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

Cablegram UN706 NEW YORK, 15 November 1946, 11 p.m.


Assembly 162.


1. The second day of veto debate opened with forceful and helpful speech by Connally (United States), who emphasised the special responsibility of permanent members as trustees for all members to make the Charter work. He suggested that the Security Council should settle all possible doubts by defining procedural matters.

He opposed the amendment of the Charter as at present impossible but considered Assembly could consider broad outlines of what is attainable. In that respect Australian proposal [1] was moderate as it did not go beyond recommendations for consideration by permanent members.

2. He summarised his main points as follows:-

a. We regard the principle of unanimity as of the highest importance for the success of the United Nations.

b. We believe that the responsibility imposed upon the great powers by the Charter requires them to exert every effort to reach agreement on important issues before the Security Council.

c. We reaffirm the position we took at San Francisco that the veto should be used only in the very rare and exceptional cases.

d We insist that the use of the veto cannot relieve any state from its fundamental obligations under the Charter.

e. We do not favour amendment of the Charter at this time, although we hope that full agreement including of course that of the five permanent members may make it possible in the future to modify the practice of great power unanimity as it applies to the peaceful settlement of disputes under Chapter VI.

f. We believe that the voting formula should be clarified in the light of experience and practical need. The Security Council should embark upon this task at the earliest practicable time.

g. In particular, we believe that the Security Council should agree upon as complete a list as possible of the types of decisions where the veto does not apply.

h. We believe that Article 27 makes it clear within the field of peaceful settlement no state be a judge in its own cause.

i. The problem of great power abstention should be carefully considered, particularly with respect to the peaceful settlement of disputes.

3. In strong peroration Connally insisted that United Nations must succeed other-wise public opinion will seek another remedy.

4. Vyshinsky delivered a lengthy attack on the three proposals [2] before the Committee with special and repeated reference to Australian proposal. He referred to the 'three countries assuming the ungrateful initiative of attacking the organisation' and referred to 'shouts and brutal epithets' and 'vulgar criticism' used by various countries. He laid emphasis on Roosevelt originating the principle of unanimity and that nothing offered to take its place. Australia and Cuba were champions of the campaign which the newspapers had called 'the struggle of small nations against the great'. 'If it was so the Assembly should be closed as soon as possible. 'He continued-'it has already become the tradition of the Australian Delegation systematically to attack the four powers and the Soviet in particular concerning any proposal made. At the Paris Conference it attempted to do so and has tried in all committees to frustrate the Soviet. There were cut out points of Australian Delegation at Paris which were rejected. It moved behind the scenes feeling that its proposals would compromise the Soviet. We all know the fate of the Delegation at Paris'.

5. Pretending to see the weakening of our attack on the veto and a lack of consistency, Vyshinsky said Evatt in an article in 1945 had announced that the great powers must have the power of veto in the Security Council. Later Dr. Evatt had supported the principle of unanimity though recognising that some change was necessary.

6. Vyshinsky proceeded to analyse our statement and justify use of veto in Syrian-Lebanon and Spanish affairs as having been used courageously by Soviet in defence of the rights of weak and oppressed in spite of Australia and others.

7. He concluded with general attack on proposals as masked attempt to break up the great powers. He finally appealed for agreement and mutual trust between the five great powers.

8. Peru stated that revision of the Charter was premature as political as opposed to juridical reasons for the existence of the veto still persisted. The statement that the amendment of the Charter would threaten its existence imposes an obligation on us to be prudent so as not to open the door for possible evasion of obligations of Charter. The use of veto should be restricted to cases in which the security of great powers was involved.

9. Yugoslavia attacked the three proposals as anti-Soviet and aimed at sabotaging peace in interests of reactionary forces, which aimed at dividing the world into two groups. Referred to Australian proposal as striving to undermine Security Council and referred to our attempts at Paris in supporting small powers to impose our will on others to cause delay and to destroy unanimity.

10. Netherlands Delegation spoke firmly along our own line and stated that it would support the reasonable and moderate Australian proposal.

11. Press requested comment from us on Vyshinsky's attack but we passed it off as just another speech in his customary style and pointed out that the real issue was not action in Spain as he had alleged but the fact that the Soviet being in the minority of one had prevented majority of ten from taking action.

1 See Document 172, paragraph 7.

2 The other proposals under consideration were those of Cuba (see Document 217, note 4) and the Philippines (see Document 217, paragraph 8).

[AA:A1838/2, 852/10/5, i]
Last Updated: 11 September 2013

Category: International relations

Topic: History