258 Dunk to Makin

Memorandum (extracts) CANBERRA, 21 September 1945

The establishment of Australian representation in Malaya (Singapore) is a matter of some importance. It will be recalled that Mr. V. G. Bowden was appointed the Australian Official Representative in 1941. [1] Our sources of information in South East Asia now are few, and then not our own. Advices concerning what is happening in the area are infrequent.

2. If our Pacific (and Far East) policy is to be balanced and well informed, it is essential that Australian observers should be posted at selected points. Malaya ranks high in importance among such points because the ultimate security of Australia depends on stable conditions in the countries of South East Asia. Stable conditions imply the raising of the living standards of the native peoples. We need first hand evidence of the efforts being made by the United Kingdom to ensure the progress and welfare of the inhabitants of Malaya. We also require close observation to be made of the complex racial problem in that region-in particular the attitude of Chinese and Asiatic groups to the ruling authorities.

3. Malaya is also of significance to us:-

(a) because of its central position at the cross roads leading to the Indian and Pacific Oceans and to Asia in the north.

(b) because it will probably be the hub of the British defence system in the Far East-I understand that the Royal Navy propose to make full use of Singapore; also that Singapore will become the headquarters of a British Far Eastern Command.

(c) because if, as is certain, American bases are established in the Pacific Singapore as a British base will be a main link in the security chain protecting Australia.

4. Commercially: Malaya is of world importance in the raw material trade especially in tin and rubber. Its interest to the sterling area is peculiar in that, together with South Africa, it is the main source of U.S. dollars owing to its heavy import surplus with America. Singapore has been and undoubtedly will be again one of the great ports of the world and an international bazaar at which the commerce and ships of all the trading nations will meet.

Australian shipping companies and other Australian groups already have interests in Malaya. These interests can be expanded and a much larger Australian trade developed if we have first hand knowledge of and constant advices regarding the possibilities of the Malayan market. A statement showing Malayan trade figures is attached. [2]

[matter omitted]

8. It is suggested that the authority of Cabinet be sought for the re-establishment of Australian representation in Malaya and for the appointment, for two years and subject to salary and other conditions to be arranged departmentally, of a suitable representative responsible to the Minister and Department of External Affairs.

1 Bowden was taken prisoner by the Japanese on 17 February 1942 and, apparently, shot. See Document 326.

2 Not published.

[AA : A1838/2, 411/1/1/1, i]