108 Mr T. Elink Schuurman, Netherlands Consul-General in Australia, to Lt Col W. R. Hodgson, Secretary of Department of External Affairs

Letter SYDNEY, 20 March 1940

By my letter No. L17/5524, of 18th December 1939 [1], I advised you of certain discussions between this Consulate General and the Department of Supply and Development concerning the possibility of supplying various war materials manufactured in Australia to the Netherlands Indies Defence Authorities.

I have since learned that these latter authorities were anxious to send out to Australia a small commission (probably consisting of 3 members) in order to investigate the manufacturing possibilities for these materials in the Commonwealth and that the matter has been taken up through the diplomatic channel (The Hague and London) in order to obtain the official approval of the Commonwealth Government for such a visit. Further discussions with the Department of Supply and Development have shown that a visit of this commission at this juncture would perhaps be somewhat premature, but apparently the Netherlands Indian Defence Authorities are desirous of sending, at a not too distant date, at least one officer for certain preliminary investigations.

Before taking this matter up with the Department of Supply and Development, I would like to enquire whether the steps through the diplomatic channel referred to above have meanwhile reached Canberra and whether any decision has been taken by the Commonwealth Government. I ask this because, if not, I think it more advisable not to approach the Department of Supply and Development immediately. [2]


1 On file AA: A981, NEI 15, i.

2 Hodgson replied on 28 March 1940 that he had no record of any approach to the Commonwealth Govt through the diplomatic channel.

Following renewed representations by Blink Schuurman on 26 August 1940 War Cabinet decided on 16 September that a small Netherlands Indies Army Commission should visit Australia to discuss the purchase of munitions. It was agreed that the visit should be carried out as unobtrusively as possible and that the group should be referred to in public as an Industrial Research Commission. The visit, under the leadership of Col P. H. T. van der Steen, took place during October and November 1940. (See files AA: A981, NEI 15, ii and AA: A1608, F27/2/3.)

[AA: A981, NEI 15, ii]