and see if they can devise a scheme which can be submitted to the Parliaments of the respective countries, lt is only in that way that something can be done. It. was because this could not be agreed upon that it was. eventually decided to deal with the matter in the manner provided for by the Protocol. Honorable members and the press, when criticizing the Protocol, would lead people to believe that if we accept it Australia will be committed to everything contained in it. Let honorable members look at the provisions of the Protocol. They will find that everything is dependent on a world’s conference, and that at such a conference some plan must be devised. That plan must be put into operation by all the nations simultaneously. They must agree to disarm. Whatever is accepted at the conference must be put into operation, and if disarmament is approved there must be general disarmament throughout the world. How in the face of these facts can it be urged that Great Britain will have to supply a navy for the purpose of defending the rest of the world. Great Britain would have to disarm along with other countries.

Mr Coleman:

– And the causes of war would disappear.


– Yes, if the proposed disarmament conference were brought to a satisfactory conclusion. Honorable members will see that there are no grounds for the adverse criticism of the Protocol which has been made. It is only a basis for a world’s conference for the discussion of a common agreement in regard to disarmament and peace. It was made necessary because of the action of France and Great Britain. What view did Great Britain take of the treaty of mutual assistance that was carried in 1923? The Prime Minister of Great Britain said that he rejected the treaty of mutual assistance because he believed it would lead to pacts and alliances such as were formed in 1914. That was the ground given by Mr. MacDonald for Great Britain’s rejection of the treaty of mutual assistance. Yet the present British Government, which has rejected the Protocol, is now endeavouring to arrange a pact with four other nations, and is getting back to where we were in 1914. Where is the consistency of rejecting a proposal for the arrangement of a conference and then going back to a position which the Government previously opposed ? If we say we object to arbitration what are we to substitute for it? How are we to settle international disputes without the establishment of some tribunal for the purpose? They will not settle themselves. It cannot be left to each nation to decide for itself what are its domestic concerns. If that is done, when a dispute arises the nations will claim that the matter affected is one which they have a right to decide for themselves. There must be some authority to settle such matters, and what authority can be better than the international court? Though money was spent in sending an Australian delegation across the seas to represent this country, the Protocol is as dead as Julius Caesar, yet it has never been discussed. It was rejected by the British Government without the House of Commons having a say in the matter. It was rejected by the Commonwealth Government without the report of the Australian delegation being brought before this House. We are discussing that report to-day, but we know that nothing can be done. The trouble is that our delegates to the forthcoming conference of the Assembly of the League of Nations will not know the opinion of this House on this matter. Other honorable members have the same right as I have to hold opinions of their own ; but I say that, as this matter will certainly come up at the next conference of the Assembly next month, wc should let our delegates know what arc our objections to the Protocol, and the reasons for its rejection by tho Commonwealth Government. They should he placed in a position to put the views of members of this Parliament before the Assembly and its committees. When the British Empire delegation meets under existing circumstances, the whole matter must be discussed de novo. Our delegates will be quite at a loss, because they have not heard, and do not know, the reason why the Protocol was rejected by the British Government or by the Commonwealth Government. I want to repeat that it is only a basis for the calling of a world’s conference. It pledges us to nothing. I find no fault with the British or the Commonwealth Government because they could not sec their way to sign the Protocol. That was their own business. Put Great Britain occupies a very important position in the eyes of the world. If Great Britain is to uphold its prestige and influence as a nation it must give a lead to the other nations. When it rejected the Protocol it should have put forward some alternative proposal, or at least have asked for a conference to be held. Only ten nations were needed to sign the Protocol, and ten have done so, but it was also necessary to have the signatures of four of the nations represented on tha Council of the League, those nations being Great Britain, Japan, Italy, and France. So far, only one of them, France, has signed it. Without the signatures of the others there can be no conference such as was intended in June last, and so far there is no pro- posal from any of those large nations to approach this matter in the interests of the peace of the world. It is that of which I complain. Something intelligent ought to bc laid down to guide our delegates when they are discussing this Protocol at the next meeting of the Assembly. The Protocol will be the basis for further discussion at that meeting m order to improve it by eliminating features which may be considered objectionable. But our delegates will attend without instructions from this Parliament. It is nearly eight months since the last delegates returned to Australia, yet until the present moment they have not been asked to furnish their report to Parliament. It is now being considered loo late, because our delegates to the next Assembly have already left Australia. Parliament should have been called together earlier to deal with the matter. I am an admirer of the League of Nations. I am one who has always advocated it, but. I can see nothing but failure for it if it is not handled differently. It is idle to talk about what it has accomplished or what it may accomplish. Until it is stirred into activity and something tangible is done the people of the world need not look to it to bring about universal peace. It has accomplished nothing.


– The honorable member’s time has expired. Is it the pleasure of honorable members that he have leave to continue ?

Leave granted.


– It is the duty of the nations to propound or endeavour to propound some scheme whereby they can be brought into closer contact. If Great Britain would only take the step of convening a world conference other countries would fall in behind it. It has not done so, and as the League of Nations cannot succeed because one or two powerful nations remain aloof from it, the position is hopeless. If Great Britain had ratified the Protocol, other countries would have followed its lead, but because :t would not do so other nations would not. Great Britain plays a very important part in the affairs of the world. We, as a part of the Empire have our share in the playing of that part, and it is therefore our duty to declare our belief that a world’s conference should be convened. It is a waste of money to try to forward the League of Nations so- long as big nations remain outside it. The only way in which to get all the nations together is to call a conference at which tho Protocol would assuredly be put forward as a basis for discussion. I know that France will agree to a world’s conference, situated as it is with powerful nations on its borders. Will any honorable member contend that the Protocol would not go into the melting pot at such a conference) Everything that has emanated from the League of Nations would be discussed, and committees would be appointed to go .into every question and evolve some proposition for acceptance or rejection by the various parliaments of the nations. The Protocol is one that can como into play only when a plan has in this way been evolved and accepted by the nations of the world. It is of value, not so much on account of the provisions it contains, but because it can be a means of bringing about a world conference at which a plan may be devised for securing disarmament, and that universal peace for which every one is so earnestly praying.

Debate, (on motion by Mr. Gardner) adjourned.

House adjourned at 3. 25 p. in.

Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 14 August 1925, viewed 22 October 2017, <>.