Summary Record CANBERRA, 13 August 1947, 2.30 p.m.
Present: The Minister for External Affairs, the Rt. Hon. Dr. H. V.
Evart, Sir Frederic Eggleston (Chairman), Professor K. H. Bailey (Vice Chairman), Mr. K. E. Beazley, M.P., Brigadier A. S.
Blackburn, V.C., Mr. R. J. F. Boyer, Hon. P. J. Clarey, M.L.C., Mr. B. H. Corser, M.P., Miss Constance Duncan, Hon. E. J.
Harrison, M.P., Sir Douglas Mawson, Professor A. H. McDonald, Mr.
Barry McDonald , Hon. J. McEwen, M.P., Colonel R. S. Ryan, M.P., Professor A. L. Sadler, Mr. T. Sheehan, M.P., Senator Dorothy Tangney, Mr. P. R. Wilkins. 
At the beginning of the sitting, Mr. Harrison asked the Minister whether there was any likelihood of an Asian bloc being formed at the peace conference. The Minister said the possibility had not occurred to him: it was a British bloc many countries feared. He opposed the inclusion at the working conference of nations which did not actively participate in the war against Japan, though it should be possible to call all countries at war with Japan together to hear their views and have them sign the treaty.
On voting procedure, the Minister explained that when Australia struggled for a simple as against a two-thirds majority, or for the latter against a veto, it was to get decisions made step by step en route to unanimity. Unanimity must be obtained in the end.
The U.S. would not agree to the demand of the U.S.S.R. that the Council of Foreign Ministers should draft the treaty. In the Minister's opinion, the attitude of the U.S.S.R. might be dictated in part by the fear that the disproportionate gains of the U.S.S.R. at Yalta might be called into question by a peace conference run along different lines to that in Paris. However the Minister did not see how the Yalta Agreement could be questioned.
The Minister then pointed out how the Cairo and Yalta Agreements had altered the strategic position in Asia. Whereas Japan previously had salients thrusting out in various directions, now the U.S.S.R. had salients into Japan. General MacArthur's view and the general impression in Japan was that the U.S.S.R., with its influence in Manchuria, its control of the two railways and Port Arthur, will control Korea as part of the continent. It would be better for Australia, the Minister felt, if the U.S. controlled the Bonins, Volcanoes and Ryukyus, thus adding two more salients into Japan. Under these circumstances Japan would be practically helpless from a defence point of view. Moreover, if, as some people thought, there might be a danger of U.S.S.R. aggression in the Pacific, then the frontier lay across Japan, much further north than our northernmost possessions in the Admiralties.
Turning to the occupation, the Minister stated that the physical demilitarisation was almost complete, and the framework of democracy had been constructed in Japan. With powerful neighbours waiting on every doorstep, it would be very difficult for Japan to make a military come back.
On the supervision to ensure Japan abides by its provisions after the treaty has been signed, the Minister said we should not try to do too much. On the other hand we should ensure that industries which might be used for warlike purposes do not come into existence in Japan. The control must be effective; nothing could be worse than ineffective control.
Replying to Colonel Ryan's query regarding the progress of democratisation the Minister indicated that the framework of democracy had been laid and the Japanese appear to be conforming to it, but he reserved his judgment on extent to which the Japanese wished to follow the ways of democracy. The peace treaty must contain provision for the continuance of democratic principles, but democracy cannot be imposed from outside by force.
For this reason the Supervisory Commission must be not only a directing but also an advisory body.
Replying to questions by Mr. McEwen and Mr. Harrison the Minister said he believed the United States wished to reduce their forces of occupation but would probably maintain bases in the Bonins and Ryukyus and selected points in Japan. They did not intend to allow U.S.S.R. to gain control of Japan.
Asked by Mr. Corser if any consideration had been given to the possibility of Japan shifting people and industries to such places as Thailand, Burma and Indonesia, the Minister said he knew of no provisions to meet such a possibility.
Replying to a question from Mr. McDonald, the Minister stated he did not think it was practicable to raise the question of the Emperor's war guilt at the Peace Conference.
Miss Duncan asked about the rehabilitation of the Japanese economy, and the Minister indicated SCAP reported the people were underfed, 2 million were unemployed, many others only partially employed, but industry was reviving.
On land reform the Minister asserted very little had been done.
The American view is that 1 million officials would be needed to enforce land reform.
Asked by Mr. Beazley if the Japanese knew they were on the verge of defeat before the atom bomb was dropped, the Minister said that he believed that generally speaking they did and that they had been tremendously impressed by the events of the last few years.
The Minister said criticisms of SCAP by some newspapermen were unfair as they failed to distinguish between what an occupying force can do in the way of physical disarmament and demilitarisation and the long term programme of land, political and constitutional reforms. That the latter reforms were not completed is not a fair criticism of SCAP.
When Mr. Boyer said that it seemed a long period of control was necessary to lay the foundations of democracy in schools and elsewhere, the Minister pointed out that, having provided the framework, no more could be done: one cannot make a democracy of a people and the occupation should not be carried so far that the people will rise up against it.
To Professor Sadler's suggestion the political parties may not be more than mere names, the Minister said it was a possibility but it argued the existence of a very big conspiracy and ought not to be assumed.
On whaling, the Minister pointed out that General MacArthur had emphasised SCAP was acting under instructions from the American Government in authorising the Antarctic whaling expeditions and that these were provisional only. While he thought the resumption of whaling by the Japanese, except with the consent of all countries concerned, should be prohibited in the peace treaty, the provisional attitude had much to be said for it as we were not whaling ourselves.
Sir Douglas Mawson asserted Britain, Australia and New Zealand had opened up the Antarctic region and should have a priority on whaling there. We should ensure that whales are not over fished.
The Japanese before the war stated openly they did not intend to observe the precautions against over fishing. Australia should object to Japanese passing through our waters to the Antarctic and assert our pre-eminent right. Mr. Beazley objected to American films which asserted the Japanese abided by the whaling regulations. When Mr. Beazley asked whether, with the acquisition of Karafuto ,the treaties giving the Japanese fishing and other concessions in Sakhalin were abrogated, the Minister stated the manifest intention of U.S.S.R. was to keep the Japanese out.
Mr. Corset raised the matter of protecting the pearling industry of Australia, and the Minister indicated that it had been proposed to introduce a clause into the peace treaty preventing pearling in waters adjacent to Australian territories and mandates without the Australian Government's consent.
When Mr. Wilkins said that as Japan had lost control of large areas of land and had limited natural resources, it was doubtful whether she could have a balanced economy in the future, the Minister said that, subject to the necessity of preventing the possibility of Japan re-arming, a balanced economy should be encouraged in Japan.
Mr. Harrison suggested that on the removal of European armies from Japan and as a result of a hard peace, there may develop a strong pan-Asian movement. The Minister asserted the important thing was to get a lasting peace rather than a treaty to be periodically adjusted. We must avoid bringing the Allied powers into contempt;
terms which are too rigorous may be as dangerous as those which are too soft.