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65 Stuart to Evatt

Memorandum [1] CANBERRA, 6 March 1944

Now that Dr. van Mook has arrived in Australia [2] and discussions may be expected on the Netherlands Government's desire to set up a Netherlands Indies Administration in this country, it may be useful to examine how far Dutch co-operation may be secured for the aims of Australian national policy, and to have on record an account of Netherlands official activities in this country since the fall of Java.

2. Major aims of Australian policy in the South-West Pacific and South-East Asia are:-

(1) The formation of a South-Western Pacific zone of security, in the establishment of which Australia will act with the United Kingdom, the United States, New Zealand, Holland, France and Portugal;

(2) Collaboration with other nations to promote the economic development of the South-Eastern Asiatic and South-West Pacific region and the welfare and advancement of the indigenous peoples, looking to the long-term need of political and economic stability of strength in the area;

(3) The development of communications, especially of air routes, involving terminal facilities for direct air lines to these territories and staging facilities there for international trunk routes;

(4) Co-operation with other powers with major interests in the area, especially with smaller powers, to ensure that major political decisions are not decided on a basis of power politics by the three great powers alone. [3]

3. As the Netherlands Indies is the most important and the nearest of neighbouring countries, the place in Australian policy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands (the whole Dutch policy, including Holland, the Netherlands Indies, Curacao and Surinam) is clearly of the first importance.

4. While it is very difficult to estimate the probable nature and strength of the Dutch hold on the East Indies after the war, or to estimate the importance of the Netherlands in world affairs generally, it is safe to assume that these will approximate closely to those prevailing before the war. The whole Dutch nation will of course have been considerably weakened. Holland will have been economically disorientated by the German occupation and the Indies by the Japanese, while in each territory the governing political and economic class will have been reduced in numbers and strength. On the other hand assistance in restoring the Dutch position both in Europe and Asia is likely to be forthcoming from the United Kingdom on strategic grounds. The United Kingdom Government has already given a formal undertaking to restore the Netherlands and its possessions and although leading Dutch personalities have expressed concern at the possible development of United States policy, it is unlikely that the United States will depart greatly from the United Kingdom attitude in this regard, although the United States might well seek a considerable voice in the Malaysian [4] settlement. It is therefore prudent to assume that the pre-war political shape of the Netherlands Indies will be in the main modified only in so far as this is brought about by the Dutch themselves.

5. The main indication of Dutch intentions in this respect is contained in a broadcast by the Queen of the Netherlands in December, 1942, announcing that a conference would be held after the liberation of Netherlands territory to discuss the structure of the Kingdom of the Netherlands 'in order to adapt it to changed circumstances'. The address contained this statement:-

'I visualize ... a Commonwealth, in which the Netherlands, Indonesia, Surinam and Curacao will participate with complete self-reliance and freedom of conduct for each part regarding internal affairs, but with readiness to render mutual assistance.

It is my opinion that such a combination of independence and collaboration can give the Kingdom and its parts the strength to carry fully their responsibility, both internally and externally.

This would leave no room for discrimination, according to race and nationality. Only the ability of the populations will determine the policy of the Government.'[5]

6. The outcome of this conference can at present only be guessed.

The creation as its outcome of a fully autonomous Netherlands Indian dominion is highly unlikely, owing to the economic dependence of metropolitan Holland on the Indies, the lack of political consciousness or of administrative experience of all but a very small number of Indonesians, and the possibly weakened position of the so-called 'Blijvers', or locally-born European Dutch. On the whole therefore we shall probably have to deal with an administration in the Indies of European Dutchmen actuated by motives of self-interest, reluctant to delegate authority to Indonesians, severe in repression of nationalist agitation, and tenacious of the position in the Pacific of Holland as a western colonial power.

7. This rather unpromising prospect may present very difficult problems for the development of Australian policy.

8. A primary factor in this connection will be Dutch fear of a second Asiatic conquest, and a consequent willingness to enter wholeheartedly into any scheme of South-West Pacific regional security. The experience of 1941, when the Indies' inadequate supply of war material could not be augmented from Europe or America will also lead the Indies administration to look to Australia as a source of defence materials in time of emergency.

Similarly a sense of solidarity with their western neighbours to the south may prove a considerable influence on the Indies Dutch in their relations with Australia, of which Australia may tacitly take advantage, while, of course, itself following no policy which would offend Indonesian aspirations, or compromise our long-term aims.

9. The second important consideration will be Dutch fear of United States imperialism, or alternatively of internationalist forces in the United States which would endanger Dutch sovereignty in the archipelago.

10. A third reason for expecting an accommodating attitude to this country on the part of the Dutch, both in the Pacific and in Europe, is the dislike of a small power of the present trend in which all major decisions are taken by the three great powers alone without consultation with other United Nations.

11. On both these points there is much to show that the Dutch agree generally with the Australian Government's views. The Dutch Foreign Minister [6] on 25th November, 1943, while making it clear that he understood that 'for Holland there can be no security if in the rest of the world no safety can be found' expressed the opinion that security should be ensured by 'an organisation based on regions, not neglecting the universal factor of an indivisible peace. Such a thing can only be achieved by the collaboration of like-minded States'. [7] The Dutch have betrayed anxiety also at the tendency, mentioned in paragraph 2(4) for vital political decisions affecting smaller members of the United Nations to be taken by the three major Allies without those smaller powers being permitted to exercise an influence commensurate with their interest. The Australian High Commissioner in London said at the end of 1942:

'I have gathered from recent conversations that members of he Netherlands Government have been perturbed by views held in certain quarters of the United States on European Imperialism and the future of the colonies in South-East Asia', [8] and the Netherlands authorities are known to be anxious at the views held by Mr. Cordell Hull and other American politicians concerning colonial reorganisation. [9]

12. The commercial connection between Australia and the Netherlands East Indies was firmly established before the war, but the value of Netherlands Indies petroleum and tea imported into Australia greatly exceeded the value of imports from Australia, although Australian food products found a ready market in the Indies. There is clearly scope for an expansion of exports which would contribute not only to Australian commercial progress but also to the expansion of consumption which is necessary to 'extend the frontiers of human welfare' as the Atlantic Charter envisages.

The impossibility of obtaining supplies from Europe will be Australia's opportunity in the immediate post-war years, and the Dutch have already begun to place orders here in connection with U.N.R.R.A.

13. In the administrative sphere also, Dutch support may be expected for a policy of closer collaboration. Before the war scant attention was paid by the Dutch to their New Guinea colony and relations between the Dutch and Australian colonial administrations, although uniformly friendly, were not very close.

However, unprecedented efforts are now being made by the Dutch to promote a more rapid development of the free zone of New Guinea, and it is to be anticipated that they will welcome the establishment of closer relations with the Australian New Guinea territories. The Dutch are already indebted to Australia for facilitating the establishment of a school for colonial administration in Australia.

14. The discussions with Dr. van Mook may present an opportunity for agreement on a common approach to the major questions with which the Government is confronted at this stage.

15. For the sake of convenience an account of Netherlands activities in Australia since the fall of Java is attached. [10]

1 This memorandum bears Stuart's annotation: 'Mr Forsyth, I prepared this on Mr Hood's instruction as you will recall. I don't know it any action was taken on it. F.H.S. 28/11.' For the re- emergence of this issue in November see Document 335.

2 Dr H. J. van Mook, Netherlands Minister of Colonies, arrived in Australia on 24 February.

3 Policy outlined here is substantially drawn from the Australian - New Zealand Agreement published as Document 26.

4 i.e. the Malay-speaking region.

5 For a version of Queen Wilhelmina's speech of 6 December 1942 on Radio-Oranje see Keesing's Contemporary Archives, vol. IV, p. 551.

6 Dr E. N. van Kleffens.

7 Not located.

8 Not located.

9 See Documents on Australian Foreign Policy 1937 49, vol. VI, Document 56, note 2, and Document 91.

10 Not published.

[AA:A989, 43-44/600/5/1/5]
Last Updated: 11 September 2013

Category: International relations

Topic: History