167 Mr T. Elink Schuurman, Netherlands Consul-General in Australia, to Lt Col W. R. Hodgson, Secretary of Department of External Affairs

Letter SYDNEY, 22 April 1940


The speech on the international situation which the Hon. the Minister for External Affairs [1] delivered in the House of Representatives on 19th April 1940 contains the following passage which apparently has been cabled abroad:

'Any large scale invasion of the Netherlands, it will surely be appreciated, would inevitably affect the status of the Netherlands East Indies, a territory at our back-door and our closest neighbour, of which the fate is of immediate and vital concern to Australia.' In connection with this statement the Netherlands Government have now pointed out to me that in case of an attack on the Netherlands in Europe, the status of the Netherlands East Indies would undergo no change, as the Governor General possesses all legal and material means to continue the administration and to ensure public order.

This latter information may be of interest to you, although personally I am of the opinion that the word 'status' to which the message from the Hague refers has been used in a different sense by Mr. McEwen than it was understood by the Netherlands Government.

With regard to Japan, I am advised that the Japanese Government at the time pointed out to the Netherlands Minister in Tokyo [2] that in view of the close economical ties between the Netherlands Indies and Japan, a possible extension of the conflict in Europe to the Netherlands would upset the political and economical equilibrium in East Asia. Therefore Japan would be deeply concerned if an extension of the war would lead to a change in the status quo of the Netherlands Indies.

Since then the Japanese Minister in the Hague [3] has assured the Netherlands Government that, in case the Netherlands might become involved in war in Europe, Japan would respect our integrity, expecting other powers to adopt a similar attitude.

This latter statement is considered in the Hague as being of a reassuring character.

As last week I had no opportunity to discuss the foregoing matters with the Minister, I address this letter to you personally, but would be grateful if you would advise Mr. McEwen. I also send you a copy of a letter I addressed today to Mr. Curtin. [4]


1 John McEwen. See Commonwealth Parliamentary Debates, vol. 163, pp. 202-9.

2 General J. C. Pabst.

3 Itaro Ishii.

4 Leader of the Labor Party Opposition. The letter (On file AA:

A981, Netherlands 33) conveyed the substance of the information in the fifth and sixth paragraphs.