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96 Memorandum by Department of External Affairs

Prime Ministers' Conference [Briefing paper] No. 7 (extracts)

CANBERRA, 27 March 1944


1. The post-war settlement in the Pacific is a vital matter for Australia because the stability of the region in which we live is at stake. Our long-term security depends on the progress made in the Southeast Asiatic area from economic and social backwardness, strategic weakness and international rivalry towards economic strength, prosperity and political stability. There are two groups of problems- (1) Security, and (2) Colonial Policy.

2. From one point of view these are interdependent. Stability cannot be achieved without a security system, but neither can it be assured by a security system alone. A security system in the Pacific will stand or fall ultimately according as economic policies and projects give prospects of a decent living for all Pacific peoples. In the long run there cannot be freedom from fear unless there is freedom from want.

3. From the point of view of organisation, however, it is suggested that clarity can only be achieved by making a distinction between security and welfare. Commissions concerned with promoting economic and social development need to be free from responsibility for defence. Bodies responsible for welfare activities need to be able to assume the existence of a shield of security.

A. REGIONAL ARRANGEMENTS IN RELATION TO WORLD SECURITY 4. There are dangers in a purely regional approach to security.

While there is a place for regional organisations within a general system, a Pacific system would clearly be unsound unless it were integrated into a general international organisation. This was recognised in the statement by the Minister for External Affairs on 4th October, 1943:-

[matter omitted] [2]

5. Australia and New Zealand need the assurance of Western power in the Pacific. Their community life is based on economic and cultural integration with Atlantic countries but they lie far outside the Atlantic area and alongside vastly bigger communities of a different character. The contrast between Western and Eastern modes of life is heightened by the disparity between the ratios of population to resources in Asia and Australia. Australia's position must be one of fundamental insecurity while this contrast exists. It therefore stands in special need of the sort of guarantee that in former times British naval supremacy could provide but which in future can be provided only by either a permanent alliance of great powers or an effective international system. Regional arrangements within this framework can be used to give clearer definition to international collaboration, but regional arrangements unrelated to or ill-adjusted to a general system would not provide security.

6. These considerations, however, it is submitted, would not justify a policy of relying on other Powers and making no contribution of our own to security. Each country must have trained forces; forces require bases; and the use of both involves plans and strategic arrangements with neighbouring and allied countries. Herein lies the proper object of regional arrangements for security-the provision of facilities and the contribution of trained men, material and bases by the Governments in a given region according to an agreed plan as part of a general system.

7. Further, the possibility of the eventual collapse of a regional or general system cannot be ignored. For this reason it would seem necessary that our share in regional and international security systems should be such that we will be in a position- geographically in regard to bases failing to our care, industrially in regard to armament production, militarily in regard to trained and equipped forces of all arms-such that in the event of the system becoming weakened we should be ready to defend ourselves. This suggests the desirability of our securing (i) direct responsibility for the policy system in the area adjacent to our shores, including (ii) the right to use bases in Timor, Dutch New Guinea, New Guinea, New Britain, the Solomons, New Hebrides and New Caledonia and to see that these bases are satisfactorily maintained; (iii) a share in the security arrangements covering Malaya, N.E.I., Japanese Mandated Islands and British Western Pacific possessions, as well as (iv) a more general share in the Pacific security system as a whole.

8. The greatest possible measure of stability in the Pacific is essential to Australia. Our interests are therefore incompatible with reversion to a colonial system which would be on the one hand a standing challenge to non-colonial powers such as Germany and Japan and on the other hand an affront to the growing number of colonial peoples who are developing towards independence.

9. Our special position in the Pacific dictates a long-term interest in the cultivation of political, economic and social strength and maturity among the native communities of South-east Asia and Indonesia. Events have proved the weakness of an order in this part of the world which was a projection into the Pacific of the interests and influences of separate Western Powers and was motivated by European rather than local and Pacific considerations. Our long-term interest lies in the emergence of a group of self-reliant and co-operative Western Pacific States.

Guidance by advanced nations, however, will obviously be indispensable for a considerable time. This fits in with our vital interest in having Western Powers present in the Pacific region, for security reasons, but it will also be necessary in our interests that this guidance be subject to external supervision in which we could participate.

10. The economic question is linked with security. Australia has a purely economic interest in future opportunities in Pacific countries and it is important therefore that there should not be discrimination against us. But our interest far transcends this, since we wish this area to cease to be a zone of international conflict.

11. The examination of many important aspects of this question are proceeding in other spheres of interest-e.g. the informal and preparatory talks that have taken place on post-war economic collaboration, the proposals for Anglo-American discussions on the future of world petroleum, the suggestion for an enlargement of the scope of the International Rubber Agreement, and the proposals for commodity agreements and an international investment fund. It is impossible at the moment, therefore, to do more than emphasise the importance of this phase of the question and of linking international agreement on such subjects with regional organisation.

12. It might also be emphasised that the Australian policy pursued in international economic discussions-i.e. the raising of standards of consumption and 'full employment' to create an 'economy of abundance'-also applies to the Pacific, subject only to the necessity that may exist in some cases to slow down the use of resources if native welfare is thereby endangered. Generally, Australia might receive a twofold benefit from such a policy in the Pacific. In the first place our export trade would benefit.

But again our larger interest is more fundamental than this commercial one: stability in the Pacific and consequently security for Australia depend on accommodation being found for the energies of Asiatic peoples, especially Japan, which must export either goods or people. Policies for the expansion of economic opportunities of course would not be limited to the Pacific area.

The economic position of Japan and all other countries is affected by conditions in all parts of the world. But South-east Asia is one obvious and appropriate field for international action to foster development, productivity, rising standards and expanding trade. Australian interests would require our full participation in such schemes and in their control.

B. COLONIAL POLICY AND REGIONAL ORGANISATION OF COLONIES 13. The Principles of Australian colonial policy (as stated in speeches by the Minister for External Affairs on 3rd September, 1942 [3], and 14th October, 1943. in telegrams to London numbers 2, 14 and 36 (1943) [4] and in the Australian - New Zealand Agreement [5]) may be summarised as follows:-

(i) The broad principles of the Atlantic Charter should be applied;

(ii) There should be a general system of security, as effective in colonial areas as elsewhere;

(iii) Colonies must share in the benefits of economic collaboration;

(iv) 'Trustee' states should accept accountability to some international body;

(v) Trustee states should promote social, economic and political development;

(vi) Native peoples should participate in government and administration to the fullest possible extent;

(vii) Exclusive economic rights in non-self-governing territories should be relinquished by all powers;

(viii) Administration should remain the responsibility of powers associated with respective territories in the past, subject to changes necessary to general security;

(ix) Colonies should be grouped under Regional Commissions for purposes of international collaboration;

(x) Australia should participate in the control of the affairs of South-east Asia and the Pacific area.

14. In applying these principles in the Western Pacific region, two types of colony have to be provided for, those of Indonesia, and the small and scattered insular possessions in Oceania. The geographic, racial, cultural, economic, strategic and almost all features and problems of these two areas differ profoundly. it is suggested that it would therefore be fitting that in matters of colonial welfare there should be two commissions, one comprising Indo-China, Malaya, Netherlands Indies and Portuguese Timor, the other the Micronesian, Melanesian and Polynesian islands. There must obviously be close co-ordination between the two commissions on matters of common concern, e.g. security, development and migration, air communications.

15. If this proposal were acceptable, it is suggested that the membership of the two commissions might include the following- (a) Indonesian Commission: United Kingdom, Netherlands, France, Portugal as 'Trustee' States; United States, Australia, China, Thailand, Burma, Philippines as States with major interests:

(b) South Seas Commission: United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, United States, France as 'Trustee' States and perhaps the Netherlands and the Philippines as powers with major interests.

16. In the telegrams referred to the Commonwealth Government advocated international supervision and said in effect that this would be best executed by a general international commission. The reasons for this are both political and technical.

17. The political importance of the colonial question was demonstrated long before the war. Colonial administration cannot realistically be treated any longer as wholly a domestic matter;

it is clearly a matter also of general interest. Any attempt to exclude third powers from some voice in the guidance of non-self- governing peoples and the economic development of colonial territories would foment criticism. The wise course would appear to be to make concessions to this legitimate and admitted third- party interest. But it would be better to make the concessions on the level of principles of policy and general supervision than on that of practical administration; that is, on the level of a general supervisory commission rather than on that of regional organisation.

18. There are other considerations, partly political and partly technical, which point to the need for a general commission. While no precise scheme has yet been worked out, it is now generally considered that some world-wide political organisation-some permanent association of nations-will be needed to replace the League of Nations. It would seem desirable if not necessary that colonial affairs should be brought within the purview of such an association of nations and, through it, linked with international collaboration in security and economic matters.

19. The chief difficulty is to provide for the two different main purposes of international organisations in this field. These two types of function may be distinguished as those of supervision and those of practical co-ordination of effort in the execution of trusteeship. To obtain good practical results from international co-operation in a given region, it is necessary that a regional commission consist of Government officials personally versed in the problems at issue, competent to advise their Governments and to voice the official views and explain the practical methods of their Governments. But by the nature of its membership a regional commission of this kind would find it difficult to supervise, inspect and report to the international community on the merits and shortcomings of administration by colonial powers. The work of co-ordination on a wide range of technical matters could not be done to best effect by a commission which was also charged with making a critical review of each Power's administration. Its members would be put in the impossible position of sitting in public judgment on their own Government. On the other hand, if a regional commission were given the tasks of supervision it would cease to be a meeting place of officials concerned to get practical results by collaboration with neighbouring administrations.

20. Any commission charged with the tasks of supervision as the representative of a general world interest in colonial peoples would gain in impartiality by including non-colonial Powers and would gain in freedom if it did not also have the tasks of coordinating technical detail as between colonial administrations.

21. It is therefore suggested that the functions of supervision, inspection, representing world opinion and general third party interests would be undertaken by the general world commission.

This body would review the work of regional commissions and of the various colonial administrations, from which it would receive regular reports. The personnel would properly be expert, non- official, non-political and permanently appointed. The model of the Permanent Mandates Commission [6] would be appropriate, but the powers might usefully be somewhat more extensive. The regional advisory commissions could then be concerned with the practical working-out of the principles of trusteeship. They would be consultative, collaborative bodies, concerned with mutual assistance and practical co-operation between colonial administrations. Their members would be officials engaged in actual administration in various fields and competent to advise their Governments.

1 i.e. item 3 (c) of the suggested agenda conveyed in cablegram D335 of 5 March. On file AA:A5954, box 646.

2 The matter omitted cites two paragraphs of Evatt's speech in Parliament concerning Australia's security interests in the Pacific region (see Commonwealth Parliamentary Debates, vol. 176, pp. 568-79).

3 See ibid., vol. 172, pp. 78-84.

4 Documents on Australian Foreign Policy 1937-49, vol. VI, Documents 94, 97 and 115 respectively.

5 Document 26.

6 i.e. of the League of Nations.

[AA:A1838, 277/2, i]
Last Updated: 11 September 2013

Category: International relations

Topic: History