553 Burton to Mills

Letter CANBERRA, 1 July 1947

I have had several conferences with Mr. Kerr, the Principal of the Australian School of Pacific Administration on matters connected with the preparations for the first meetings of the South Pacific Commission, the interim organisation of which has been placed under Mr. Kerr's direction. I have also noted the Cabinet Agendum [1] in accordance with which the School of Pacific Administration is to be developed and have been informed that you are to be Chairman of the Council of the School which is to act as the governing body of the School and as the body advising the Government on research projects necessary for the purposes of our external territories.

We regard the successful establishment of the South Pacific Commission as a matter of great importance, and, in particular, hope that its Research Council will be a significant authority stimulating co-operative scientific work. This being the case, this Department will be relying on the Council of the School for advice with regard to the work and personnel of the Research Council and on the nominations we may wish to suggest for the position of Chairman of the Council, Director of Research and Deputy Chairman of the Council, and the full-time scientists who are to be members of the Council. We may reasonably hope that Australians will be appointed to one or more of these positions.

Further, it will be necessary to develop views on such matters as whether Australia should press for the retention of the headquarters for the research work of the Commission in Australia when the Secretariat of the Commission is located in the area failing within the scope of activity of the Commission (e.g. at Port Moresby or Suva) and on the connection between our own programmes of research and those of the Research Council of the Commission. In relation to such matters we hope to avoid some of the difficulties which have attended the successful establishment of the Research Council of the Caribbean Commission. Mr. Kerr is aware of the relevant information and will doubtless keep you and the Council advised of developments. I trust that the Council and any Committees it may establish in special fields will act on the assumption that this Department would welcome an arrangement under which all matters connected with the proposed activities of the South Pacific Research Council were kept constantly under review and positive views and policies developed in regard thereto.

Having regard to the way in which scientific activities in the Pacific are developing, we are very hopeful that your Council will succeed in the task allotted to it in the terms of the Cabinet Agendum. It is of considerable importance to our foreign policy that there should be, in this country, an academic institution of standing devoting its attention to colonial problems. I may add that, for a number of reasons, we should hope that such an institution would develop an academic interest in the nearby dependent areas of South East Asia and would explore the possibility of both undergraduate and post-graduate connections with those areas. The cultural aspect of our relations with South East Asia is very important and its satisfactory development is an ingredient in our general diplomacy in that area.

[AA : A1838,344/1/1]