129 Burton to Chifley [1]

Letter CANBERRA, 21 July 1947

I attach a telegram giving latest advice from Batavia. [2] In summary, it states that military operations are of a limited character, that the N.E.I. Government proposes to carry out its agreement regarding the shipping of goods and expects the Australian Government to honour their undertaking.

Previously, the Dutch authorities had assured us their plan was for ships to off-load at Indonesian ports first. I am asking Ballard to confirm that is still the plan [3], as, otherwise, I cannot imagine waterside workers loading ships which, after leaving Australian ports, might go only to Dutch-occupied territory.

In Hetherington's absence, I am keeping in touch with waterside workers and endeavouring to persuade them not to make a decision for a few days until the position is clearer. [I am not over- hopeful of success.] [4]

On the question of submission to the Security Council, we have had an appeal from the United Kingdom Government not to encourage this, as it would allow Russian intervention in an area in which Russia up to date has played no part.' It is open to the Indonesians to appeal direct to the Secretary-General, who can have the matter raised, if, in his view, there is a threat to the peace. Equally, they can appeal to India, who can appeal to the Security Council through the Secretary-General.

No doubt the Indonesians would prefer the more direct method of Australia acting, but I am asking Ballard, if approached, not to reject request flatly, but to advise Indonesians on the ways and means in which they can approach Security Council themselves, implying that this would be a better method. Ballard will also emphasise the desirability of seeking mediation in the first instance. [6]

I am attaching, for your information, also a copy of a 'Canberra Times' leader on the subject. [7] This is typical of the comment that is likely to be made-whatever we do will be wrong-but, as things stand at the moment, both in respect of our United Nations obligations and the shipping, I think we can best avoid pit-falls by doing nothing but what has been stated above and allowing events to take their course.

1 The Prime Minister was visiting Brisbane.

2 Document 125.

3 See Document 132.

4 The words in square brackets were added in what appears to be Burton's handwriting.

5 Document 124.

6 See Document 130 and note . thereto.

7 In its editorial dated 21 July, the Canberra Times called on the Australian Government to take 'all proper steps' to ensure reference of the Dutch-Indonesian conflict to the Security Council. At the same time, the newspaper condemned threats by the Waterside Workers' Federation to reimpose the ban on Dutch shipping and called on the Government to assert itself as the sole interpreter of Australian policy toward Indonesia.

[AA:A1838/278, 401/3/1/1, iii]