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Emeritus Professor of
Politics, University of New South Wales, ADFA, Canberra
The League and
global politics beyond the Empire-Commonwealth
The requirements of membership
The Australian experience as a League
Peace, disarmament, collective
The League and the management of
international trade and economic policy
The League’s social agenda
Geneva as a school for international
affairs for some prominent Australians
The Australian League of Nations
The League idea in Australia
Discussion of the League in the
parliament and the debate on foreign affairs
Conclusions: Australia in the League
and global politics beyond the Empire-Commonwealth
With the formation of the Australian Commonwealth, the new
nation adopted a constitution that imparted to the federal government the power
to manage ‘external affairs’ (Sections 51, xxix), and one of the original
departments of state had that name and something of that function. However,
Australia was far from being the practitioner of anything approaching an ‘independent’
foreign policy, a notion that was explicitly rejected by the early prime
ministers of the federation. Australian political leaders were confident that
the nation’s prosperity, security, and even cultural identity were best
protected and promoted through membership of the British Empire. Nevertheless,
they did chafe at instances of British neglect or indifference, especially in
the Pacific. In colonial times the activities of France and Germany in New
Caledonia and New Guinea, respectively, had been regarded with apprehension. In
1907, at the Colonial Conference held in London, Alfred Deakin complained that
British interests had not been properly asserted in the New Hebrides (now
Vanuatu), the joint protectorate being established with France in 1906 without
adequately consulting Australian opinion.
The experience of the Great War transformed Australia’s
place in the world. On the one hand, within the Empire it was agreed (on the
initiative of the Canadian prime minister, later to be vociferously supported
by Prime Minister Billy Hughes) that the self-governing components would have
more of a voice in the formation of common policy, and soon the expression
‘Empire-Commonwealth’ emerged as a descriptor of the trans-national British
world. On the other, Australian representatives participated in the most
significant act of global diplomacy to that date.
Initially as part of the British Empire delegation, Hughes
and his staff assembled with delegates of all 27 ‘allied and associated powers’
to negotiate the terms of the post-war order at the Paris Peace Conference. The
proceedings involved many meetings and debates, but were effectively dominated
by the three major powers, the United States, France and the United Kingdom.
Though its principal business was to rearrange the map of Europe to give
legitimacy to the nationality principle, on the insistence of American
President Woodrow Wilson it also laid the grounds for the first potentially
global institution devoted to promoting peace and security, the League of
Nations. The conference concluded with the signing of the Treaty of Versailles,
on 28 June 1919. As a signatory, Australia became a national member of the
League of Nations. Though Britain was the most important power within the new
organisation (and its largest financial contributor) after the United States
decided not to join, Australia nevertheless assumed through its new role a
position in the wider international society beyond the Empire-Commonwealth. In
time this membership would impose new tasks and responsibilities, requiring
Australian Governments to consider as never before the nation’s interests
beyond those customarily served by attachment to London.
In short, the League became a school for international citizenship. This paper
explores important aspects of this experience, which was initiated 100 years
ago and continues today through Australia’s membership of the United Nations.
requirements of membership
When the United Nations was formed in 1945, it was
proclaimed as a new international organisation. However in its institutions as
well as in the agenda it addressed, it copied many of the forms and practices
of the League of Nations. Both were a response to a war that threatened to ruin
civilisation, both sought to manage security issues and promote arms control as
well as to pursue an extensive economic and social agenda, and both were
structured to be controlled by an executive (or ‘Council’) dominated by the
major powers which functioned alongside an assembly in which all member states
were represented. The UN was the legatee of the League in more than one sense.
Not only did the UN inherit the property of the League—including its Geneva
headquarters—but some League agencies (including the International Labour Organization
and UNESCO) transitioned to become elements of the UN system. The fiction of a
new start was maintained to ensure that the United States and the Soviet Union
were UN members from the beginning, in light of the fact that neither were
foundation members of the League.
The structure of the League was prescribed in a Covenant of
26 Articles (as compared to the 111 Articles of the UN Charter).
As a member of the League, the most immediate consequence for Australia was
participation in the annual gatherings of the representatives of the member
nations. Generally in September, for a period of two or three weeks, the
Assembly met at the seat of the League in Geneva. Each nation had a single vote
in plenary sessions, being permitted to send up to three delegates (as well as
a further number of alternates). Initially the Commonwealth drafted officials
or members of parliament who happened to be in Europe; later the choice of
delegates became more considered, with the question going before Cabinet.
Consistent with the principle adopted by the League—progressive for the
time—that no position in the League would be closed to women, the decision was
taken in 1922 that the Australian party dispatched to Geneva should contain at
least one woman (this at a time when the Australian parliament consisted
entirely of men).
The Assembly could debate a wide range of matters, from
economic and social affairs to questions of security and disarmament. The
practice developed that delegates from the Empire-Commonwealth (the British
Empire Delegation—BED) met in preliminary sessions to discuss issues that might
arise in order to avoid major differences between them being aired in public.
In general Australian delegates were happy to follow the imperial lead but the
record shows that they were willing to defend their national prerogatives when
the occasion required.
The League recruited a permanent secretariat, under the
supervision of the secretary-general (a position first held by the veteran
British diplomat Sir Eric Drummond). Australians were among the early
appointees, and the secretariat consistently included three or four Australians
among its number.
The pre-eminent League body was the Council which consisted
of representatives of the great powers, along with representatives regularly
elected from the other nations (originally four, rising to eleven in 1936).
Although initially content to follow the British lead, Canada became the first
British dominion to take a national seat on the Council in 1927. In 1933
Australia joined the Council, a position it held until 1936.
The larger League machinery included the International
Labour Organization (in Geneva) and the Permanent Court of International
Justice (in The Hague). No Australians sat on the bench of the latter, but
Australian delegations attended the regular ILO assemblies.
Finally, the League initiated a number of international
conferences and deliberations, from gatherings devoted to such social questions
as the control of drugs of addiction, to problems entailed by the codification
of international laws, to issues of economic cooperation and of disarmament. In
each case the League acted as facilitator and custodian, the treaties or
agreements that resulted being between the nations concerned. Australia sent
delegates to many of these meetings, and though cooperation with the
Empire-Commonwealth was usually the norm, there were occasions when specific
Australian interests required a concrete response.
Through the many linkages these memberships and presences
forged, Australia was required to contribute a national perspective to fora
beyond the familiar Empire-Commonwealth circle, as some of the examples
considered below illustrate.
Australian experience as a League mandatory
At the negotiations in Paris
that issued in the Versailles Treaty, Australia’s claims were given a strident
voice by Prime Minister Hughes.
Australian forces having occupied German New Guinea and Nauru in 1914, Hughes
was determined to retain control of a region he considered strategically vital.
British inaction in 1884 (despite agitation by the Queensland and Victorian
colonial governments) had seen Germany annexe New Guinea and there must be no
repetition. Hughes had become strongly apprehensive regarding the rise of Japanese
power in the region, and sought New Guinea as a defensive ‘rampart.’ British
sympathies were tempered by the requirements of the Anglo-Japanese alliance, in
existence from 1902.
The decision was taken by the
great powers, however, that the colonial territories of the former enemy powers
should become international ‘mandates’, governed by states charged by the
League with the duty to protect the health and well-being of their populations
while developing their natural resources in the interests of those populations.
Even within the constraints of these principles, Hughes pressed hard for
untrammelled control of New Guinea. On the grounds that conditions within those
territories varied widely, the mandates came to be framed accordingly. In light
of its low level of development and lack of national sentiment, New Guinea
became a class ‘C’ mandate, governed in effect as an integral part of the
mandatory. Committee work in which J G Latham—on Hughes’ staff in Paris—was an
important actor, ensured that Australia achieved virtual annexation. Unlike
more developed territories, in the case of ‘C’ mandates the mandatory had no
obligation to accept trade or migration from other countries. It could not,
however, fortify the territory or recruit the inhabitants for military service.
While Hughes still achieved his main objective which was strategic denial,
Australia’s responsibilities nevertheless led to a continuing engagement with
the League in which Australia was required to account for its conduct before
The accountability of mandatory powers was given substance
when, in February 1921, the League formed the Permanent Mandates Commission
(PMC). Though this panel of experts was drawn, in many cases, from personnel of
the imperial powers, its chief role was to scrutinise the record of the
mandatories, and especially assess the funding and effectiveness of their
programs of moral and material improvement. The PMC sent the Australian Government
a highly detailed questionnaire on its administration in New Guinea and also in
Nauru, and the practice became that each year a report was assembled and
printed for submission to the PMC. The PMC conducted hearings annually, and
Australian officials were sent to Geneva to be questioned on these reports and
on any other matters thought relevant. As a recent study has demonstrated,
over time the remit of the PMC tended to expand, and some nations became
subject to critical and publicised PMC strictures, notably South Africa for its
administration of Southwest Africa (now Namibia), and Britain for its programs
in the Palestine mandate. Australia did not entirely escape from such
Concerning Nauru, administered by Australia under a mandate
held by the ‘British Empire’, the PMC sought assurance when it appeared that the
administration was more focused upon the exploitation of the island’s phosphate
reserves than the well-being of its inhabitants. The three nation agreement
(with Great Britain and New Zealand) on the latter was very specific as to
modalities but made no mention of the indigenous inhabitants. Dispatched to
Geneva, the High Commissioner in London, Sir Joseph Cook, complained of the
‘very rough passage’ he had experienced before the PMC in 1922.
In response the Australian Government duly clarified the powers and
responsibilities of the Administrator. Nauru’s remoteness and tiny population
thereafter led to few difficulties, though Australian spokespersons later had
to defend the extent of the mining royalties paid to the inhabitants, the
nature of the education system, and the labour recruitment practices that
brought Chinese miners to the island, amongst other issues.
The administration of New Guinea, which imposed far greater
difficulties, led to some searching questioning at the hearings convened by the
PMC. Under the military administration that preceded the mandate properties
owned by German citizens had been expropriated, and their disposition was an
issue repeatedly reviewed.
In 1923 the statement supplied by the Australian Government
of the accounts of the territory revealed that the trading agency established
to serve the needs of the territory had made a tidy £12,000 in profit which was
returned to the Commonwealth. The members of the PMC wanted to know why these
monies were not retained to further the good governance of New Guinea, and
Cook, who had again travelled to Geneva, had to improvise with some inventive
Learning from this experience, for the 1926 meeting the Australian Government
dispatched Joseph Carrodus, who was able to draw upon first-hand experience in
the territory, to assist Cook. The statement by Carrodus before the PMC of the
aims and methods of the Australian administration was the most complete
exposition, to that time, of the Government’s strategies and objectives.
Beyond the larger structures of the administration’s role,
the PMC inquired on a host of detailed matters, from the question of whether
any compulsion was used in the recruitment of native labour—such practices were
prohibited under the terms of the League Covenant—to such issues as the
provision of medical services and the education of women and girls.
When the role of expositor of Australian policy fell to Sir
Granville Ryrie as High Commissioner, he found the experience a trial. The 15th
meeting of the PMC occurred shortly after an incident that came to be known as
‘the Rabaul Revolt’, when, in January 1929, many local workers had undertaken a
concerted labour strike in pursuit of improved pay and conditions.
The administration responded with harsh measures against the organisers, and
despite the assistance of O C W Fuhrman who had travelled to Geneva from the
London High Commission, the members of the PMC were far from satisfied with
what they learned. In an act of unprecedented censure, in 1929 the PMC withheld
its annual assessment of the Australian record until it had received more
information and reassurances on matters of concern. In order to deal more
effectively with PMC inquiries, in 1930 the Government included in its delegation
to Geneva, E P Chinnery, Cambridge-trained and since 1924, the New Guinea
He evidently impressed the members of the PMC and was able to offer a positive
account of the administration’s program based upon his own detailed knowledge.
What was termed the ‘opening’—the exploration, pacification
and development—of the territory generated for the Australian Government and
its administrators by far the greatest controversy, no more so than in 1937. In
travels between April 1930 and October 1934, some in the company of J L Taylor,
an Assistant District Officer with the New Guinea administration, Michael Leahy
and his brothers had traversed extensive and well populated highland regions
previously unseen by Europeans.
After a dispute regarding his discoveries Leahy delivered an
illustrated talk on his activities at the Royal Geographical Society in London
in November 1935, with a detailed account being subsequently published in 1936
in the Society’s Journal.
There he admitted that his parties were armed and described the killing in
various incidents of some 30 natives, though he claimed that each incident
occurred during an attack of some kind.
In 1937 Leahy’s activities were the subject of a petition to
the PMC from the Anti-Slavery and Aborigines Protection Society. This petition
was passed on to the Australian Government for comment, and discussed at the 31st
session of the PMC in June 1937.
The PMC had also sought comment from Lord Hailey, a veteran imperial
administrator then preparing his African Survey. Hailey suggested that
the cited circumstances were, to a degree, extenuating, though he recommended
that the mandatory authorities further constrain activities in the uncontrolled
At Geneva that year, Australia’s spokespersons were O C W
Fuhrman, serving with New Guinea police official Lt Col John Walstab. They
faced close questioning from the PMC, especially on the question of the
management of access to what were officially categorised as ‘uncontrolled’
While from the contemporary perspective the role of the PMC
as a check on Australian colonial practices might be considered slight, in New
Guinea a controlling power was required to explain the details of policies that
might have been replicated in a normal colony—such as Papua—without attracting
any external comment or scrutiny. With the formation of the United Nations, the
role of colonial powers and increasingly the rationale for colonialism itself
moved to the main agenda of global politics, in many ways building upon the
experience of the League. And in the case of New Guinea, it remained an
Australian mandate though now under the ultimate authority of the United
disarmament, collective security
The formation of the League
would never have come about without the tragedy and disruption of the Great
War. Even though the largest proportion of the League’s budget became devoted
to social and economic questions, the organisation’s pre-eminent commitment was
to further peace, security, and the reduction of armaments, as Article 8 of the
Covenant proclaimed. Accordingly, much of the work of the League was directed
to these latter ends.
In the 1920s, in addition to dealing with a number of
bilateral disputes in Europe and Latin America, the League expended considerable
energy to entrenching its credibility as the pre-eminent global provider of
collective security. Early efforts to build upon the framework provided by the
League Covenant were found wanting. The 1924 ‘Treaty of Mutual Guarantee’,
which specified both what member nations should be prepared to contribute to
collective security as well as what protections they could expect, was
unsatisfactory not least because the treaty restricted its remit to the ‘continent’
of each state. Prime Minister Stanley Bruce had to point out that Australia,
alone, occupied a whole continent.
Although the Covenant was clear on the duty to avoid war and
to act in concert against aggression, if a state had submitted a dispute to the
Council for resolution and its members had been unable to agree on a solution
(a real prospect given the requirement that Council decisions required
unanimity), following a grace period of three months the state in question
could resort to war without fear of mandatory penalties. In 1924 the recently
elected MacDonald Labour government in Britain, working in concert with France,
argued in Geneva for a range of measures that, in effect, would require for
every dispute between states the obligation for the parties to proceed to
arbitration. States that refused to do so would automatically become aggressors
and would then face mandatory financial and other penalties on the part of
member states. The most important measure proposed was ‘the Protocol for the
Pacific Settlement of International Disputes’, often referred to as ‘the Geneva
MacDonald proposed to move quickly and the Australian
representatives, at the preliminary meeting of the BED in London, were
apprehensive that insufficient time had been given to deliberate on the full
consequences. MacDonald with his French counterpart, The chief
Australian delegate was Sir Littleton Groom, Commonwealth Attorney-General, who
was under instructions from Prime Minister Bruce to ensure that Australia’s
domestic policies—and especially the ‘White Australia Policy’—would not become
subject to the envisaged arbitration procedures. Although other delegations in
the BED had expressed apprehensions, the British persuaded them to support the
measure. Groom, despite his instructions to abstain, further underlined by
cable from Melbourne, nevertheless signalled his assent when the Assembly voted
on the protocol.
Although this episode might have generated significant intra-imperial tensions,
MacDonald’s Government was displaced within months, and the incoming
administration led by Stanley Baldwin repudiated the protocol.
In 1929 MacDonald, newly returned to government, made
further endeavours to extend the scope of international arbitration and dispute
settlement. He sought to orchestrate a common Empire policy that would accept
the determination of the Permanent Court of International Justice (under what
was termed ‘the optional clause’) in a wide range of disputes. This measure had
been favoured for some time by Canada and the Irish Republic. C W C Marr,
minister without portfolio and leader of the Australian delegation to Geneva,
was instructed to delay a final decision pending further consultations. Once
again, Australian leaders were concerned to preserve domestic policy autonomy.
After a busy round of negotiations Australian fears were all but assuaged and
Marr directed to indicate his assent to the measure, when the fall of the Government—ironically
precipitated by a decision by Littleton Groom, now Speaker, not to vote to
support the Government—aborted the process. However, after extensive
consultations, and in light of British enthusiasm for the measure, though in
caretaker mode the Government decided to instruct the High Commissioner to
register assent for the Commonwealth.
If the 1920s was the decade of entrenching a collective
security system, the 1930s was the period in which that system was undermined
and then collapsed. The seizure by Japan of China’s north-eastern
provinces—‘Manchuria’—in 1931 elicited a hesitant response from the League.
Japan was by far the most important Asian member of the League (and as a great
power, a permanent member of the Council), Japan’s existing rights in Manchuria
(including the right to station troops in certain locations) were substantial
but obscure, and the region was far from those European forces that would have
to be mobilised if conciliation failed and force was then contemplated. Even
when a League commission of inquiry broadly condemned Japan’s actions and China
appealed to the League for redress, the Australian Government view was not only
that there should be no resort to war but that Australia should avoid
participating in any regime of sanctions employed against Japan.
In the event, Japan withdrew from the League, a strategy subsequently copied by
Germany and then Italy.
As these events were unfolding, the League was attempting to
bring to fruition the effort of a decade to agree and implement comprehensive
measures of disarmament. There had been some progress in this direction. In
1925, for example, a protocol on the prohibition of poisonous gas and
biological agents in warfare had been formulated, a measure Australia adopted
in January 1930.
After many preliminary meetings, which achieved some
agreement regarding certain classes of weapons, in February 1932 a full-scale
disarmament conference convened in Geneva, notably including delegations from
the United States and the Soviet Union, both then outside the League. The
Australian delegates were J G Latham—Attorney-General and Minister for External
Affairs—and the High Commissioner, Sir Granville Ryrie. With the level of
Australian armaments spending at a historic low due to the impact of the global
depression, there was little Australia could contribute, though it was
undoubtedly useful to add an Australian voice to the many intra-imperial
discussions that took place. In his speech to the conference, Ryrie, drawing
upon his experiences of Gallipoli to illustrate the ruin of war, created a
Unfortunately the withdrawal of Germany, now under Hitler’s leadership, from
the conference condemned it to futility, though it continued in lesser form
In 1935, the League was faced with an incident similar in
character to the Manchuria crisis. On this occasion, however, the aggressor
power was Italy—a major European power and permanent member of the Council—and
the victim was Ethiopia, the territory of which abutted British and French
colonial possessions (and whose boundaries were the product of intra-colonial
bargains). Ethiopia was a member of the League and its government appealed to
the Council in Geneva. After much prevarication and delay, including British
and French attempts to arrange a settlement essentially favourable to Italy,
the full-scale invasion of the country by Italian forces triggered the
requirement (under the League Covenant) that member states adopt economic sanctions
to deter the aggressor. Britain decided to do so—though excluding trade in some
vital commodities—and the Lyons Government in Australia reluctantly followed
suit. It was a widely held view, including in Australia, that such sanctions
risked precipitating war; it was also a British objective not to alienate Italy
in the hope that its power would help deter an increasingly militant Germany.
Yet failure to act against Italy undermined the League’s role as a provider of
Australia’s delegate at the League, former prime minister Stanley
Bruce, summarised the dilemma the members faced. War was a last resort and the
sanctions prescribed by the League should be maintained, but if Italy did not
change course, the whole rationale of the League’s security role would be at
issue. In April 1936, speaking at the Council (of which he was also then president),
Bruce stated the problem as follows:
it is now imperative that there should be a re-examination of
the whole of the collective system that has been built up. These weaknesses are
very great; they are creating doubts in the minds of all nations and all
peoples, and it is no use our ignoring them. If we truly believe in this
system, we should face these weaknesses and try and find a solution for all
those which have been disclosed, and I believe that men's minds in all
countries are moving to the point of demanding that re-examination, which, I
trust, will lead to a reassurance with regard to the whole collective system,
and I suggest that to allow nations to be lulled into a false belief of
security where, in fact, there is no security and to allow them to rely upon
assistance which will not be forthcoming, is not a contribution to the peace of
the world but is a menace to it.
Following the Italian conquest of Ethiopia, hope in the
League as a provider of security waned, and as Hitler’s Germany pushed forward
with its program of annexations and threats, Geneva was effectively sidelined.
Bruce, however, was responsible for some significant
advances in other spheres at this time. Under League auspices he chaired a
conference of the interested powers at Montreux in 1936 at which maritime
transit to and from the Black Sea by way of the Bosporus and the Dardanelles was
discussed. The convention that was agreed between the Black Sea powers
(including the Soviet Union), Britain, France and Greece remains in force to
Cognisant that the League’s security role had been severely
compromised, Bruce used his influence at Geneva to argue in the later 1930s for
a refocus on the potential of its social and economic role. In particular, he
campaigned for reducing the barriers to agricultural trade while also
furthering scientific studies of improved nutrition. If the nations could have
access to cheaper foodstuffs and their populations were better fed, security
would be enhanced by taking a more practical route. He was successful in
attracting the support of other member states that were major agricultural
exporters, in what might be seen now as a striking anticipation of the ‘Cairns
Group’. Armed with these ideas, Bruce chaired a committee devoted to
considering a broad re-organisation of the League which issued a comprehensive
report in August 1939, The Development of Economic Cooperation in Economic
and Social Affairs.
Though the Bruce Report, as it became known, was shelved as a result of the
outbreak of war, the innovations it suggested were taken up in the organisation
of the new United Nations, which provided enhanced scope for social and
economic issues, to be coordinated by the Economic and Social Council. They
also inspired the establishment by the United Nations of the Food and
Agriculture Organization (FAO) in 1945. Prominent in the new organisation was
Frank L McDougall, who had advised Bruce in London and Geneva over many years
and upon whose research he had increasingly relied.
and the management of international trade and economic policy
Though the Covenant of the
League said little regarding economic matters, the Great War left the global
system of trade and commerce highly disrupted; the devastation experienced by
some central European countries was however directly acknowledged in the
Covenant. Lest these conditions give rise to new conflict, the League developed
an active economic agenda through its Economic and Financial Section. Over time,
some of the measures later to be associated with such organisations as the
OECD—including the collection of consistent statistical series, and the gathering
and publication of customs regulations—became League functions. The League also
convened conferences to discuss the harmonisation of customs procedures and the
simplification of commercial and financial arrangements in order to encourage
world trade and promote a return to prosperity.
Australian agencies and delegates played a role in this
League activity which progressively extended the transparency of global trading
In May 1927 the League convened the World Economic
Conference where a major matter of debate was the growth of trade
While receptive to some possible reforms, Australia’s chief delegate, South
Australian parliamentarian David Gordon, defended Australia’s right to regulate
tariffs, which were seen as a means to build industrial capacity and
In June–July 1933 the League convened the World Economic
Conference, held in London as Geneva was crowded with delegates wrestling with
the issue of disarmament. The representatives of 65 nations (including a number
of non-members of the League) attended, the major issue being to attempt to
craft a program of economic cooperation—including monetary stabilisation—in
order to deal with the baleful effects of the global depression. Little was
achieved, however, chiefly as a result of Anglo-American differences on
handling the vexed issue of currency values. The Australian delegation was led
by Stanley Bruce, then minister without portfolio in London. His speech at the
closing stages of the conference painted a stark, and strikingly prescient,
picture of a world in which, without the lowering of barriers to economic
exchange, ‘intensely nationalist policies’ would obstruct the attainment of
greater prosperity that science and industry could offer.
An area of policy where the League Covenant was quite
specific was in relation to industrial relations and conditions of labour. The
International Labour Organization (ILO) was established in 1919; it moved to
Geneva in 1920 and functioned as part of the League system but under its own
director. The ILO established a schedule of annual conferences devoted to the
agenda of improving conditions of labour, protecting vulnerable workers
(including women and children), and extending programs of insurance and
compensation to improve the lot of workers. In an interesting innovation, the
national delegations to the conferences were chosen on the basis of a
‘tripartite’ formula, being composed of employers, workers and government
officials. The Australian Government supported the conference, including
budgeting for the travel and living expenses of the worker delegate who was
required to make the long journey to Geneva (and who faced the possibility of
an uncertain position on return). ILO delegations were discussed and approved
in Cabinet, and in 1924 the worker delegate chosen was John Curtin, then president
of the Australian Journalists’ Association in Western Australia. The future
prime minister undertook his first trip abroad (and later journeyed at his own
expense to Britain to meet the leadership of the British Labour Party). On his
return he presented a very full account to the Government of his experiences
which was published, as became the practice, as a part of a parliamentary
paper. In this report, while he emphasised the usefulness of this conference,
he noted Australia’s tardiness in ratifying some of the ILO conventions that
had already been adopted, and also lamented his inability, as a single
individual, to attend to the many committees that were convened for the
business of which some nations sent multiple delegates and advisers.
Between 1934 and 1939 Walter Crocker, later to serve as Australian ambassador
to India and also Indonesia, was an official in the International Labour Organization.
The ILO became the first specialised agency of the new United Nations in 1946.
In the post-World War II world, the global management of
trade and economic affairs has become a commonplace, as has the notion of
lowering transaction costs through transparency in customs and regulatory
regimes. In retrospect, the League’s attempts to address these issues can be
seen as highly innovatory, the experience of which was formative for Australian
League’s social agenda
The League pursued an active social agenda, sometimes taking
on issues that were already the subject of international agreements. In
adopting in 1921 the International Convention for the Suppression of the
Traffic in Women and Children, the League was expanding the remit of earlier
attempts to suppress what was then known as ‘the white slave trade’. Policing
and improving the 1921 convention became one of the matters discussed in the
Fifth Committee of the League Assembly. Dr Roberta Jull, an alternate member of
the Australian delegation to the Assembly in 1929, presented at Geneva a widely
praised commentary on the convention.
The International Opium Convention of 1925, which built upon
an earlier agreement negotiated at The Hague in 1912, generated an extensive
network of advisory and expert bodies. It led to the establishment of a remarkably
comprehensive transparency regime in which member states were required to
report upon the production, processing, transfer and use of opiates. The Social
Questions and Opium Traffic Section was an active component of the League
machinery, with one of its senior members from 1927 being the Australian
scholar H Duncan Hall.
The 1931 Geneva Narcotics Manufacturing and Distribution Limitation Convention
owed a good deal to his research and drafting skills. Hall visited Australia in
1931, giving a number of public lectures on the drug suppression and health
work of the League, and later worked in the League’s Information Section.
Health was also a major focus of the League, with Geneva
taking on many of the tasks of the International Health Office originally
established in Paris in 1908. One of the major concerns of the League’s Health
Section was epidemiology; in 1925 the decision was taken to establish a Far
Eastern Bureau in Singapore to conduct research and provide current reportage
on health conditions. Australian health officials were among its advisory
committee. From 1932 until the outbreak of the Pacific War, its director was
Australian Dr Charles L Park.
The League also experimented with expedients to achieve
greater intellectual cooperation across the nations. In 1922 the League
appointed an advisory committee of distinguished scholars, the International
Committee on Intellectual Cooperation, to propose and review projects for
cultural, artistic and scientific exchange. Among its members were Henri
Bergson and Albert Einstein. From 1928, Australian-born Professor Gilbert
Murray served as its president. With assistance from the French Government, the
League established an International Institute for Intellectual Cooperation
(IIIC), based in Paris, which provided planning and funding for such exchanges.
Sir George Knibbs (1925–26) and then Kenneth Binns (from 1930) were designated
by the Commonwealth Government to act in lieu of a national committee to deal
with contacts with the IIIC. An initiative of these bodies was the
International Studies Conference, the annual gatherings of which were attended
by Australian scholars (including Dr Margot Hentze and Dr John Burton).
These activities in the social sphere have been maintained
and broadened in components of the current United Nations system, including the
World Health Organization and UNESCO.
Geneva as a
school for international affairs for some prominent Australians
As has been shown, though
Australian diplomacy was still in its formative phase, Australian figures,
including those already mentioned, played a part in the Geneva experiment. The
most prominent of all was Stanley Bruce, who had transferred to London, first
as resident minister and then, in 1934, as high commissioner. He took a close
interest in League affairs and was given a remarkably free hand by the Lyons Government
to conduct Australian policy in that theatre. He headed the Australian
delegation to the League on every occasion from 1932 to 1938, sat on the
Council (including chairing some of its sessions) in the period 1933–36, and
performed other specialised tasks for Australia and for the League. His first
appearance at the League, in 1921, was a matter of happenstance. On a golfing
holiday in France, and at that stage of his career, a backbencher in
parliament, he was urgently summoned by Prime Minister Hughes to attend the
Assembly to fill the position. On that occasion, drawing upon his personal
experiences at Gallipoli, he impressed the other members with his sincere
abhorrence of war. In his later role he was often assisted by officials on the
staff of Australia House, especially O C W Fuhrman and F L McDougall. One of
his predecessors and another former prime minister, Sir Joseph Cook, was also a
frequent visitor to Geneva, at that time supported by the external affairs
officer in London (later External Affairs Minister and eventually Governor-General),
R G Casey.
The annual parties of Australian delegates, alternate
delegates and officials making the journey to the Assembly in Geneva (the last
usually from the London high commission) introduced a generation of Australians
to contemporary international society. In addition to the politicians who were
generally the delegation leaders (an issue considered further below), also
included were prominent business figures, Sir Mark Sheldon, Herbert Brookes,
Clive Baillieu and George Swinburne. For the officials, the broadening
experience of Geneva was invaluable, and the files of External Affairs
demonstrate that developments at the League were carefully followed and
Under Article 7 of the Covenant, as has been noted, all
positions in the League were open to women, and many international women’s
movements engaged with the League in seeking to advance the position of women
as well as bring a feminist perspective to such pressing issues as peace and
disarmament. It is in this context that a number of progressive Australian
women took part in the activities of the League.
After the decision was taken—following intense lobbying by various women’s
groups—to include at least one woman amongst the delegates to the Assembly,
this practice was adopted. Successive prime ministers regularly received advice
on suitable women candidates and were also reminded that the Australian Government
was remiss in only making the nominee an alternate rather than a full delegate.
Nevertheless, the first president of the Australian Federation of Women’s
Societies, Bessie Rischbieth (who had persuaded Prime Minister Hughes to send
women to Geneva), historian Jessie Webb, and Dr Ethel Osborne, physician and
hygienist, all made the journey to Geneva.
Women’s groups also lobbied the Government energetically on
specific policies under review by the League. In the later 1920s, preparations
were made for a major conference on international law to be held at The Hague.
One of the issues to be discussed was the nationality of married women, the
rule in many countries then (including Australia) being that upon marriage a
woman took her husband’s nationality and usually lost her own. Though,
following this conference, Australia adopted some partial reforms in line with
new British legislation, the cause of gender equality was not fully achieved.
In the 1930s, as the global security situation deteriorated, women’s groups
were prominent in pressuring the Government to bend its efforts to preserving
world peace. Some members of the Australian women’s movement also raised the
question of Indigenous rights.
Juliet Mitchell was a leading figure in the New South Wales
League of Nations Union (LNU) with a career as an educationist, novelist and
writer. Already a seasoned international traveller, she spent time in Geneva,
again as a temporary collaborator, at the League in 1935. Having had prior
experience living in Manchuria, upon her return to Australia she was in much
demand as a broadcaster and commentator, particularly upon League affairs.
The League also had an impact upon Australians at various
stages of their careers. In 1932, Fred Alexander was appointed an alternate
delegate to the League Assembly. He also obtained an attachment at Geneva as a
‘temporary collaborator’ which gave him the opportunity to study the League
system. Since his appointment to the University of Western Australia in 1924,
Alexander had done more than any other individual to stimulate the discussion
of international affairs in Perth, on campus and off. He was also a leading
light in the Australian LNU.
Alexander was an academic mentor to Paul Hasluck, later External
Affairs Minister and ultimately Governor-General. Hasluck had attended a summer
school in international affairs in Geneva in 1932, and returning to Perth on
the same vessel as Alexander, was persuaded to complete his degree and take a
greater interest in international studies. He later taught Alexander’s course
while the latter was on study leave, and Alexander was one of the individuals
(John Curtin was another) who influenced his decision to enter the diplomatic
Australian League of Nations Union
While the Great War was in progress there was much debate in
Europe and America about the possible shape of a post-conflict world. In
Britain, a League of Nations Society had lobbied for a world organisation to
pursue peace and disarmament, and in October 1918 it amalgamated with other
groups and formed the League of Nations Union. In its heyday the LNU was a
major lobby group that had a considerable impact on government policy; its
membership exceeded 400,000 at the peak of its influence; its chairman during
1923–38 was Professor Gilbert Murray. In 1921, branches of an Australian LNU
were formed in the Australian states, in imitation of the British original.
Soon enjoying prime ministerial patronage, the organisation strove to broaden
Australian understanding not only of the League, but also of the whole field of
international relations. Its earliest publication was the text of a
presentation that had been given by Latham in Melbourne in October 1919.
Recently returned from Europe, he spoke expansively on the new tasks that would
face Australia with League membership, and called for the appointment of
officials to serve abroad to develop the expertise required.
From that time the LNU acted as a lobby group, by way of lectures, broadcasts,
meetings and publications, devoted to encouraging the Government to attend to
its responsibilities to the League, including supporting a just recognition of
the role of women. The LNU made particular efforts to persuade the Government
to accede to the statute of the Permanent Court of International Justice that
enlarged its role as a global agency of arbitration. Along with the Institutes
of International Affairs in Melbourne and Sydney—amalgamated as the AIIA in
1933—with which the LNU often cooperated, public knowledge of international
affairs was both augmented and transformed.
The Australian LNU paid particular attention to promoting
League ideals in education. The Victorian branch of the LNU published a
detailed model curriculum for peace studies, which included suggested reading
drawn from a notable body of progressive authors.
In New South Wales, due in part to sympathetic state authorities, many schools
instituted a ‘League Corner’, and the LNU was permitted to conduct (in
imitation of the British parent body) a ‘peace ballot’ among secondary school
pupils, of whom 155,164 chose peaceful methods of dispute resolution (with a
recorded 181 against). The national LNU persuaded Prime Minister Joseph Lyons
to deliver a public broadcast in August 1932 to encourage Australians to take a
constructive view of the League. The LNU also provided delegates for Geneva.
Raymond Watt, LNU National Secretary and a prolific publisher and broadcaster
for the League cause, served as an alternate delegate to the Assembly in 1931
and a full delegate in 1936 (when he also attended the Brussels World Peace
idea in Australia
Even while the notion of forming a new kind of organisation
as a means of preventing a repeat of the Great War was still a mere proposal,
this prospect was a matter of debate in Australia.
After 1919, League membership and its obligations had a
significant impact on the ideas of some prominent Australians. In a public
address delivered in 1924, Sir Henry Braddon, who had been the Australian
Commissioner in New York, maintained that with the establishment of the League
the world could now at last claim ‘a disinterested international agency’. The
alternative, ‘too horrible to contemplate’, was a return to ‘the balance of
power’ and the inevitability of further bloodletting.
Engineer, businessman and parliamentarian, George Swinburne,
who had been an Assembly delegate in 1925, returned from Geneva acclaiming the
League as ‘the hope of the world’. Offering an implicit critique of the somewhat
narrow approach to the League on the part of Australians preoccupied with such
matters as ‘White Australia’ and tariffs, he was sufficiently far-sighted to
glimpse in the League new and more expansive possibilities:
Do not forget that, with all that wonderful variety [of
humanity at the League], it is the first time in the history of mankind that
the nations of the earth have come together to publicly discuss the
international problems which confront them. Remember also, that humanity is all
the richer for its wide variations, and we have seen enough to realise that it
is quite possible to have a fundamental unity of spirit underlying these
differences. If we are to advance it is not through nationalism alone, or the
cultivation of racial feeling. It is by making men who are proud of their race
more perfect in their qualities in which that race is pre-eminent, to serve
their fellows and uplift the world.
One of the most influential international thinkers in
Australia in these years was Sir William Harrison Moore, professor of law at
Melbourne University and an adviser to Prime Minister Bruce. In his university
days, Harrison Moore had been the first to offer a university course in
international relations. He served as an alternate delegate (1927) and a full
delegate (1928, 1929) to the League Assembly, and also represented Australia on
the League committee devoted to the codification of international law. From
1925 until 1934, he was the president of the Victorian branch of the LNU and
later (from 1930 to 1934) of the reorganised national LNU.
In December 1930 Harrison Moore delivered a lecture entitled
‘Australia’s Place in the League of Nations’.
The novelty and importance of the League consisted in its principal objective,
which was to prevent war or—to see its work in terms of the fundamentals of the
international system—to reconcile the interest of the nations. And Harrison
Moore was convinced that ‘save through the League, there seemed no escape from
the experience of the past—the clash of interests and policies sooner or later
leading to war’. The organisation was thus to be understood as an attempt to
achieve nothing less than a fundamental transformation of the international
system. As Harrison Moore described that system, international law had been
based traditionally upon the notion of equality of the formal rights of states,
‘But the dynamics of international relations were substantially in the hands of
the Great Powers: the smaller nations accepted results, or sought to affect
them by attaching themselves as clients to a Great Power or to a group’. In
short, the international system was shaped by power, not by law. By giving ‘a
place and a voice in its counsels to every state member, great and small, and
that of right and not of sufferance’, the League sought to realise something of
the real equality of states.
A factor that facilitated the recognition of the importance
of the League was the idea that developed in the 1920s that there was
essentially a similarity of form between it and the more familiar
Empire-Commonwealth. This was not simply a matter of the League’s original
architecture being the product of a joint Anglo-American project at
institutional design, using the materials at hand. It also derived from the
notion that the longer term objectives of the two organisations were, if not
identical, then at least aligned.
As P D Phillips, a member of the AIIA delegation to the
first unofficial International conference of Commonwealth institutes in Toronto
in 1933 (and a student of Harrison Moore) observed:
The starting-point of any consideration of the relations of
these two entities is a realization of the surprising identity in form and
principle of the Empire and the system established at Geneva. Since the War it
has year by year become clearer that the essence of the imperial relationship
is to be found in the free association of its nation members co-operating
together because of an agreement upon general principles ... Britishers should
realize that they have a particularly close concern with the success of the
League, because it represents the application of their own great political
discoveries to the world of states.
of the League in the parliament and the debate on foreign affairs
The annual delegation to
Geneva was usually led by a serving politician, in most cases of the front rank—E
D Millen, Sir Neville Howse, Sir Littleton Groom, J G Latham, Sir George
Pearce, Matthew Charlton, Frank Brennan and W M Hughes all served as delegates.
The only sitting prime minister to address the League was James Scullin, who
spoke to the Assembly on 20 September 1930 in favour of disarmament. His visit
was very brief as the imperial conference was due to convene in London. While
such figures often had other opportunities for international exposure, under
the conditions of the time, such experience was important and often framed
When Senator Millen returned to Australia having led the
delegation to the first League Assembly, he submitted a full account to the
prime minister on his experiences. The practice developed that returning
delegations drafted a report on the matters discussed at Geneva. These reports
were presented to parliament where they were discussed and then published as
parliamentary papers. In this period foreign affairs accounted for a modest
share of parliamentary time; debates in connection with the imperial
conferences of prime ministers in London (convened in 1921, 1923, 1926, 1930,
and 1937) were occasions for extended commentary on world affairs; after these
the debates on the League were of considerable significance. Reports of League
conferences were also noted by the parliament, and sometimes led to
In parliamentary debates in these years, League commentary
on Australia’s responsibilities as a mandatory power received some attention.
The most consequential issue was the preservation of Australian freedom of
action in immigration and tariff policy, and the threat—real or imagined—that
engagement with the League would undermine that freedom. With the Labor Party
committed until the late 1930s to the cause of disarmament, the League was
often invoked in reviews of this issue. In the late 1930s, after the denouement
of the Ethiopia crisis, the parliament began to hear commentary on the failure
in practice of the League as a provider of security. However, the League ideal
continued to have its champions until the outbreak of war. Even after 1939
there were some references to the need, once peace was finally achieved, of a
revived and improved international organisation dedicated to the same ends.
Some illustrative examples of these parliamentary exchanges follow.
In the early 1920s the parliamentary assessment of the
League from both sides of the chamber was generally positive. Though Hughes was
privately sceptical of the larger prospects of the Geneva experiment, in
presenting the Versailles Treaty to the parliament he gave the organisation his
endorsement, qualified, however, by the observation that it would achieve its
great potential provided that the nations permitted it to function. As he said
in one of his more orotund passages, ‘If the whole of the nations of the earth
are really desirous to co-operate in this great work, then the League of
Nations is truly a charter of liberty—a charter of civilization—of not less
value to the world than was Magna Charta to the men of our race ...’
Sir Joseph Cook was more positive, predicting that the League would become ‘a
mighty instrument for peace and progress’.
Even at this early stage there were parliamentary questions
regarding the size of Australia’s contribution to the organisation’s budget, which
in 1921 was around £26,000 per half year, a sum later reduced.
Thereafter, parliamentarians often expressed concern at what were seen as the
inflated salaries paid in Geneva, and more than one Australian delegation was
urged to press the organisation for economies.
In his very full accounting of the League session for 1921,
Bruce informed the parliament that though originally he had been sceptical of
the value of the organisation, he found it to be most seriously engaged with many
of the nations fielding high-level delegations by comparison with which the
Australian presence (the only other delegate being Malcolm Shepherd from the
high commission) was decidedly modest. He foresaw that League membership would
entail much detailed work, and therefore recommended that the Government
provide the necessary record-keeping and bureaucratic support.
The 1924 controversy regarding the Geneva Protocol,
discussed above, generated considerable parliamentary interest. As soon as news
arrived in Australia that Littleton Groom had signalled Australia’s approval,
Bruce faced parliamentary questions. From the backbench W M Hughes interjected
that Australia’s rights had changed ‘fundamentally’ as a result. Bruce was in
the difficult position of being uncertain what exactly had transpired and made
the point that he was awaiting a report from the Australian delegates. In the
meantime, while he defended the intention of the Protocol, and also reminded
the parliament that it would have the final determination on whether Australia
would be a party, he was forthright in his defence of the national
prerogatives: ‘Australia cannot allow action regarding a question of domestic
jurisdiction to be dictated to her by the League of Nations, or by any other
In the following year, Littleton Groom was able to present
his own account of the proceedings in Geneva. In an interesting act of
bipartisanship—which was not repeated—the Bruce Government had also sent the
Leader of the Opposition, Matthew Charlton, to accompany Groom. Charlton also
made a statement to the parliament. Both dwelt on the issue of whether the
Protocol might result in Australia being compelled to accept League arbitration
concerning such issues as the White Australia Policy, and were emphatic that it
would not. By this time, however, the Baldwin Government had withdrawn from the
Protocol, with Australia following suit, rendering the debate academic.
Charlton also complained that the Protocol would be discussed again at
Assembly, but delegates for the current year had already departed for the
Assembly, so they could not learn the reason for the Australian Government’s
policy towards the protocol since only now were the events of 1924 being
debated. Charlton further emphasised that in order to convene the full disarmament
conference, which would be the essential means to achieve real arms reductions,
the Protocol was the necessary preliminary. It was in that spirit that he had
Subsequent reportage to the parliament of the proceedings at
Geneva during the remainder of the Bruce administration, always contained a
cautionary statement on the Government’s determination to preserve national
prerogatives in policy making.
Thus, in 1928, Bruce himself was led to assert:
While we enthusiastically subscribe to the ideals of the
League of Nations, we are not prepared to surrender any of our rights as a
sovereign nation on such matters of domestic jurisdiction as the fiscal policy
we think fit to pursue, or the migration to our shores of the nationals of
Lest it be thought that the issue of the League only
elicited defensive remarks, it should be noted that the prime minister’s
sentiments elicited a remarkable rebuttal from E A Mann, then member for Perth
and later the ABC commentator ‘the Watchman.’ Mann complained that the League was
a somewhat neglected topic in the parliament, and that when it was considered,
the insistence upon protecting at all costs tariff autonomy, was too narrow an
approach. He welcomed the League’s economic role, perceiving it to be in the
direction of what would now be termed economic openness, and suggested that
Australia was denying itself advantages by resisting this trend:
It is unwise for us ... to dissociate ourselves from the
obvious movement in European countries towards a better commercial
relationship. It would be a pity if we persisted in our present attitude. We
shall be judged, not by our professions in regard to League matters, but by our
attitude towards specific questions.
In the 1930s, debate on the League took on a different
aspect. Expectations diminished. When Latham presented his interim report to
the parliament on the 1932 disarmament conference at which he had been a chief
Australian delegate, he was forced to concede that very little had been
achieved, generally as the result of the presence of ‘an uncompromising attitude
of national sovereignty’.
Thereafter, with a few notable exceptions, caution became the watchword on both
sides of the political divide.
Thus, after an exhaustive study for the League, the Lytton
Commission reported that Japan’s occupation of Manchuria was unwarranted and
should be brought to an end; the Minister of External Affairs, J G Latham, was
asked whether the Government would issue a statement on what was a momentous
issue for the world. Latham replied that while Australia was working closely
with the United Kingdom, the Government would be making no pronouncement.
Meanwhile, rebuffed in Geneva, Japan withdrew from the League.
When Prime Minister Lyons made his statement to the
parliament on the imposition of economic sanctions on Italy, reluctantly
adopted in solidarity with the United Kingdom’s policy at the League, J A
Beasley (then aligned with Lang Labor but soon to rejoin the Federal Labor
Party) moved that Australia adopt a position of strict neutrality in the
dispute and declare that no forces would be offered under the requirements of
the League Covenant, Article 16 (which provided for the Council to recommend
the use of armed force to repel action by states deemed aggressors).
In the midst of the debate that then ensued on the sanctions
imposed on Italy over the invasion of Ethiopia, W M Hughes, then in government
as Minister for Health and Repatriation, published his Australia
and War Today.
In it he suggested that the League’s economic sanctions were in fact
either an empty gesture or a way station to war. This was a position at
variance with that of the Government, Prime Minister Lyons having assured the
parliament that Australia was not taking a path that led to conflict. After
some pointed parliamentary scrutiny, Hughes was required to resign his
portfolio in early November 1935.
Thereafter, parliamentary remarks on the League were more in
sorrow than anger. In 1937, Prime Minister Lyons, while discussing the outcome
of the recently concluded imperial conference, regretted ‘the failure of the
League to guarantee security against aggression’.
It was at this time, accordingly, that there was some discussion of League
‘reform’ that would set aside the organisation’s security responsibilities. The
parliament discussed these possibilities, though the issue was overtaken by
Australia in the League
Australia’s membership of and
relations with the League of Nations had a significant impact on the Australian
view of the world, not least because they prepared the way for the enthusiastic
embrace of the United Nations in 1945. Australians were long accustomed to
adopting a trans-national perspective because of their place within the
Empire-Commonwealth. The League, particularly through the popular propagation
of the obligations membership generated, introduced the idea of a potentially
global and specifically non-imperial transnationalism. Political leaders,
officials and citizens were all compelled, to some degree, to come to terms
with the role of international regimes, international scrutiny and
international norms in global affairs. In short, Australian membership of the
League encouraged and sometimes required thinking beyond the
Empire-Commonwealth. It thus constituted a major step to full international
Note on the author
James Cotton (PhD, London School of Economics) is Emeritus
Professor of Politics, University of New South Wales, ADFA, Canberra. He has
been a member of the Foreign Affairs Council convened by the Foreign Minister,
and of the Board of the Australia-Korea Foundation. His most recent book is The
Australian School of International Relations (New York: Palgrave Macmillan,
Roger C Thompson, Australian imperialism in the Pacific. The Expansionist
Era 1820-1920 (Melbourne: Melbourne University Press, 1890).
Margaret Macmillan, Peacemakers: the Paris Conference
of 1919 and its attempt to end war (London: John Murray,
W J Hudson, Australia and the League of Nations
(Sydney: Sydney University Press/AIIA, 1980); James Cotton, ‘Australia
in the League of Nations: Role, debates, presence,’ in James Cotton and David
Lee eds, Australia and the United Nations (Canberra: Longueville Media/DFAT,
2012), pp.1-33. For documentation of Australia’s exchanges with the League,
James Cotton ed, Documents on Australian Foreign Policy, 1920-30
(Sydney: University of New South Wales Press/DFAT, 2019), chapters 5, 6.
F P Walters, A History of the League of Nations (London: Oxford
University Press, 1952). The Covenant of the League is available at: http://avalon.law.yale.edu/20th_century/leagcov.asp
P. Spartalis, The Diplomatic Battles of Billy Hughes (Sydney: Hale &
Iremonger, 1983); N. Meaney, Australia and World Crisis 1914–1923 (Sydney:
Sydney University Press, 2009).
F W Eggleston ed, The Australian Mandate for New Guinea. Record of a Round
Table Discussion (Melbourne: Macmillan/Melbourne University Press and
League of Nations Union, 1928); R. C. Thompson, ‘Making a Mandate: The
Formation of Australia's New Guinea Policies 1919–1925,’ The Journal of
Pacific History, 5 (1990) 1: pp. 68–84.
Susan Pedersen, The Guardians. The League of Nations and the Crisis of
Empire (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015).
Cook to Hughes, 8 August 1922; National Archives of Australia [NAA]: A518, C849/1/2.
Report, 23rd Meeting, Permanent Mandates Commission: Geneva,
League of Nations, C.563.1923.VI, p.162.
Permanent Mandates Commission, Minutes of the Ninth Session, June 8th
to June 25th, 1926: Geneva, League of Nations,
For extensive documentation, NAA: A518, AA840/1/4 PT 2.
G Gray, ‘There Are Many Difficult Problems: Ernest William Pearson Chinnery:
Government Anthropologist’, The Journal of Pacific History, 38 (2003) 3:
Michael Leahy, ‘The Central Highlands of New Guinea’, The Geographical
Journal, 87 (1936) 3: pp. 229-260.
Petition of 10 December, 1936, NAA: A981, LEAGUE MAN 12.
NAA: A981 LEAGUE MAN 31ST SES; Permanent Mandates Commission,
Minutes of the 31st Session, Geneva, League of Nations,
Bruce to Drummond, 4 July 1924, Geneva, League of Nations, 1924.C.394.M.145.1924.IX.
NAA: A3934, SC11/8.
For the many diplomatic cables of this period, NAA: A981, PCIJ 23 PART 3.
Latham to Bruce, 3 February 1933, NAA: A981, CHIN 125 PART 2.
Disarmament Conference. Geneva. 1932. Report covering the Period 2 February
-23 July 1932. Presented by the Minister of State of External Affairs, the Hon.
J.G. Latham, to the Prime Minister (Canberra: Commonwealth Parliamentary Paper
No. 154 - F. 2694, 1932).
91st Session of the Council, 10th Meeting, April 20th, 1936:
17 League of Nations Official Journal, 376 (Geneva, League of Nations,
League of Nations, The Development of International Cooperation in Economic
and Social Affairs (Geneva: League of Nations, S d N 1715(F) 1650(A) 8/39A.23,
1939); Martin D Dubin, ‘Toward the Bruce Report: the economic and social
programs of the League of Nations in the Avenol era’, in United Nations
Library/Graduate Institute of International Studies Geneva, The League of
Nations in retrospect. Proceedings of the Symposium (New York & Berlin:
de Gruyter, 1983), pp.42–72.
W Way, A New Idea Each Morning. How food and agriculture came together in
one international organisation (Canberra: ANU EPress, 2013); F. L.
McDougall, Sheltered Markets (London, John Murray, 1925).
Patricia Clavin, Securing the World Economy. The Reinvention of the League
of Nations 1920–1946 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013), pp.
Report of the Australian Delegate, World Economic Conference 1927 (Canberra:
Cmd No 126, 1927); NAA: A981, LEAGUE ECOF 53.
Monetary and Economic Conference London 1933, Report .. Presented by the
Australian Minister in London, .. S M Bruce (Canberra: Commonwealth
Government Printer, F.4288, 1933), pp.32–3.
Report to Prime Minister By Workers’ Delegate to 6th ILO Conference, League of
Nations, 5 September 1924; NAA: A1, 1925/10702.
League of Nations Official Journal, Special Supplement No 80. Records of the
Tenth Ordinary Session of the Assembly. Minutes of the Fifth Committee
(Geneva: League of Nations, 1929), pp.14-15. For Roberta Jull’s strong
reputation as a commentator on the League see, Harrison Moore to Jull, 8
September 1932; Battye Library: Papers of Roberta Jull, MN69, 956A/14.
James Cotton, The Australian School of International Relations (New
York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013), pp.95–128.
Lenore Manderson, ‘Wireless wars in the eastern arena: epidemiological
surveillance, disease prevention and the work of the Eastern Bureau of the
League of Nations Health Organisation, 1925–1942’, in Paul Weindling ed,
International Health Organisations and Movements, 1918-1939 (Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press, 1995), pp.109–33.
Angela Woollacott, ‘Inventing Commonwealth and Pan-Pacific Feminisms:
Australian Women’s Internationalist Activism in the 1920s-1930s’, in Mrinalini
Sinha, D Guy and A Woollacott eds, Feminisms and Internationalism (Oxford:
Blackwell, 1999), pp.81–104.
Fiona Paisley, ‘Citizens of Their World: Australian Feminism and Indigenous
Rights in the International Context, 1920s and 1930s’, Feminist Review,
58 (Spring 1998): pp. 66–84.
Janet Mitchell, Spoils of Opportunity. An Autobiography (London:
F Alexander, On Campus and Off. Reminiscences and Reflections (Nedlands:
University of Western Australia Press, 1987).
J G Latham, The Significance of the Peace Conference from an Australian
Point of View (Melbourne: Melville & Mullen, 1920).
Gwenda Lloyd and John Merlo, International Affairs in Schools (Melbourne:
Australian League of Nations Union, Victorian Branch, 1934).
N Brown, ‘Enacting the International: R G Watt and the League of Nations
Union’, in Desley Deacon, P Russell and A Woollacott eds, Transnational Ties
(Canberra: ANU ePress, 2006), pp.75–94.
W Jethro Brown, M Atkinson, H Heaton, A League of Nations. Four Lectures
Delivered under the auspices of the Adelaide Social Union (Adelaide:
Adelaide Dioscesan Social Union, 1918).
Sir Henry Y Braddon, The League of Nations. Address at the English Speaking
Union, October 1924 (Sydney: np, 1924), p.27.
George Swinburne, The League of Nations – The Hope of the World (Adelaide:
League of Nations Union, South Australian Branch, 1926), p. 15.
Melbourne University: Harrison Moore Papers, 10/3/17; W Harrison Moore, ‘Geneva
From Within,’ The Australian Quarterly, 2 (1929) June: pp.18–29.
A J Toynbee, British Commonwealth Relations: Proceedings of the First
Unofficial Conference at Toronto, 11–21 September 1933 (London:
Oxford University Press, 1934), p.47.
Commonwealth Parliamentary Debates, House of Representatives, 10 Sept 1919,
Commonwealth Parliamentary Debates, HoR, 19 Sept 1919, p. 12399.
Commonwealth Parliamentary Debates, HoR, 13 Apr 1921, p.7388.
Commonwealth Parliamentary Debates, HoR, 17 Nov 1921, pp.12907–25;
Commonwealth Parliament, Parliamentary Paper, No 168, League of Nations, Second
Assembly, Report of the Senior Representative of the Commonwealth of
Australia, Captain S M Bruce, MC MP. (Melbourne: Government Printer
Commonwealth Parliamentary Debates, HoR, 3 October 1924, pp.5134, 5135.
Commonwealth Parliamentary Debates, HoR, 14 Aug 1925, p.1450.
Commonwealth Parliamentary Debates, HoR, 26 April 1928: Latham’s speech
on the League Eighth Assembly 1927 quotes delegation leader Pearce on
Australia’s need to ‘safeguard her national and economic life’, p.4412.
Commonwealth Parliamentary Debates, HoR, 8 February 1929, p.141.
Commonwealth Parliamentary Debates, HoR, 8 February 1929, p.145.
Commonwealth Parliamentary Debates, HoR, 30 September 1932, pp.1073-4.
Commonwealth Parliamentary Debates, HoR, 9 November, p.2167.
Commonwealth Parliamentary Debates, HoR, 9 October 1935, p.548.
W M Hughes, Australia and War Today: the price of peace (Sydney:
Angus & Robertson, 1935).
Commonwealth Parliamentary Debates, HoR, 24 August 1937, p.25.
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