489 Full Cabinet Submission by Mr John Curtin, Prime Minister and Acting Minister for External Affairs

Agendum 240 15 May 1942


1. At a meeting held at Montreal in July, 1941, the Supervisory Commission of the League of Nations, acting in accordance with powers conferred upon it by the Assembly in 1938 and reaffirmed by the Assembly in 1939, adopted the Budget for the year 1942.

2. In preparing the Budget the Supervisory Commission agreed:

(a) that it was of the greatest importance to keep up the framework of the League and not to lose the accumulated experience of twenty years of international co-operation and administration;

(b) that such activities as the League could usefully perform in time of war should be maintained and encouraged, but that in other respects the most drastic economies were needed, so that the financial burden on Member States should not be increased.

3. The Supervisory Commission pointed out that the League of Nations expressed in its three main institutions the aspiration towards peace, social justice and the observance of international law; and that it was continuing in the most difficult circumstances work of great value to mankind. The Commission has, therefore, urged Member States 'to accept willingly the not very serious sacrifices which may be necessary to keep these ideals alive during the period of the war'. It has been learnt from the High Commissioner, London [1], that the United Kingdom Government supports this view.

4. The League Budget has been framed to assess contributions to Members at practically the same amount as for last year. A nominal payment of one unit only has been assessed for German occupied countries, while the assessments for China, Finland, France and the Netherlands have been reduced by half. The expenditure budget is 9.2% less for 1942 than that voted for 1941. Empire Governments are in practice now bearing in fact almost the whole of the cost of maintaining the League, apart from special contributions offered for the International Labour Office alone. Australia's contribution for the calendar year 1942 is approximately 34,000, practically the same amount as that paid in 1941.

5. While the Commonwealth remains a member of the League its financial obligations continue and the question for consideration is whether payment of the contribution due under the League Budget in 1942 is to be authorised.

6. As against continuance of Australia's membership of the League it may be argued that in continuing support of the League of Nations Empire Governments are supporting what is in effect a lost cause, since it is clear that the League as an effective organisation for international political co-operation has broken down and its machinery for the settlement of international disputes has proved inadequate. The aggressor nations all withdrew from it and it remains substantially a British Commonwealth organisation. The United States is not a member of the League. It may be questioned whether at the present time the Commonwealth Government is justified in paying an amount of 34,000 for the practical purpose of merely keeping the League alive since, apart from I.L.O. and the continuance of certain technical services, the activities of the League are virtually negligible.

7. On the other hand the withdrawal of support of the League by the British Commonwealth would result in its disappearance. Such a withdrawal would leave the British Empire and its Allies open to the criticism that they were not prepared to back the organisation which stands for the ideals expressed in the report of the Supervisory Commission (see para.3 above) for the maintenance of which the United Nations are fighting. Withdrawal of support of the League would provide the enemy with a useful piece of propaganda.

8. Apart from these considerations the League has performed useful service in the field of international co-operation in social and economic problems. It has also performed useful work through the subsidiary organisations of the I.L.O. and the Permanent Court of International justice, the former of which held a conference in November last at which a resolution was passed concerning the part to be played by the I.L.O. in post-war reconstruction. The Permanent Court of International Justice is an institution which, although not functioning at present, is worth retaining.

9. It is recommended that approval be given for payment of Australia's contribution to the League Budget for 1942. [2]


1 S. M. Bruce. See cablegram 57 of 3 February on file AA:A2937, League of Nations (current).

2 Full Cabinet approved payment on 22 May 1942 See AA:A2703, vol.

1 (c), minute 240.

[AA:A2700, VOL. 3]