Cabinet Submission by Mr W.M. Hughes, Minister for External Affairs

Agenda 15 24 January 1939,


At the recent League of Nations Assembly held in September 1938, various questions relating to the reform of the Covenant of the League were fully discussed and a memorandum upon the decisions reached was submitted to Cabinet in October. [1]

The desirability of the separation of the Covenant of the League from the Peace Treaty was affirmed and it was decided that certain amendments should be introduced in order to bring about this result. The Assembly adopted a resolution recommending to Governments the prompt ratification of the protocol embodying the amendments.

A certified copy of the protocol incorporating the amendments has now been received [2] and the attention of Governments is specially drawn to the Assembly’s decision to recommend prompt signature and ratification of the protocol.

The protocol has been signed on behalf of the United Kingdom, Canada, India, Ireland and 24 other Members of the League.

The protocol is designed to give formal effect to the separation of the Covenant from the Peace Treaty and to emphasise the equality of the rights of all Members of the League of Nations whatever be the date and method of their entry into the League, and to extend the membership of the League.

On 30th September, 1936, the policy of the Commonwealth Government on this matter was stated in the Senate by Sir George Pearce, the then Minister for External Affairs, who said that the Government felt that support should be given to the proposal. [3] The question was also discussed at the Imperial Conference of 1937, and received the support of all members of the British Commonwealth (except Ireland, which was not represented). [4]

It is submitted for consideration whether the Commonwealth Government should sign and in due course ratify the protocol. [5]



1 Not printed. See file AA: A981, L of N, 19th Assembly 1.

2 Not printed. League of Nations document A79 (1). 1938 V.

3 See Commonwealth Parliamentary Debates, vol. 151, pp. 643-5.

4 See Documents on Australian Foreign Policy 1937-49, vol. 1, Document 40.

5 On 7 February 1939 a Cabinet Sub-committee recommended that Australia sign and ratify the protocol. This was endorsed by Cabinet on 14 February 1939 and on 15 March 1939 the Executive Council authorised the High Commissioner in London, S.M. Bruce, to sign on behalf of Australia, which he did in Geneva on 24 June 1939 See file AA: A981, L of N, Reform 1, ii.



[AA: A981, L OF N, REFORM 1, 11]