BRITISH COMMONWEALTH CONFERENCE-CANBERRA AUGUST, 1947 REPORT TO CABINET
The following report is submitted for the information of Cabinet:-
1. The British Commonwealth Conference in Canberra on the Japanese Peace Settlement began in the Chamber of the House of Representatives on 26th August, and concluded on 2nd September, 1947. Dr. Evatt was unanimously elected Chairman. The other countries represented were Burma, Canada, India, New Zealand, Pakistan, South Africa and the United Kingdom.
2. Some preliminary notes on the agenda by Dr. Evatt were circulated to all members of the Conference two days before it began. These notes were substantially the same as the submission to Cabinet which was dealt with on the 16th August, with a few minor changes to make it suitable for distribution to other countries. These notes were taken by the Conference as a basis of most of the discussions and as a result a great deal of the initiative throughout the Conference rested with Australia.
3. The Conference took no formal decisions on any matters of policy, but substantial agreement clearly existed on all the main points of the Australian submission. The main points are summarised below.
4. Procedural questions. There was general agreement with Australia's view that the peace Conference should be called as soon as possible; that it should contain all the countries now represented on the Far Eastern Commission with the addition, if possible, of Pakistan; that it should be at a Governmental level;
that the method of reaching decisions should be by simple majority for procedural and drafting questions and by a two-thirds majority for matters of substance.
5. Basic Objectives. Representatives were in agreement with the policies enunciated in the Potsdam Declaration and the basic policy of the Far Eastern Commission.
6. Territorial Provisions. Representatives agreed that there was no option but to confirm the territorial changes suggested in the Cairo, Yalta and Potsdam Declarations. There was considerable dissatisfaction at the secrecy in which the Yalta Agreement had been shrouded and in its one-sided nature, but Delegates took the realistic view that the Russians were in occupation of those territories, that the United Kingdom was bound by its signature to support Russian claims, and that therefore little purpose would be served by opposing the territorial changes made.
7. Disarmament and Demilitarisation. There was general agreement that Japan should remain completely disarmed; that all manufacture of armaments and aircraft should be forbidden. Some differences existed over permitting Japan to operate and maintain aircraft for internal services, and in the end the consensus of opinion was that Japan should be allowed to operate some aircraft, but only under strict customs control and for restricted specific purposes.
8. Constitutional Reform and Democratization. The principles included in the Australian paper received general support and the only question that attracted much attention was the amount of detail which it would be practicable to insert in the Treaty.
9. Treaties. The Australian proposals for Japanese ratification and recognition of treaties were generally accepted. With regard to admission of Japan to international bodies, the Australian views were again acceptable, but it was felt that the admission should be left to the bodies themselves and not require prior assent by the proposed Supervisory Commission for Japan.
10. Economic and Financial Provisions. Here again the principles of the Australian paper were generally acceptable. Some discussion took place as to the amount of detail which should be inserted in the Treaty, but little difficulty was found in reaching agreement on most of these points. The programme contains three central elements: Allied security; economic democracy; and retention by Japan of economy which would enable her to sustain herself. Some discussion took place on the nature of controls and the limitations that should be placed on Japan's strategic industries, but the Conference did not attempt to go beyond principles or to discuss technical details.
11. Reparations, Restitution, Costs of Occupation. The Conference discussed the various categories that might be considered for reparations and the total amount of reparations which might be accepted from Japan. The general feeling appeared to be that total reparations would not be very great. The Conference did not discuss the allocation of reparations among the various members of the Commonwealth or among other Allied countries. Australian views on restitution and costs of occupation found general acceptance.
12.Supervisory Machinery. The Conference agreed that there should be supervisory machinery established to operate after the treaty, that all nations which had made a direct contribution towards winning the war should be represented on it, and that its decisions should be by simple majority.
13. The Conference can be regarded as a complete success from Australia's point of view despite some differences of opinion on detail which are unavoidable in an international gathering. Those points which Australia regarded as vital to her interests were acknowledged by the other members of the Conference. The views of Australia and the rest of the British Commonwealth correspond on important matters with the views of the United States Government and it can confidently be stated that the British Commonwealth Conference has already played a valuable part in speeding and assisting the final Peace Settlement.