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I

THE Empire Press Union, the chief outcome of the first Imperial Press Conference, has assisted newspapers of the Empire in the matter of cable and wireless services and in other direct advantages. But the Union has done more. It has tended towards a better understanding amongst those who do much to create and guide public opinion and thus further Empire union.

A similar end has been attained by the Empire Parliamentary Association, which has brought into closer touch the numerous legislative bodies that govern throughout the Empire. Parliament Houses all over the world possess many of the amenities of clubs, and the Association brought about reciprocity amongst those of the Empire, so that all members of Parliaments of the Empire have the entrée to certain privileges in the various Empire Parliament Houses. The parent branch has offices and club rooms in Westminster Hall, where Sir Howard d'Egville and his courteous and efficient staff are ever ready to greet and entertain visiting Empire parliamentarians and


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afford them opportunities for meeting leading British statesmen. Some thirty Empire Houses of Parliament are thus united in a non-party organisation. The Association is also the medium through which representatives of Empire Parliaments assemble at Conferences and discuss questions of common concern. These Conferences are not official, but for the exchange of ideas on such matters as migration, defence and preferential trade. There have been several Empire Parliamentary Conferences in various Empire centres. One of their advantages is that they include not only representatives of Governments, but also of the Opposition.

As a member of the Western Australian Parliament I was specially interested in the Association, and helped to form the Western Australian branch. When in 1926 I became president of the Legislative Council I automatically became senior president of the branch. A few months after I was appointed it was my duty to preside in the Parliament House of Western Australia over a Conference of representatives of Empire Parliamentary Association branches. No less than sixteen Empire Legislative Chambers were represented. The British delegation was particularly strong. It included Lord Salisbury, the late Arthur Henderson, A. V. Alexander, J. I. Macpherson, Sir Evelyn Cecil and Dr. Drummond Shields.

The impression that was made throughout Australia by Lord Salisbury, the leader of the Empire delegates, was decidedly favourable. He was patient, tolerant towards the views of others, avoided making long speeches, and knew when to intervene in debates and to say the right thing in the right way.




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The subjects discussed were chiefly land settlement and migration. These subjects are associated with many complex problems, but on their solution largely depends Australia's future, for the peopling of our vacant spaces is all-important. If the White Australia policy is to be preserved, if the great empty spaces of the continent are to be kept for Europeans, it is inevitable that the present garrison must be strengthened. This was fully recognised at the Conference.

Since then the world depression created severe unemployment in Australia. Immigration was stopped. Sooner or later it must be resumed in the interests of national safety—and the sooner the better.

The Empire Parliamentary Association does not confine its activities to Empire Conferences. It goes further, and, through the medium of the parent branch in London, helps towards linking up the parliaments of the world in a better understanding of world problems.

In 1931, whilst visiting London, I was appointed by cablegram from Australia to represent both the Commonwealth and Western Australian branches at the seventeenth plenary session of the International Parliamentary Commercial Conference, which has its headquarters at Brussels, but holds sessions at different European capitals. The seventeenth session was held at Prague. The only other Australian representative was Mr. E. L. Kiernan, M.L.C., Assistant Chief Secretary and Minister of Sustenance, specially charged with the relief of the unemployed in the Labour Cabinet of Victoria.




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Some thirty countries were represented, including such remote nations as Japan, Afghanistan and various South American Republics. France, Germany and Poland sent exceptionally able and prominent statesmen. Great Britain had as delegates about a dozen members of the House of Commons, who were specially interested in commercial affairs. Their leader was the late Sir John Sandeman Allen, who was connected closely with a variety of large industrial concerns.

It was a parliament of parliaments; a gathering of influential men in the world's parliaments meeting together for the exchange of ideas, especially on economic and commercial subjects. These gatherings are viewed, especially in foreign countries, as most important and possessed of far-reaching influence. The idea originated in Belgium, and the first Conference was held in June, 1914, at Brussels under the patronage of the King and Government of Belgium. Delegates were present at that Conference from all the Great Powers. Since then sessions have been held in almost every European country.

The seventeenth session was held whilst the world's depression was at its worst. The main subjects discussed were: (a) The economic crisis, its cause and possible remedies; (b) the circulation of capital and distribution of gold; (c) the improvement of transport facilities; (d) international broadcasting; (e) the agricultural crisis. These matters were discussed at length. The resolutions that were passed were the result of compromise. They were often vague and sometimes almost meaningless, but the principal value of the Conference was that it helped towards a better understanding


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of national viewpoints. This was specially noticeable as discussions on delicate subjects now and again became quite frank. As Sir Sandeman Allen said at the close, “The most striking impression the British delegates carried away was the increasing desire of the nations represented to work together and appreciate one another's aims.”

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