89 Teppema to Chifley

Letter CANBERRA, 26 February 1948

I was very interested to read the replies you furnished in the House last week at Question Time on the 'Petrol' and 'Shipping' situations. [1] I was gratified to hear you say that you hoped normal trade relations will be resumed between our countries and to note your public assurance that the Government is not a party to the imposition of any ban.

In this connection I venture to ask you whether since our last conversation you have had an opportunity to sound Mr. Clarey as to the feasibility of having the A.C.T.U. resolution of August of last year [2] rescinded? Your attention has perhaps been drawn to the statement that the K.P.M. has cancelled the impending sailing of the first ship which was to open the Singapore-West Australia Line and which, I understand, has been specially fitted for the transportation of livestock and meat to the Federated Malay States. Apparently the K.P.M. feels that this Line, which is of great advantage to the West, must remain in abeyance until the attitude of the Unions is clarified. All of which tends to show that our people are anxious to avoid a situation which would be embarrassing if discrimination of the Dutch flag were again demonstrated by the refusal to load ships for Singapore.

At the same time neither you nor I should allow the situation to drift along as at present. It is needless to repeat the arguments in favour of a cause of which, I believe, you are convinced.

Almost every day something fresh occurs which brings home to me the urgency of some positive action to break the ban. The whole thing is more than ever out of date since the truce in Indonesia has been implemented, to the satisfaction of both sides. I confess that I am at a loss to understand what the Unions really want and what they are waiting for now. Surely the view cannot seriously be put forward that the implementation of the projected political set up in Indonesia should be completed before the lifting of the shipping ban can be considered?

1 In answer to questions on shipping and petrol in the House of Representatives on 18 and 19 February Chifley stated that the Australian Government hoped for a negotiated settlement in the NEI so that trade between Australia and the Netherlands could be resumed and that the Australian Government was not a party to the imposition of the trade union bans on Dutch shipping. Commonwealth Parliamentary Debates (CPD), Vol. 196, pp.4-5, pp.76-7.

2 On 14 August 1947 a conference of seventeen unions and the Australian Council of Trade Unions passed a resolution condemning the Netherlands' first 'police action' and calling upon Australian trade unionists to boycott Dutch goods 'until the A.C.T.U. in consultation with the Federal Unions concerned, again considers this question in the light of any decision of the United Nations and the Indonesian Trade Union Movement declaring that some change of policy is desirable.'

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