289 Makin to Calwell

Cablegram 1610 WASHINGTON, 8 December 1947, 5.33 p.m.


Shipping for displaced persons.

Your telegram 1324. [1]

Since my interim telegram 1527 Minister has continued to press matter with State Department. Accompanied by General Wood (P.C.I.R.O. Washington) he attended a conference with Wisner (Acting Assistant Secretary of State for occupied areas during General Saltzman's absence at the Council of Foreign Ministers), Warren (Population transfer adviser) and Fierst. Stirling put forward Commonwealth Government's proposal which General Wood formally supported. Wood however makes it clear that he considers there is little prospect of United States authorities agreeing.

Following points emerged from discussions:-

1. Burden of maintaining displaced persons in United States zone does not at present rest with United States Government but P.C.I.R.O. United States Government has subscribed to extent of 45.7% of the 100% operating budget of I.R.O. (which according to Wood represents approximately 60% of operational budget reduced to amount believed to be realisable) and at present time provides approximately 80% of voluntary contributions.

2. Wood stressed the competition which the partition of Palestine and the prospects of opening it up for migration will arouse.

3. Both State Department and Wood also stressed the distance between Europe and Australia and length of time taken by ships for voyages and subsequent overhauling in United States Yards compared with short voyage to Halifax, Canada. Warren said that Canada had agreed to take 20,000 displaced persons per annum and were ready to step total up to 30,000 as soon as goal of 20,000 was in sight.

He added that priorities of displaced persons themselves were (1) United States (2) Canada (3) Australia (i.e. as opposed to South America).

4. Wood summarised his present facilities, namely, three ships ex United States Army Stewart (my telegram 1544) Sturgis and Heintzelman. He said that before he left Geneva agreement had been reached for use of two British ships possibly three (of which he did not know the names) with somewhat smaller carrying capacity wh[ich] he hoped would be used on the run to Australia. He added that within the last few days a good prospect had arisen of his getting a fourth ship from United States Army General Black of similar type to their other three.

He said that present agreement with army which expires in March would be renewed till June and he believed it would be further extended throughout 1948.

Stirling urged careful examination of cost of maintenance as well as transport and Wisner undertook to give whole question full consideration. Warren suggested that if not possible earlier, a way out might be found for budgetary period commencing 1st July 1948.

We have also been in close touch with Sargeant, deputy and interim successor of William Benton whom you saw when you were here and who made enquiries as to probabilities. Impression he got and passed on confidentially was that there was little prospect of getting further money for I.R.O. from Administration at present time and furthermore that I.R.O. is 'not over eager to go out of its way in direction of Australia', because of the lower costs of settlement of displaced persons in Western hemisphere. [2]

1 Dispatched 13 November. Calwell proposed that Australia offer to take 8000 displaced persons from the American zone in Germany in exchange for the United States providing two C4 vessels to the I.R.O. for the transportation of the persons to Australia without charge.

2 Makin reported on 19 December that the Department of State had formally declined the Australian proposal because neither funds nor suitable ships were presently available. The matter would, however, be kept under consideration.

[AA : A1068 IC47/31/14]