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76 Memorandum from Dunk to Burton

Canberra, 7 June 1950

I refer to your memorandum 708/10/5, of the 2nd June outlining certain proposals for technical assistance in South and South-East Asia,2 which resulted from the recent Sydney conference.

The Commonwealth Public Service Board will be pleased to join in any inter-departmental discussion which may be arranged to further consider the technical assistance scheme.

Clearly, more precise procedures will need to be defined, and particularly so in relation to provision of technical personnel. It is not merely a matter of how we do it but where the people are to come from and what limits are set in the various professional, etc., categories.

'How' is relatively easy. We could either establish a central recruiting agency in Australia to meet the demands which would be co-ordinated through the Colombo Bureau, or we could allow the Bureau to recruit in Australia. The first would be preferable, but either way we would have to set limits.

This leads us to where the people are to be found. Australian expansion is making demands which are beyond our present capacities in nearly all fields of endeavour, and particularly in trained administrators, and the whole of the professional group. Public Services throughout Australia, as well as industry, are recruiting professional and technical people in the United Kingdom, Europe, New Zealand and other countries. We would go deeper into the North American field except for currency difficulties. The product of Australian Universities does not look like meeting Australian needs for some years, and our policy of expanding population through immigration will consistently increase need.

A realistic approach to the provision of assistance in terms of technical and professional personnel from Australia is therefore that it will be very difficult for us to find any large numbers of people without adversely affecting our own services and developments.

The great problem of the world has always been to adequately manage its affairs and its resources. The necessity for improved management is, I assume, the background of the proposed technical assistance scheme. Best long term results would, in my opinion, flow from the provision in the backward South-East Asia counties of technical schools and colleges which could deal, at the most elementary stage, with problems of craftsmanship and management. This first step could, and should, be wholly provided within the countries concerned, except for top supervision of methods of instruction, etc. Language difficulties, if there were no other, would prevent it being dealt with in any other way. The follow up to this should be the establishment of local Universities, which should be selective in range of curriculum in the early stages. Linked with these two phases of educational development could be the selection of English speaking Asians for instruction in Australian Universities, technical colleges, schools of administration, etc., and the selection of any qualified Europeans who are thoroughly familiar with the language to assist in equivalent educational development in the countries concerned.

An approach on these lines would, 1 think, give the best long term results and it could be supplemented (to whatever extent we may be able to spare the people) by selected groups of professional and technical specialists in such categories as railway engineering, telecommunications, etc.

The above expresses my very preliminary and personal views. I set them down in case they may be of assistance to your Department in handling this difficult problem.

[NAA: A 1209, 1957/5406]

1 W.E. Dunk, Chairman, Commonwealth Public Service Board.

2 Document 75.

Last Updated: 10 January 2017

Category: International relations

Topic: History