Statement by Minister for External Affairs, the Hon. P C. Spender, on Australia's Financial Contribution to the Colombo Plan for Co-operative Economic Development in South and South East Asia
The Minister for External Affairs, the Hon. P.C. Spender, announced today that the Commonwealth Government had now given careful consideration to, and had reached a decision on, the amount of financial assistance that it can offer to the countries which participate in the plan for aid, to, and mutual assistance in, South and South East Asia, which was inaugurated at Colombo in January of this year on the initiative of Australia.
Mr. Spender added that on November 28th last, in presenting the report of the Consultative Committee ( 'The Colombo Plan for Co-operative Economic Development in South and South East Asia') to the Commonwealth Parliament, he had emphasised the importance of the plan and of its objectives. The Australian Government was profoundly interested in developments in this region, the countries of which were in fact our close neighbours. It was vital both from Australia's viewpoint to help maintain, and to promote, both economic and political stability in the area and to assist in preparing the way for a large-scale attack against poverty, social unrest and extremist ideologies. Australia had already taken a very large share of the initiative in sponsoring this bold and imaginative but thoroughly realistic and progressive programme, and would continue to give all the assistance possible in various ways. The final drafting of the plan clearly indicated the importance and the usefulness of regional co-operation.
Mr. Spender added that the plan had already received wide publicity both in Australia and in countries overseas, which indicated the world interest in it, and in the problems confronting the region of South and South East Asia. From the report itself and from discussions at the London meeting of the Consultative Committee it was clear that, even though the countries of the region had taken, and would continue to take, the strongest measures of self-help, external financial assistance was necessary if they were to carry out their development programmes. It was also clear that even with the combined resources of, and the maximum possible financial assistance from, the countries of the Commonwealth alone, the objectives could be achieved to only a very limited extent. Assistance from other progressive and democratic countries was also necessary to help in this great task.
The efforts being made by the Commonwealth, Mr. Spender added, were clearly illustrated by the contribution upon which the Australian Government, after most earnest and serious consideration, had decided. The Government had agreed to make available no less than 25 million pounds sterling (or 31 and a quarter million pounds Australian) for the period of the plan, viz. June 1951 to July 1957. During the first year, in view of the larger requirements of the programmes in the earlier years, the Government would make available up to seven million pounds sterling (eight and three quarters million pounds Australian).
This was in addition to the sum which the Government had already agreed to contribute to the Commonwealth Technical Assistance Programme for South and South East Asia—approximately three and a half million pounds Australian. Work in supplying such assistance was already well advanced.
The Commonwealth had at present large and increasing demands upon its financial resources. It would have liked to have been in the position to make greater assistance than that announced but the financial commitments of the government would not permit it, under present circumstances, undertaking any greater contribution. The matter would, however, be kept under review.
Mr. Spender added that details of financial arrangements, of the manner in which the financial and economic aid would be provided, e.g. by way of loan or otherwise, and the terms and conditions on which it was to be made available would be worked out between the relevant Government departments within the general limits of the finance approved.
Not only will the success of the plan greatly help to establish political and economic stability in this vast area of the world so important to Australia, but it would further friendly relations between Australia and these countries and, with the increase in living standards which it will promote, would result in ever-increasing trade with mutual advantages to the nations of this area and ourselves.
He concluded his statement by saying he was very pleased to be able to announce the Government's decision and, at the same time, he wished to convey publicly to the Governments concerned and to their representatives here in Australia, the sincere wishes of the Government and people of Australia for the success of this great and laudable enterprise, and the assurance that they would do whatever they could to achieve its success.
[NAA: A9879, 2202/El part 2]