I returned from Paris on the 5th instant after attending the Reparations Conference on the 25th November to 4th December. I stayed rather longer than I intended since it was anticipated that the table of quotas proposed for each country would be laid on the table at the end of last week. However, the item, German External Assets, proved a difficult one and a final solution had not been agreed to when I left. Other items discussed included restitution, shipping, monetary gold held by Germany, and the draft constitution of the inter-Allied Reparations Agency which it has been decided will be set up in Brussels. No doubt Dr. Walker will have given you the necessary information concerning it.
I propose to deal in this memorandum with the situation so far as it concerns Australia when the Reparations Agency has been established. As you are aware it will consist of the Assembly and a Secretariat consisting of a Secretary-General (Sutton from the British Foreign Office) and two assistants with technical heads of sections of which cabled advice has been sent to Australia.
It is our considered opinion that Australia's quota will be relatively small and it is almost certain that for many of the items we shall have competition from other countries, power plant for example.
In the case of conflicting claims, the Assembly will give a ruling. It is provided that if a country disagrees with the ruling of the Assembly, it may refer the matter to an arbitrator, selected from among other delegates, whose decision will be final.
Incidentally there is a strong desire to avoid arbitration. The provision for a single arbitrator replaces the Committee of five, which it was agreed was not workable and this solution has given satisfaction to all parties.
It will be realised, therefore, that there are two matters which require urgent consideration and attention in Australia, namely (1) that the requirements should be arranged in order of priority, and (2) that the strongest reasons possible should be available to the Australian delegate on the Reparations Assembly as to why Australia needs a particular plant for equipment. In my opinion, these matters should receive urgent consideration with a view to supplying the necessary information as soon as possible. I have no definite information as to when the Assembly will be ready to operate in Brussels. As a rough estimate it may be during the latter part of January. In the meantime we are attempting to prepare a consolidated list of Australian requirements which are known here to date and will forward it to Australia within the next few days.
It is the general opinion in Paris that the Conference there will not complete its work until the week ending 15th December at the earliest. I think that it is an optimistic view.
I have discussed this problem with Messrs. Gresford  [and] Coulson , who agree with my interpretation of the situation as it will be when I.A.R.A. is established.
I have not discussed this matter fully with Dr. Walker but a copy of this memo is being for-warded to him to enable him to make any observations he wishes.
J. R. COCHRANE