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103 Evatt to Curtin

Letter CANBERRA, 29 March 1944


I refer to your letter of 13th March [1] in which you asked to be furnished with a memorandum on Post-War Shipping policy for your use whilst in London.

In the first place, I would like to point out that the Labor Party's policy in this matter is as follows:-

(1) Having regard to the serious shortage of shipping, and the necessity for the provision and maintenance of adequate shipping facilities from and to Tasmania, this Federal Conference of the Australian Labor Party urges the Commonwealth Government to- Expedite the construction of ships wherever possible of either wood, steel or composite materials.

(2) The institution of a Commonwealth Shipping Service for the purpose of securing cheaper freights on the carriage of products, both interstate and overseas.

In addition to the foregoing a memorandum has been prepared by Departmental officers and two copies are attached hereto. This memorandum might be read in conjunction with the above-mentioned decisions of the Party.


Attachment (extract)



Under the following headings are indicated what are regarded as the most important aspects of Australian shipping policy in the postwar period and Section II of the Report amplifies Items 1, 2, 3 and 4 of Section I.

1. Maintenance of an adequate Australian mercantile marine, including the continuance of the Navigation Act for the purpose of preserving to Australian ships the coastal trade of this country.

2. Adoption of a policy which will ensure that Australia secures an increasing share of the shipping services between Australia and the adjacent islands in the Pacific and the East Indian and Malayan areas.

3. Continuation of shipbuilding in Australia as an ancillary to the maintenance of an Australian Mercantile Marine, and as a measure of National self-protection.

4. As an island remote from the largest manufacturing centres of the world and in preparation for the emergency of war, Australia must be self-reliant to as great an extent as practicable in regard particularly to the maintenance of ship repair and shipbuilding facilities.

5. Maintenance of British shipping, particularly in the Pacific and Far Eastern areas.

6. Maintenance of shipping between Empire countries at the lowest possible rates.

7. Improvement of the speed of communications between United Kingdom and distant Dominions including particularly the provision of fast passenger and mail ships.

8. Continuance of the existing policy of no discrimination against the flag of any country which does not discriminate against the British flag. Australia is a signatory to the 'Convention and Statute on the International Regime of Maritime Ports' which was drawn up at Geneva on 9/12/23 and which is designed to ensure the fullest measures possible of freedom of communications by guaranteeing in ports equality of treatment between ships of all contracting states, their cargoes and passengers.

9. Co-operation with the International Labour Office on maritime labour questions. In expansion of this, it should be stated, unless the provisions of the Immigration Act apply, a coloured seaman can be employed on Australian registered ships so long as he is paid Australian rates. There is, however, a danger possibly that an indiscriminate acceptance of conclusions of International bodies such as have been mentioned, may result in admission of the principle of unrestricted admission to the Australian Maritime Industry.

10. Continuance of the Imperial Shipping Committee. This body, which was formed after the last war, reports on matters of importance to British shipping such as Marine Insurance, Shipping Rebates, Legal Conditions of Sea Carriage, maintenance of British shipping in various parts of the world, etc. The Australian Government contributes to its expenses. The Imperial Shipping Committee is available for advice and to summon Conventions, conferences, etc. when necessity arises.

11. in company with the United Kingdom Government, to collaborate with other like-minded Governments in establishing conditions in which the shipping of the world can be efficiently and economically carried on having particular regard to the attainment of the best possible conditions of employment.

[matter omitted]

1 On file AA:A5954, box 646. Evatt was Acting Minister for Supply and Shipping.

[AA:A5954, BOX 658]
Last Updated: 11 September 2013

Category: International relations

Topic: History