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47 External Affairs Office, London, to Department of External Affairs

Cablegram 560 LONDON, 31 July 1946, 1.40 a.m.


The following is the full text of Dr. Evatt's speech at to-day's meeting of the Paris Conference. Begins.

We meet here because we have been victorious comrades in arms.

Together we have defeated the aggression of the Axis and their satellites. By united efforts and common sacrifices we have overthrown great tyrannies and won a new birth of liberty.

First of all. We do right to recall the great achievements of the leaders in the struggle. Of the French to whom we pay special tribute at this centre of civilisation. Of the British who stood so firm even when almost alone. Of the Russians whose epic resistance to Hitler was a turning point in the European war, and of the people of the United States whose effort has been of supreme significance in the Far East as well as in Europe, and last but not least of our Chinese Allies who held fast against Japan during long years of indescribable suffering.

Our general standpoint as to the status of this Conference is clear and definite. Our object has been to make this, the first Peace Conference, a reality and not a mere formality, to do everything possible to ensure that at this meeting of 21 nations the peace to come is based upon the principles of justice and right, and is attained by democratic methods. The war we have fought was a peoples war. We are here to advance a peoples peace.

We are only servants and ministers in the cause of peace and justice for all peoples.

I have referred to the deeds of the five major powers, but the title of the other 16 countries to take part in the making of the peace settlements derives from the active part each has taken in the defeat of the enemy states in Europe.

Australia's title to peace making Australia's own efforts illustrate this fact, and I cite them for that purpose. Twice in this generation Australia's sons crossed the world for the defence of freedom in Europe. Twice they have taken a worthy part in the defeat of those who set out to dominate Europe and the world.

As we meet here, in company with the other nations who have shared the sacrifices and contributed substantially to our common victory, my thoughts turn to my own countrymen who fought and died so that we and not our enemies should make the peace. I think of the many thousands of Australian airmen who fought the enemy over Europe and the Middle East throughout the whole six years of the war. I think of the great campaigns waged by the A.I.F. in North Africa and the Mediterranean until the ferocious and decisive battle of El Alamein was fought and won. I think of the help given by the Australian Navy in delivering crippling blows at crucial moments against the Italian Fleet and of the heavy toll levied upon our sailors on nearly all the seven seas. As General MacArthur has said, Australia's war effort in the Pacific struggle against Japan was exceeded only by the massive effort of the United States Forces in that vast theatre of the world war.

This is not even a bare outline of Australia's contribution. Yet that contribution is paralleled by the bitter sacrifices and supreme achievements of the other 16 countries to whom I have referred, and so, in the name of Australia's fighting men who from beginning to end gave themselves without stint to the war in Europe and Africa, and to the war against Japan, I salute their comrades in arms represented here to-day. Australians will never forget those beside whom they have fought, whether it be those, like the Greeks, whose gallant resistance to overwhelming Axis forces they were privileged to share, or those who, from 1939 onwards, came across the seas with them from distant continents, from New Zealand, from India, from South Africa, from Canada, or those who carried on the desperate war of resistance in their own countries throughout the bitter years of enemy occupation, and rose in arms to throw off their Axis oppressors.

Right of participation by all belligerents It is universally admitted that the contributions to victory made by the peoples represented here warrant their being consulted about the making of this peace. The real question which has concerned us was whether consultation by the major powers represented the full extent of our rights or whether active partners in the war should not also be entitled to active participation as partners in the making of the peace. Australian opinion on this point of fundamental principle was never in doubt.

The right of making the peace should belong to all those nations who have been partners in achieving the common victory.

It seemed at least to Australia doubtful whether the Potsdam Agreement was clear enough to guarantee to the actual belligerents the right of full participation in the peace making process.

Accordingly I was deputed by the Australian Government to place the case before members of the Council of Foreign Ministers then meeting in London in September last. There I urged that those countries which have made active and sustained contributions in the European sphere of war were clearly entitled to participate in the peace making, that a fair and democratic peace could be obtained only by fair and democratic procedures and that the justice of the peace settlements depended to a large extent upon the active participation of a wider group of belligerents than those of three or four or five major powers.

Australia was actively supported in its claims by all the other British Dominions, and also by the smaller European countries, and our claims in no way detracted from the primary and necessary leadership of the major powers. But we insisted that meantime belligerents were entitled not merely to the right of consultation, but to equal rights of actual participation in the peace making process.

I now quote a few sentences from Byrnes' broadcast address of 5th October, 1945, after the requests of Australia (and other belligerents) had been made public. At Berlin, he said, it certainly was never intended that the three powers present or the five powers constituting the Council should take unto themselves the making of the final peace. The Berlin Declaration setting up the Council begins with the statement, 'The Conference reached the following agreement for the establishment of a Council of Foreign Ministers to do the necessary preparatory work for the peace settlements'. The Council was not to make the peace settlements, but to do the necessary preparatory work for the peace settlement.

Mr. Byrnes' statement was completely satisfactory in principle.

However, in the subsequent Moscow agreement of December last the Council of Foreign Ministers was accorded a right not expressly given to it in the Potsdam Agreement, i.e. the right of final review of the Peace Conferences recommendation. However, it is certain that the Moscow Agreement intends at least that, as an essential condition of the concluding stages of making peace with the five enemy states, recommendations should proceed from this Conference to the Council of Foreign Ministers. This intention should be carried out in the spirit as well as in the letter.

otherwise what comes out of this Conference will be imperfect, and of small significance.

Other declarations which have been made are also important.

Speaking in London at the end of the meeting of the Council of Foreign Ministers last year M. Molotov said, in reference to the proposed Peace Conference, that such a Conference is convoked in order to name improvements or changes in the drafts, otherwise Conferences are not necessary, and Mr. Byrnes, speaking after the Moscow meeting, said that the Moscow procedure contemplates and requires that the nations represented at the Conference formally and publicly make their recommendations. Certainly the United States would not agree to a final treaty which arbitrarily rejected such recommendations. Certainly the great powers which drew up the draft Charter for the United Nations at Dumbarton Oaks did not ignore the changes suggested by the smaller powers at San Francisco; and, speaking of the Peace Conference, Senator Vandenberg thus referred on the 21st May last to the American policy on the matter. It is a policy which invites all of our partners in the war instead of a closed corporation of big powers to have a proper voice in the making of the treaties and the writing of the peace which result from the common victories which we all helped win. More recently in July last, Senator Vandenberg said after the Peace Conference the last word again reverts to the four great powers in the Council of Foreign Ministers.

But the conscience of the Allied world will have spoken in the interim, and it speaks with superlative authority. Without making any further analysis of the precise meaning of the Potsdam and Moscow declarations enough has been said to justify certain conclusions. Each of the 21 nations has equal rank and voice in this Conference. We have a big job to carry out and we should proceed to its performance with the utmost despatch. For it is absolutely clear that in these final stages of the peace making the greatest possible weight will be attached to the deliberations and recommendations of the nations which admittedly have actively waged war with substantial military force against European enemy states. Much depends upon the question whether in practice the sponsoring powers here will follow the example of San Francisco and be prepared to hear their co-belligerents not as suppliants or as advocates or as mere consultants, but as partners who have proved their worth as partners in the great struggle against our enemies. The spirit which will animate this Conference is far more important than the mere literal adherence to declarations which have been made in the past.

Principles of peace making I, therefore, turn to consider what are the general principles which should govern the review of the draft treaties.

First, we are not justified in imposing our common will upon the defeated enemy in any spirit of mere vindictiveness or caprice.

Our aim is justice. Looking to the future as well as to the past for we are, in a sense, the trustees of all the United Nations, of all the ordinary men and women throughout the world who look to us to give an enduring and a just peace to them and their children.

However concerned we may be in the interests of our own countries, we must never lose sight of the fact that all the peoples of the world have a stake in this peace.

If we approach our task in this spirit we shall keep in mind certain fundamental principles. First, we should adhere to our solemn undertakings in the Atlantic Charter and the United Nations Charter and try to ensure that the principles set out in these Charters are given the fullest possible application in the Peace Treaties. Second, we should ensure that our recommendations and decisions are based on an impartial and thorough examination of all the relevant facts affecting each of the questions raised.

Third, we should be careful not to impose such unjustifiable burdens and humiliations upon the peoples of the five States as will prevent the growth of genuine democratic forces or foster the resurgence of Fascism. Fourth, our main objective should be the attainment of a just and durable overall peace structure and not merely the settlement one by one of a series of particular and isolated claims by individual nations against their neighbours.

Australian proposals We fully appreciate the work already represented by the draft treaties which the Council of Foreign Ministers has prepared for our consideration; but, it is the obligation as well as the right of the nations which have not shared in the preparation of these drafts to analyse them in the light of sound general principles and to make such constructive criticisms and specific recommendations as are called for. Accordingly, the Australian Delegation will, like the other delegations, draw attention to those provisions in the draft treaties which can and should be improved. Wherever necessary we shall make suggestions for the inclusion of additional provisions on matters that have either escaped the attention of the drafting powers, or would appear to be necessary to give full effect to the principles of the Atlantic Charter and the principles of the United Nations Charter, principles which are binding on all represented at this Conference. Proposals and suggestions of the Australian Delegation will be made from time to time in the appropriate Commissions and Committees. Here I shall only refer to some of the main questions that, in our opinion, require examination, and indicate briefly our provisional point of view.

Territorial provisions First. There are the territorial provisions of the treaties. The importance of territorial changes achieved by war has often been exaggerated. For many people in the frontier regions of this small, crowded continent, the question as to which side of a boundary they live on is really less pressing than that of how to make a reasonable living for themselves and their children. It is not surprising that many people are inclined to cry 'bread before borders, butter before guns'. So far as particular frontier adjustments are concerned, Australia adheres to the view we have consistently expressed in the United Nations Organisation that before a decision is reached, there should be a thorough examination of the relevant facts in each case. No doubt the Council of Foreign Ministers has had much material placed before it. There is every reason why this Conference should have access to this same material, and any other new facts relevant to particular frontier changes. I would stress the fact that we are concerned not merely with the individual proposals considered in isolation from each other, but also with the wider implications, political and economic, of the changes considered as a whole.

The Australian Delegation will, therefore, favour where necessary the appointment of a special Fact Finding Committee to prepare and report on material required by the several Committees concerned with the frontier provisions of the various treaties.

Italian Colonies On the question of the Italian colonies, the Australian Delegation consider that the making of decisions as to the future administration of the colonies, should rest not with the Foreign Ministers Council as such, but with all those countries which like Australia and the other British Dominions, have through their great losses and sacrifices in liberating such territories, earned a vital interest in their future disposal or administration.

Trieste The main principle of the proposed settlement for Trieste is similar to that submitted by Australia and New Zealand to the Council of Foreign Ministers as long ago as September last, but some of the features of the solution may prove unworkable in practice. It seems too that we shall be brought face to face again with the further difficulty that it is proposed to give the Security Council important discretionary powers in relation to Trieste, and that under the Charter of the United Nations Organisation any proposed decision of the Security Council may be blocked by the veto of any one permanent member of the Council.

For these reasons it seems essential that the Trieste proposal should receive the closest scrutiny from this Conference.

Reparation questions I now mention the economic and financial aspects of the treaty, including the reparations proposals. I submit that these aspects require close review before the treaties will be satisfactory from the point of view of a just overall settlement. One overriding principle of the settlement should be to ensure economic co- operation between the five countries and their neighbours. We feel that the Council of Foreign Ministers has, not unnaturally, concentrated its main attention upon political and territorial problems rather than upon economic and social arrangements. It is our hope that all the members of the Council of Foreign Ministers will welcome a strengthening of the treaties in their economic and social aspects. The reparations provisions of the treaties are admittedly incomplete and important questions are left unanswered.

Article 64 of the draft treaty with Italy certainly gives an impression that the U.S.S.R. is to be given some degree of precedence over other claimants who suffered heavily at Italy's hands. It may be too that several of the proposals would tend to assure to the U.S.S.R. a privileged position in the future direction of the trade and economic life of all the countries contributing reparations.

These reparations provisions need precise clarification. For that purpose the Conference is entitled to receive the fullest information as to all the facts and reports on reparations placed before the Council of Foreign Ministers. In the absence of that information, a fair and impartial review of the treaties is obviously impossible. Speaking more generally, the Australian Delegation takes the realistic view that if reparations are exacted to a point which seriously retards the economic rehabilitation of the nations paying them, the general level of trade and living standards of other countries and peoples will be endangered.

In principle, the exaction of properly assessed reparations is reasonable and just, but the treaty should provide assurance that reparations now exacted will not create a situation of serious economic concern to European countries. In considering the problem of reparations, it is important to keep in mind that some of the countries with which we are to make peace have for a long period been subject to economic domination by Germany. In such cases their economic structures, including their industrial development and distribution of resources, have been distorted by the practical compulsion which required them to fit into the economic needs of Germany. The readjustments now to be imposed are of such a character that a major reorientation of their economic structures may prove to be beyond their slender resources.

This interdependence in the economy of European countries illustrates the principle that reparation claims should be dealt with as an integrated whole and not in isolation from each other, or in a way which will once again establish economic subservience on the part of the contributing country.

European economic organisation The economic questions are so important that the peace treaties could usefully include provision for closer economic co-operation between European states. Agriculture, steel, coal, hydroelectric power, and all the major resources of Europe wherever situated should become available to all the peoples of Europe. While the federation of European states may not be practicable, some of the benefits of such a system could be achieved by encouraging the establishment of economic organisations on a European or regional basis. This would not prejudice the real autonomy of each national unit. It again would be of practical value if all the European countries affected by the proposed treaties became members of the Food and Agricultural Organisation, the International Wheat Council, the International Labour Office, and other organisations designed to promote the twin objectives of full employment and higher living standards. It is by such practical measures of economic co-operation that the gaping wounds of Europe may gradually be healed. We must do our utmost to promote such economic arrangements that full employment and high living standards may ultimately be secured for all European peoples.

Throughout international discussions on economic policy Australia fought successfully for one principle of full employment. Not only for domestic but for international reasons, in the realisation that a low level of employment in any part of the world inevitably threatens employment standards elsewhere. Nothing can be more disastrous or more likely to lead to a resurgence of war and Fascist aggression than unemployment. Poverty and low standards of life, poverty and depression in Europe menace peace and prosperity, not only there but throughout the world.

A positive peace The task in which we are engaged, is not the mere perpetuation of Armistice terms. Not the mere cessation of a period of armed conflict, not the mere preparation for another interval between European wars. True peace is not the mere absence of war but a positive and actively beneficial state of affairs and so the ultimate task before us is nothing less than creating the framework for a renewal of European civilisation, but civilisation in larger freedom. That is a noble enterprise.

It is fitting that countries like Australia should make their contribution to this great objective. In the Pacific we are inheritors of European civilisation, and in a sense trustees for it. in the field of arms we have twice come to Europe to redress a balance heavily tilted in favour of tyranny. Our contribution in the field of social and economic well being may equally help to prevent the utter disaster of another European war. We cannot accept the cynical view that history must, of necessity, repeat itself. The fact that the war chapters of history have been repeated in the past is largely due to the lack of foresight on the part of some of those who imposed the peace.

The peoples of the world look to this Conference to help substantially in framing a peace based on social justice and economic betterment. Only by such a peace can freedom from fear and freedom from want be ultimately assured to the men and women and particularly to the children of this continent. Ends.

[AA:A1067, ER46/18/1]
Last Updated: 11 September 2013

Category: International relations

Topic: History