26 Teppema to Evatt

Letter CANBERRA, 17 January 1948

The gratifying news which has come to hand from Batavia prompts me to write to you pursuant to the conversations I had the pleasure of having with you on January 2nd. [1]

You will recall that on that occasion, as during my talks with the Rt. Hon. the Prime Minister on November 27th [2], I anticipated that a settlement of the dispute with the Djocja Government would be arrived at in the very near future. I believe that I gave you as my opinion that the United States of Indonesia would be proclaimed very shortly. If at all possible this government would include the Republican Representatives; if on the other hand the efforts to secure the effective cooperation towards the implementation of the Linggadjati Programme would fail again I expressed as my opinion that the Netherlands Government would go ahead with the envisaged political structure without Djocja.

Happily the patience and forbearance of my Government in conjunction with the activities of the Commission of Good Offices to the great value [of] [3] which the Netherlands Prime Minister gave due credit is bearing fruit. The truce is a reality from to- day if the Djocja Government has the situation in hand in the sense that it does and can control the elements which up till now sabotaged the possibilities of agreement. As to the political aspect I assume that you are fully acquainted by your own officers and Mr. Justice Kirby of the important developments which took place particularly during the last 6 weeks all pointing in the direction of a realisation of the projected political structure.

Amongst the information which has become available I would particularly draw your attention to the very full statements made by Dr. Beel, the Netherlands Prime Minister, during his visit to Indonesia and in date of the 15th [4] instant on his return to the Netherlands and those of Dr. van Mook [5], the Lieutenant Governor-General, which show that the basis for the discussions on the political construction of Indonesia has been laid as well.

The foregoing leads me to the problem which from the outset of my mission has been of great concern to me. I refer to the boycott now in operation for 2 years and 4 months. Facing the situation as I have been able to observe during the last 6 months squarely and speaking frankly I have no hesitation in saying that the action of certain Trade Unions has cast a deep shadow on the relations between our countries. It appears to me that it is of little use to try and minimize the significance of sanctions as have been imposed by the Seamen's Union and the Waterside Workers Federation.

My experience has been that the numerous complications and difficulties which we have to face continually are directly or indirectly all related to the boycott. Hence the unremitting attention of this Mission has been required for removing points of incidental friction in which efforts I gladly place on record that the Australian Government on various occasions was cooperative.

With all that, my work is doomed to remain of a negative character if the root of the evil is not removed.

I submit and maintain my Government's view that the shipping boycott never at any time has been a justifiable measure for the purpose of bringing about a settlement of the Indonesian dispute.

Furthermore I challenge the view that the boycott ever had any substantial support from the Australian people. On the contrary my investigations and my sounding of the public opinion have shown that probably the vast majority of unionists, if not completely ignorant of the issue involved, are rather indifferent as to the events which have occurred in Indonesia since 1945. My opinion in this connection is not based on the established views of, what might be termed, the conservative press.

In other words I venture to suggest that the attitude of the Unions in question has been solely inspired and determined by certain leaders. Up to the present their leadership has been followed without questioning to such an extent that in practice the impression was created that the control of the relations with the Netherlands was almost taken out of the Government's hands. I recall that, during your absence from Australia [6], I believe in the beginning of August, discussing the then applied extension of the ban on the Continental Shipping under Dutch flag, the Prime Minister emphatically assured me that he would not permit any such stand. [7]

I recognise the difficulties which confronted your Government the last few months and which seemed to render any efforts for the lifting of the shipping ban well nigh hopeless. I refer to the time when my Government was compelled to restore law and order.

Nobody but you is better informed to know, as subsequent developments have proved, that the Netherlands action was right.

If as we trust wiser counsels will from now on prevail in Djocja, world opinion will judge the creation of the United States of Indonesia and the Netherlands-Indonesian Union as an inspiring example of enlightened statesmanship.

Under these circumstances I would fail in my duty if I were not to stress upon you the necessity for positive action now by the Commonwealth Government for the termination of the ban. From all points of view the moment is opportune. The fact that an interim Federal Government almost entirely composed of Indonesians has come into being speaks for itself.

During the previous conversations above referred to I already touched briefly on specific matters which as far as the Netherlands are concerned require immediate attention and early solution. I am convinced that the desire of your Government not only for good relations with us but also for the restoration of trade is very widespread and that your Government will receive the full support of the people of Australia if determined steps be taken to remedy a situation which to qualify it mildly is sadly out of date.

I beg to reiterate a previous suggestion that the Rt. Hon. the Prime Minister whose frank approach and great understanding of this problem I duly appreciate, together with the Hon. Minister for Supply and Shipping, should take the Union leaders in his confidence. I cherish the belief that if the radically changed situation be placed before them and adequately explained, the leaders may be induced to reverse their attitude and trust your Government that the interests of Australia as a whole require the lifting of the ban. I repeat that if your Government is successful we can go right ahead with the constructive work which has been waiting for so long. Failure or delay would result-I fear-in further deterioration of the relations.

I am sending a copy of this letter to the Rt. Hon. the Prime Minister...

1 See Document 1.

2 See Volume XI, Document 438.

3 The word in square brackets was added by hand.

4 Presumably a reference to the Government declaration made by the Netherlands Prime Minister in Parliament on 13 January.

5 In Ministerial Dispatch 1/1948 of 9 January, Eaton reported the resolutions of a conference consisting of Van Mook, the Netherlands ministers visiting the NEI and representatives of non- Republican political units in the NEI. The conference recommended: the formation of an interim government for the preparation of a sovereign United States of Indonesia; an arrangement whereby this interim government supervised military forces in Indonesia and maintained internal security; and the revision of the Netherlands constitution.

6 Evatt was absent from Australia between 11 July and 12 August 1947.

7 No record of such an assurance has been located.

[AA:A1838, 403/3/1/1, xiv]