57 Australian Delegation, Paris Peace Conference, to Department of External Affairs

Cablegram PC11 Part 2 PARIS, 9 August 1946, 2.15 p.m.


12. Debate was then closed and meeting adjourned until afternoon when it [was] announced votes would be taken. Czechoslovakia opened the afternoon meeting by suggesting that Committee should be appointed to consider various amendments and produce an amendment acceptable to all members. This proposal was rejected by 11 votes to 8 with 2 abstentions. Ukraine, Yugoslavia, Poland and the Soviet moved that as the question of voting procedures was most important matter an amendment to be adopted must obtain two thirds majority vote. This proposal was severely criticised by United States, United Kingdom, Australia and other members and a long complicated procedural debate developed which was adjourned until later in the evening.

13. This tedious debate continued when Commission reassembled later and was contested most stubbornly by Soviet bloc using their familiar tactics of fatigue and pressure on the President.

Ultimately these tactics apparently turned wavering members of Commission against them for United Kingdom amendment was eventually adopted by 15 votes to 6. Commission adjourned at 3 am.

Australia has drafted amendment to United Kingdom amendment varying voting procedures. This amendment will be discussed at next meeting.

14. Debate on the question of voting procedures has been most exhaustive and when it is realised it occurred in procedural organisation, its length and intensity may on the surface appear disproportionate to size of issue involved. Also it is probable that some confusion has been created in Australia by varying newspaper reports emanating from Paris where there is a host of reporters everyone of whom is not looking clearly at issues involved but is attempting to dramatise incidents.

15. The issue really was vital. It went to the root of the question of utility of conference. Recommendations of conference have no binding force upon the Council of Foreign Ministers. In spite of this it emerged in discussions that members of the Council had agreed to adhere to its decisions on questions of substance. Therefore in the first place there would be 4 and probably 5 votes of the Great Powers marshalled against any amendment proposed to such decisions. To these votes would have to be added votes of probably 6 Soviet satellites (it having now become probable that Norway will generally support the Soviet bloc). Therefore if rule of two thirds majority were to be adopted unamended there would be no purpose in holding conference for it would be impossible to obtain the necessary majority to change decision of the Council on any important question. That would even be very difficult to obtain a simple majority. if small powers had allowed this decision to go unchallenged a disastrous precedent would have been created for peace conferences of Germany and Japan. For these reasons debate has been long and stubborn.

16. As with Chairmanship, the issue of ultimate result seems satisfactory when long term view is taken. Decision which was made conceded substance of small powers proposals and same measure of concession was offered by Soviet. This decision together with strong and United opposition offered by smaller nations seems to have ensured that there will be no repetition of attempt to introduce such a rule in future.

17. Australia fought very hard throughout the debate to hold smaller nations together. Although the Minister, for tactical reasons, did not speak until a late stage in discussion Delegation was active in supporting rule of simple majority in order to get recommendation of conference before Council of Foreign Ministers.

Effectiveness of his efforts can be judged by manner in which middle and smaller nations clung together in face of Soviet tactics of deliberate intimidation of delegates, fatigue and refusal to listen to unassailable arguments. But for Australia's work it seems certain no departure from Council's rule would have been considered and stubbornness of fight for simple majority rule ensured acceptance of United Kingdom amendment which is in accordance with Australian proposal of permitting simple majority recommendation to come before the Council of Foreign Ministers for full and final consideration. The truth is that what has been called procedure in such matters and the restriction of the rotating chairmanship to a few members and the mention of special majorities-really in virtue of the right of effective participation of nations outside the Big Four in the recommending as distinct from the making of the peace-Soviet tactics having been persistently intimidatory over all weaker and doubtful states and as a result the struggle has been long sustained. Australia is vitally interested in these matters in relation to the Japanese settlement and a stand for principle has had to be made in order to protect the future right in relation to Japan as a party principal, and not sub-ordinate.

[AA:A1067, E46/38/14]