557 Pyman to Barnett

Memorandum CANBERRA, 7 October 1947


A proposal has been made to convene an organisational conference for the South Pacific Commission in Sydney early in November. The attached documents will provide you with full information on this subject. At the moment we are endeavouring to secure ratification by the French Government of the South Pacific Commission Agreement. The French Minister in Canberra has assured us that delay is due to procedural difficulties. This assurance has been confirmed by a cable dated 2nd October from our Legation in Paris which states that the French Government intend requesting ratification by Parliament as soon as it meets. It adds that the French Government is meanwhile willing to participate in the organisational conference and concludes by mentioning that the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs trusts that we will appreciate that any delays have been due to mechanical causes and do not represent reservations as to the desirability of proceeding with the organisational work of the Commission.

2. The Australian Minister at The Hague has already advised us that the Netherlands Government is anxious to attend the conference in Sydney, whether or not it has ratified the Agreement by that date. He adds that delay in ratification has been due to procedural difficulties, and that the Netherlands Government is studying the means by which they can participate in the organisational conference in the event of ratification not being achieved by the time the conference convenes.

3. Information received from our Embassy in Washington however, indicates that the State Department would prefer to await final ratifications by all Governments before the Commission proceeds with its preliminary work. They apparently do not consider participation in the conference in November would be practicable partly because several people who they would wish to attend will be engaged in Assembly work in New York and partly because they feel it would involve anticipation by the executive of a Congressional decision. They had mentioned however, that if all other Governments have ratified they might be prepared to give further consideration regarding participation.

4. We intend to point out to the United States authorities the willingness of the French and Dutch authorities to proceed with the organisational conference and to press them to reconsider their attitude in the light of the recent undertakings and assurances received from the French and Dutch Governments. We are extremely anxious to convene the conference in Sydney as we fear that continued delay in setting the Commission to work may cause irreparable harm to its prestige and reduce considerably its capacity to function effectively. There are many urgent problems resulting from war-time disorganisation which require immediate attention and it is these problems which provide the Commission with a real opportunity to produce concrete results for the administrations responsible for native peoples in the area.

5. We should be glad to have any comments you may care to make regarding the likely French attitude (both of Metropolitan France and of representative French citizens resident in the French territories in the South Pacific) to the organisation of the Commission. Recently it was informally suggested to the United Kingdom, Australian and New Zealand authorities by French representatives that Noumea might be a suitable site for the headquarters of the Commission. All three governments replied that such matters can only be considered after the organisational meeting of the Commission had been held and adequate inspection of the area accomplished. We should be glad also to receive any information you may be able to obtain regarding the probable attitude (if any) of the native inhabitants in the French possessions towards the Commission.

6. We shall advise you of any further developments in regard to the conference in Sydney.

[AA : A1838,344/5/1]