6 Letter From Ex-Servicemen's Association To Prime Ministers

30th July, 1951


The Federal Executive of the abovenamed Association [1] have instructed the undersigned [2] to forward the attached copy of a policy, which we think should be adopted in regard to future trading with Japan.

[matter omitted]


REPENTANCE 'ON THE CHEAP' The draft of the peace treaty with Japan, which permits unlimited re-armament and the withdrawal of Occupation forces, provides that Allied P.O.W. will be indemnified from 'Japanese assets in neutral countries'. A figure of 14,000,000 has been mentioned as the total from which the claims of all Allied P.O.W. must be met.

Australia has over 16,000 ex-prisoners of the Japanese now living.

Many thousands more died in those jungle hells. When other countries have taken their share from the 14,000,000, how much do you think each ex-serviceman scarred physically and mentally for life, each struggling dependent family, will have as their reward for toil and fortitude? A few pounds-no more.

The mesh of international politics takes no account of human wreckage. Peace treaties must be signed, and trade must be resumed. Expediency conquers all.

We can thrust the plight of our war widows and children away from our eyes with indecent haste; but save us from the final hypocrisy of pretending that a pittance administered by an international body can do what we have failed to do.

Instead, let us combine sentiment with practical realism and Levy a duty on all items sent by the Japanese to this country.

This duty to be on a per ton or per article basis as the base might be, and to be paid directly by the Japanese exporter on entry of the goods into this country or on release from bond here.

The duty to remain in force for a specified period-say, three years-and to be sufficiently heavy to provide a substantial sum, equivalent to a good insurance policy or the present scale of workers' compensation payment. This sum to be administered and paid over as it accrues direct to P.O.W. families, war widows and dependents of servicemen.

The duty should never be allowed to become a debt as between governments-previous reparations experience shows that it would rapidly become a mere book entry. It should remain a tax to be paid by every Japanese firm or individual wishing to do business with Australia, to be collected before the goods are allowed in, and to be paid over as soon as possible.

After such a duty had run its course, we could settle down to the task of cooperating with our former enemies, feeling that they had at least made some material effort to expiate their crimes. [3]

1 The Thirtyniner's Association of Australia, representing all three Services.

2 Thomas H. Parker, Honorary Federal Secretary.

3 The Department of Trade and Customs commented that the proposal was impracticable, as most imports from Japan were essential goods for Australian industry and building unobtainable elsewhere. A levy would simply increase costs or deprive Australians of scarce materials. Letter from Turner to Brown, 8 October 1951, AA :

A463/17, 56/984.

[AA : A463/17, 56/984]