560 Evatt to Marshall

Letter NEW YORK, 16 October 1947

I desire to draw to your attention the delay which is occurring in the establishment of the South Pacific Commission. Since the South Pacific Conference in Canberra in February 1947, which decided to establish this Commission, the Governments of Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom have ratified the agreement, and there appears to be nothing in the way of ratification in the near future by the Governments of France, the Netherlands and the United States. In the United States, as you know, ratification did not occur at the last session of Congress because of a slight difference in the text of the bills as adopted by the two Houses of Congress. I understand that United States ratification can be regarded as certain at the next session of Congress.

The Australian Government is concerned that the delay in the ratification of the agreement is preventing essential preliminary work being undertaken to establish the Commission. The result is not only postponement of the essential work which the Commission is designed to undertake, but also a feeling which is growing among the peoples and the administrations of the South Pacific, that the work is not regarded seriously by the member Governments and that very little can be expected from the Commission.

To meet this situation, the Australian Government has proposed that the precedent set by the Caribbean Commission should be followed. That Commission, which was the successor of the Anglo- American Caribbean Commission but was more extensive in scope and membership, began its work without waiting ratification of the agreement by all member Governments. Before ratification had been completed the Commission appointed its Secretary-General, established its Secretariat, and drew up its budget. The United States Government participated in these activities long before ratification had been completed.

The Australian Government has accordingly issued an invitation to the other five Governments to attend a preliminary meeting of representatives in Sydney in November. This invitation has been accepted by every Government except the United States. The United States Government has indicated that it is reluctant to take any action, such as the designation of a Commissioner, which they feel might arouse Congressional resentment if it were done in anticipation of Congressional approval.

The United States Government has also expressed the view that the present preparatory body should continue its work in preparation for the initial meeting of the Commission in January, and has argued that there was nothing which the November conference could do which could not be equally well done by the bodies now in existence. In this regard, however, I would point out that the present preparatory body consists only of a small Australian and New Zealand staff, and that under the Agreement this body is authorised only to make preparatory arrangements for the first meeting of the Commission. The Australian Government has been careful not to cause any action to be taken by the preparatory body which would exceed this authority or which might prejudice the future organisation or operations of the Commission, because it has been the Australian Government's desire to have full international participation in these matters at all stages.

The Australian Government feels that the time has come when member Governments should be prepared to send representatives to meet together to plan the early phase of the Commission's work. The Australian Government does not believe that this early preparatory work, on matters on which all Governments can readily come to agreement, should be delayed pending formal ratification. It would create a most unfortunate impression among the peoples of the Pacific if the first meeting of representatives were not held until one year after the original conference in Canberra.

I would, therefore, ask you to give earnest consideration to this matter and to designate a representative to attend the preparatory conference in Sydney in November.

[SFU : EVATT COLLECTION, SOUTH PACIFIC COMMISSION]