At the meeting of the Consultative Committee on the Colombo Plan held in February, 1951, the Ceylon representative proposed that there should be held in Colombo early 1952, an exhibition of the resources, products and culture of the countries of South and South-East Asia and countries from outside that area which are members of the Consultative Committee. The timing of the exhibition is intended to fit in with the visit of the Royal Family who will be on their way to Australia at that time. The venue chosen is the Victoria Park covering an extent of nearly 40 acres of park land in the heart of Colombo and it is proposed that the exhibition would run for about four weeks.
2. Ceylon has made it clear that the primary purpose of the proposed exhibition is not to demonstrate progress under the Colombo Plan, but more to assist in promoting its implementation. The exhibition is intended to illustrate the needs and availabilities in the countries concerned, the matching of which will be the basis for achieving the objectives of the Colombo Plan.
3. Indications are that Commonwealth countries participating in the Colombo Plan will each erect a pavilion in Victoria Park and will divide their exhibits into sections showing Colombo Plan activities and commercial aspects. The United Kingdom, Canada and Pakistan have advised that they will participate and the Philippines have indicated willingness to do so. India is expected to participate, but it is understood that New Zealand is unlikely to do so. The decision of the United States of America has not yet been received. The Council for Technical Co-operation has been invited and will participate with an exhibit demonstrating the technical assistance programme.
4. This proposal has been examined by an Interdepartmental Committee and it is the recommendation of that Committee that Australia's interests in the area warrant Australia's participation in the exhibition. Primarily, this participation would represent Australia's expression of good-will to Ceylon and the other Governments concerned. The exhibition would also be of considerable value however in publicizing Australia's trade in the area. Australia has not yet had an opportunity of mounting a large-scale trade exhibit in any of the countries of South-East Asia. If a trade exhibition is arranged in Ceylon as part of the general Australia exhibit, it may be possible to move it to other countries in the areas where Australian Trade Commissioners are stationed.
5. If Australia is to participate in the exhibition it will be necessary to proceed with an exhibit consonant with the prestige Australia already possesses in South-East Asia. In this respect, it is considered that the size of any Australian exhibit should cover a minimum area of 2,500 square feet. The United Kingdom is expected to have an exhibit covering 10,000 square feet and Pakistan one covering 2–2,500 square feet. Estimates obtained through the Department of Works and Housing show that it would cost approximately �4,000 to supply and erect a suitable building of the proposed size in Colombo. A prefabricated building at this cost would have a substantial residual value after the exhibition. Inclusive display costs, which would include the cost of such exhibits as a working model of the Snowy River scheme, would be about �2 per square foot. It is estimated, therefore, that Australia could participate with a first class exhibit for a cost of �10,000 some of which would be recoverable.
6. It is recommended that:—
(a) Approval be given for a maximum of �10,000 to be expended on the exhibition, half of this sum to be provided from funds already approved for technical assistance under the Colombo Plan.
(b) Any moneys recovered from the sale of the building be returned to Colombo Plan funds. (Alternatively the building could be presented to Ceylon as a gift.)
(c) An interdepartmental supervisory committee consisting of representatives of the Treasury and of the Departments of External Affairs, Interior and Commerce, be appointed to examine and recommend upon detailed expenditures; the Department of External Affairs to provide the Chairman of the Committee.
(d) The Director of Trade Publicity of the Department of Commerce and Agriculture be appointed as Exhibition Director; and
(e) The Australian Trade Commissioner at Colombo be appointed Executive Officer for the management of the Australian exhibit in Colombo.
[NAA: A9879, 2202/0]