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196 Australian Delegation, United Nations, to Department of External Affairs

Cablegram UN619 (extract) NEW YORK, 3 November 1946, 2.32 p.m.


Assembly 88.

Further to our Assembly 69 [1], Committee 3.


(1) Discussion on refugees is now scheduled to begin on the afternoon of 4th November, New York time. The following comments on the probable course of the debate and problems involved may be of assistance.

(2) Discussions regarding other Agenda items show that Members of E.S.C. are likely to show impatience at detailed debate on matters already discussed at great length elsewhere. We shall resist this tendency strongly, pointing out that most countries are not represented on E.S.C. and that the functions of the Assembly should not be reduced to mere rubber stamping.

(3) We have suggested to the Chairman (Berendsen) that preliminary general discussion is desirable before any reference to the sub- Committee. In this way, main differences of opinion can be ventilated and non-Members of E.S.C. given full opportunity to express their views. Berendsen agrees, and there is a fair chance that the Committee will endorse this view. It is nevertheless possible that an attempt may be made to refer the subject at the earliest possible moment to sub-Committee, particularly as regards detailed examination of the Draft Constitution.

We will oppose this, but, if unsuccessful, will stress the need to appoint to the sub-Committee a reasonable number of non-Members of E.S.C.

(4) Our instructions are clear on the general question of preferring Commission of E.S.C. to new specialised Agency [2], and we can now draw some support for this view from general statements made in the Plenary Session by the Secretary General and by some other countries. We will emphasise that the onus of proof regarding the need for establishment of the New Agency lies on those advocating it-so far Australia has not been convinced.

(5) In arguing this point however, we may be challenged to give precise details as to how, in our opinion, the Commission could deal urgently and efficiently with the problem of refugees (see paragraph 8 of our Assembly 69). We would appreciate your immediate comments on this. In the meantime, we may have to suggest, if pressed, that a sub-Committee be appointed to examine and report on this aspect.

(6) In arguing for E.S.C. Commission, however, we may find that other countries, including those who support our view, may claim that all Members of the United Nations (including Australia) should, in these circumstances, make reasonable contributions to the Refugee Budget. In view of our instructions, we shall of course reserve the Australian position fully and make no commitment. we would, however, appreciate your urgent instructions as to the line we should take regarding contributions to operational budget as distinct from Administrative Budget. If we are to argue that contributions to operational budget should be voluntary, two points need to be kept in mind.

Firstly, we may meet the view that unless Governments contribute to operational expenses they should not be given any share of control and that it would be better to do without contributions of such countries to small Administrative Budget. (See our Assembly 69.) Secondly, as the Eastern Group also opposes compulsory contributions to Operational Budget, care will need to be taken to avoid suspicion that Australia shares the political views of the Eastern Group regarding definition of refugees and regarding the need to return refugees to countries of origin even if they do not wish to return.

(7) As regards the views of our Treasury Department [3], we suggest (and the Ambassador agrees) that the correct approach to the question of costs should be as follows. It is entirely appropriate that Australia should press generally for economy in United Nations Affairs and challenge proposals to establish new specialised Agencies. We have already made a statement on these lines in Plenary Session, and have been supported by the United States and some other countries. Union of Soviet Socialist Republics has also strongly criticised the General United Nations Budget as being too high. This pressure for economy is likely to have some effect. On the other hand we suggest that Australia's interest in refugee problems is wider than mere 'humanitarian' interest. Refugee problem in Europe is a carryover from the war, and, if unsolved, will affect Australia as well as European Countries. Unless solved, it will be a focus of discontent and cause of dissension between Eastern and Western Europe. If, on the other hand, East and West can agree on some machinery to deal with problem, this would be of substantial political importance. In existing circumstances, any practical machinery which may keep East and West working together minimizes chances of break between them. Finally, general Australian political line has been that United Nations cannot succeed unless purposes and principles of Charter are observed. If we do not take reasonable financial responsibility as regards refugees, other countries may feel that we are not living up to our responsibilities under Charter, although, as an unravaged country, we are in a somewhat better position to do so than some other countries.

(8) Comments on the matters raised above would be appreciated and would be of the greatest assistance if received by Monday morning 4th November, New York time. In the meantime, we will adhere strictly to our general instructions. Please advise urgently whether Departmental comments on particular articles in the Draft Constitution contained in our brief have Ministerial approval.

[matter omitted]

1 Dispatched 1 November, it reported informal discussions convened by the United Kingdom with the United States, Netherlands, Denmark, Canada, New Zealand and Australia, on 'Eastern European' reluctance to contribute to operating expenses of the proposed refugee organisation, and possible limitations on participation of states unwilling to contribute, noting that these might include Australia. It sought guidance for forthcoming consideration of the matter in Third Committee of the General Assembly.

2 See Document 164.

3 See Document 157 and note 2 thereto.

[AA:A1838/238, 861/1, ii]
Last Updated: 11 September 2013

Category: International relations

Topic: History