390 Statement by Bullock at Committee No. 1, Far Eastern Commission

FEC-219/125 (extract) [WASHINGTON], 25 July 1947



The Australian member said that in connection with his Delegation's position on the reparations problem he had a statement to make which he thought would be of interest to the Committee. A verbatim record of the Australian statement follows:


At the outset I should like to emphasize that the Australian Government is as anxious as any country represented around this table to arrive at a just and speedy solution of the reparations problem.

The impasse with which the Committee is now faced was foreseen by the Australian Delegation at the time when the Australian representative made a statement before the Commission on 5 May. As you all know this was to the effect that the Australian Government does not challenge the right of the Far Eastern Commission to determine the total volume of reparations from Japan or the forms which those reparations should take, but that the Australian Government believes that the Far Eastern Commission is not legally competent to determine the question of the division of shares. I don't wish to enter into that legal argument again at this stage.

From the practical point of view as well, it was obvious to the Australian Delegation at that time, and it is even more obvious today after having witnessed how unprofitable subsequent discussions in the committee have been, that we would waste our time endeavouring to arrive at a responsible list of reparations percentages on a 'hit and miss' basis.

The Australian Government does not consider that the present discussions in this committee are likely to be very productive.

There is the practical difficulty that members have only scanty statistical data as to the losses and contribution of the other member countries. This fact can very clearly be seen in some of the percentages which have been presented. I refer particularly to the USSR schedule which gives Australia a percentage of 2.5%. This would prove beyond doubt that the USSR representative is sadly lacking in the necessary information about Australia's contribution to the Pacific War. To allot this figure to a country whose part in the Pacific war was second only to that of the United States is frankly an insult. I could make the same observations about many of the schedules which have been presented. The Netherlands schedule, for example, claims a share for the Netherlands twice as great as that for Australia. This is quite untenable when the scope and duration of their war effort is compared with that of Australia. It is estimated that Australia's losses of servicemen killed in the Pacific Area alone were more than twice as great as those suffered in all spheres by the Netherlands who were unfortunate enough to be forced to surrender to the Japanese in March of 1942.

We believe that the method which is being followed in this committee is too much in the nature of guesswork and blind venture and as the Australian Member of the FEC has said, 'it is a stab in the dark made in ignorance of many important considerations'. The fact that you, Mr. Chairman, should have recently stated that solution of this problem is beyond human power and should have proposed in all seriousness a method which would mean drawing lots for percentages, shows the state of hopelessness which this committee has reached.

My Government has proposed that there should be a careful working out of a system of distribution based on justice and calculated on broad political lines, taking into account the relative contribution of each nation to victory and its physical losses and damage and the personal injuries and loss of life of its servicemen, internees, and other nationals.

We have previously proposed that a tribunal of three independent and preferably judicial persons be established to make the necessary investigations, and have suggested that this tribunal report direct to the peace conference. In that way we should achieve a table of 11 percentages responsibly prepared and accompanied by complete factual supporting material. The final adjustments and the adoption of the allocations should be made at the peace conference, which alone has the power to take account of all relevant factors. My Government believes that this offers the only way to a speedy and just settlement of the reparations question. Events are now moving rapidly towards the calling of a peace conference and we feel that the time has come to give consideration again to the Australian proposal which if followed will very likely produce a definite result within a few months.

The U. S. Member asked the Australian Member whether his statement constituted a challenge and a rejection of the FEC basic policy decision. The Australian Member replied that this was a possible interpretation of his statement.

1 On 25 July the Department of External Affairs instructed the Washington Embassy, in view of the impasse reached in the FEC, to reiterate the Australian view that final decisions on reparations, including allocation of shares, should be decided at the Peace Conference.

[AA : A5104/2, 11/1/2, ii]