75 Tange to Burton

Minute CANBERRA, 13 January 1949


This is case you asked for.

A case can also be made against.

Both will be a priori until we know more about the actual situation. Probably nobody knows. But Critchley ought to be asked, particularly as Cochran has made his own judgement.




The demand for the withdrawal of Dutch troops and Civil authorities from areas occupied as the result of military action can be supported by the following:-

(i) The Dutch action was undertaken in violation of the Security Council's cease fire order of 1st August, 1947 [1] as interpreted by the resolution of October 31st 1947 [2], the Renville Truce Agreement [3], and the United Nations Charter. Withdrawal is therefore required in order to uphold the United Nations and in the interests of simple justice. Advantages gained by the Dutch as a result of unlawful military action should not be retained.

(ii) While the Dutch continue to occupy areas recently acquired, Indonesian guerilla activity is likely to result in the destruction of material resources and prevent normal economic and commercial development. Resultant poverty is likely to encourage growth of extremism.

(iii) The failure of mediation is likely to persuade former moderate elements to extremism. Withdrawal may in some degree restore confidence in more moderate procedures of attaining national independence.

(iv) The Dutch action if not successfully opposed may unite extreme Nationalist and Communist elements throughout South East Asia in a widespread racial campaign.

(v) Australian support for withdrawal is likely to cement friendly relations with the peoples of South East Asia. Strong ties of friendship with Australia's neighbours in the north would be an invaluable safeguard in the event of the outbreak of hostilities.

[(vi) Elections conducted under Dutch occupation could not reasonably be represented as unrestricted.]

On the other hand the United Kingdom [and United States] have claimed that withdrawal of Dutch troops now would not be justified for the following reasons:-

(i) the demand would be ignored;

(ii) withdrawal would result in chaos and further bloodshed.

A demand for withdrawal which could not be backed with force might succeed only in strengthening the Dutch position. Since the Security Council has failed to adopt proposals for a withdrawal it may be assumed that such a demand would not be backed by the Council and in any event the application of sanctions to enforce any move of this nature could not be relied upon.

The contention that the resumption of occupied areas by the Republic would entail chaos and bloodshed is not supported by the facts. The Republic has proved itself capable of restraining dissident elements and maintaining effective government in spite of the difficult conditions resulting from prolonged Dutch blockade. A withdrawal observed by the U.N. should [not be] open to abuse. The withdrawal of Republican troops through the status quo line following the Renville Agreement was not in fact accompanied by the abuses feared by the United Kingdom.

It is concluded that while a demand for withdrawal is both just and in the best interests of Australia, it would not be effective unless [failing Security Council action], supported by determined enforcement action by those countries neighbouring upon Indonesia [as a measure of collective self defence under Article 51]. [4] Nevertheless, if Australia were not to continue to support such a demand, the existing goodwill of the Governments and peoples of South East Asia would be forfeited.

1 On 1 August 1947 the Security Council called on the parties to the dispute to cease hostilities and settle their dispute by peaceful means.

2 A reference to the resolution adopted at the 219th meeting of the Security Council on 1 November 1947. This resolution called on the parties in Indonesia to consult with each other to give effect to the resolution of 1 August 1947.

3 Document 22 in Volume XIII.

4 The words in square brackets in this Document were added by hand. Article 51 of the United Nations Charter affirms the inherent right of UN member stats to individual or collective self-defence in the event of armed attack against any UN member until such time as the Security Council takes measures to maintain international peace and security.

[AA : A1838, 401/3/1/1, vi]