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194 Note from Arnott to Casey

September 1951

In your letter of 19th July1 to the Prime Minister regarding the welfare of Asian students in Australia, you referred to the danger of students becoming subject to Communist influences. A concrete example of this danger is to be found in the following:

Last June the Chairman of the 'East-West Committee' of Melbourne wrote to you regarding the Committee's proposal to hold an Exhibition of Asian culture in the Melbourne Town Hall during September. We consulted the A.S.I.O., who replied that four of the members of the Committee, including the Chairman, were adversely noted in their records. We have now learned from the United Kingdom High Commissioner's Office that East-West Societies exist in Singapore and Rangoon and that, although neither has come to adverse notice since 1946, there is firm evidence that at any rate in the immediate post-war period both were being used as cover for the dissemination of Communist propaganda. In the circumstances the Committee was informed on 4th August:

'It is regretted that, after careful consideration, it has not been found possible to extend the assistance sought.'

The Committee apparently derives its support mainly from the various National Student Clubs (e.g. the Malayan Students' Association). The danger of its influence on them is therefore considerable, and you may care to bring this example of what you have previously mentioned to the notice of the Prime Minister, who is considering your letter of 19th July.

It would appear that we are faced with two alternatives: either we take positive steps to help Asian students in Australia or we leave them open to Communist influences, thus largely nullifying our efforts under the Technical Assistance programme.

[NAA: A 10299, A 18]

1 Document 184.

Last Updated: 10 January 2017

Category: International relations

Topic: History