276 Wheeler to Chifley

Minute CANBERRA, 14 April 1947


Purpose of Agendum This Agendum [1] recommends that a Sub-Committee of Cabinet consisting of the Treasurer, the Minister for External Affairs and the Minister for Immigration consider the question of Australian participation in the I.R.O.

Implications of Participation 2. So far as the Treasury is concerned the principal consideration is that membership of the I.R.O. may involve Australia in a financial commitment of about A850,000 annually for several years.

3. Australia's contribution for the first 12 months has been estimated at 1.97% of the Administration Budget ($4.8m.) and 1.76 of the Operational Budget ($151.2M.) or about A850,000. There is in addition a large scale resettlement budget of $5m. but contributions to this are voluntary.

4. A large proportion of any Australian contribution would probably be required in 'free foreign exchange'. In considering Australia's financial contributions it must also be borne in mind that we will have other Post-U.N.R.R.A. relief requests (see Agendum No.695C [2]).

5. The Treasury view is that Australia should participate in I.R.O. only if it is considered that the expenditure involved would be fully justified on immigration or political grounds.

6. In inter-departmental discussions to date the view taken by the Department of Immigration has been that Australia has no interest in the I.R.O. from an immigration angle. Australia is opposed to the principle of large scale resettlement in Australia and at the moment can obtain more British migrants than it is able to accommodate.

7. The Department of External Affairs on the other hand is of the opinion that the settlement of the refugee problem in Europe and Asia is of direct political interest to Australia. Attached to the present agendum is a copy of a communication from the United Kingdom requesting Australian participation in the I.R.O. [3]

Conclusion 8. The Department of Immigration has suggested that the question be referred to a Sub-Committee of Cabinet. The Treasury has no objections to this procedure.

9. On the other hand we would emphasize that the issue for decision is whether the political and humanitarian arguments in favour of Australian participation in the I.R.O. justify the financial cost and outweigh any possible embarrassments to our immigration policy. Perhaps Cabinet could assess these broad issues immediately and thereby eliminate the need for a special Sub-Committee. [4]

P.S. You will recall that Commander Jackson [5] discussed this matter with you.

1 Dated 11 April.

2 Document 74.

3 A letter from Addison to Beasley, dated 14 March, enclosing a memorandum. Beasley forwarded the documents to Chifley on 18 March.

4 On 16 April Cabinet appointed a Sub-Committee (Chifley, Evatt and Calwell) to consider the matter and report.

5 R.G.A. Jackson, Senior Deputy Director-General, United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration.

[AA : A571/158, 46/2943, 1]