82 Kelly to Burton

Minute CANBERRA, 11 June 1947


According to press reports, Indonesian Republican leaders appear to be pressing for the inclusion of Dutch New Guinea in the State of Eastern Indonesia and/or the United States of Indonesia [1], doubtless with the intention of incorporating Dutch New Guinea in the territory of an autonomous Indonesian state enjoying recognition of its de jure sovereignty.

2. The population of Dutch New Guinea numbers some 400,000 persons [2], almost exclusively of Papuan or Melanesian stock. These natives have only recently come under European influences.

Indonesians in Dutch New Guinea have been in the main brought to the island by the Dutch and would probably number [not] [3] more than a few hundred at the outside.

3. Dutch New Guinea is not well developed economically but its potentialities are great. It is already a source of oil.

4. Dutch New Guinea occupies a position of great strategic and tactical importance, guarding as it does the Western approaches to Torres Strait and the Northern approaches to Darwin. Its western and northern coasts particularly, contain a number of first-class harbours and airfield sites. During the recent war the harbour of Hollandia handled, to take but one example, a much greater tonnage of merchant shipping in a month or two than all Australian ports would normally handle in the course of a year.

5. It appears that on the following grounds (a) native welfare, (b) economic development, and (c) security;

Australia should take the line (1) that Dutch New Guinea should not become subject to the control of any Asiatic authority, and (2) that the Dutch might be informed that Australia desires Dutch New Guinea to remain a colonial possession of the Netherlands, and would expect the Netherlands to give Australia certain positive assurances regarding native welfare, economic development and military facilities, in Dutch New Guinea.

connection the Department of Defence and the Department of External Territories. However, a decision may be taken by the Netherlands in the course of the next few days and prompt action by Australia concerning its interests in Dutch New Guinea appears to be called for. [4]

[AA:A1838/278, 309/1/1, i]

1 See Canberra Times, 10 June 1947. See also Document 80, paragraph 1.

2 An annotation by Kelly dated 20 July reads 'possibly 1,000,000 now'.

3 The word 'not' was added by hand.

4 An undated annotation by Burton on the cited copy reads: 'Seen:

no action at present.' On 24 June, Forsyth instructed Kelly to initiate action to obtain the views of the Departments of Defence and External Territories and draft memoranda dated 14 July seeking the comments of the two departments were submitted to Burton for signature. On or about 16 July, however, these documents were returned unsigned with the following comment by Burton: 'I do not think this has any defence bearing and their comments would add little to our understanding of picture.'

[6]. It may be necessary for the Department to consult in this