57 Australian Government to Addison

Cablegram 118 CANBERRA, 14 May 1947


Your D.171. Australian Defence Committee has considered proposal of armaments truce and makes the following observations.

The Defence Forces of Australia are at this time at a low ebb.

Demobilisation of the war-time forces has just been completed. The post-war forces are still under consideration and have not yet been approved by the Government. It therefore follows that this country is at present unable to fulfil her part of her publicly expressed policy with regard to international security which entails the provision of forces as follows:-

Future defence policy will be governed by the forces to be placed at the disposal of the United Nations for the maintenance of international peace and security, including regional arrangements in the Pacific, the forces to be maintained by Australia under arrangements for co-operation in Empire Defence, and the forces to be maintained by Australia to provide for self-defence.

We note the consideration being given by the United Kingdom to proposals for an armaments truce. If truce were now agreed upon Australia would not be permitted to constitute the forces necessary for her own protection and would remain virtually defenceless. The measures now in train to remedy the present position would be deferred for the duration of the truce. Should the truce be broken Australia would be at a major disadvantage.

From the Australian defence point of view an armaments truce by all nations at this stage is quite unacceptable. Should a truce be confined to the five major powers, we consider it would not be effective until a practical system of exchange of information and verification could be instituted. Further, certain major powers have other powers so closely associated with them that unless the truce were also applied to the associated powers it would be ineffective.

Further to our 85, Defence Committee consider that the willingness of Member Nations to publish information on armed forces and agree to a system of verification of such information will encourage international confidence, and, at the same time constitute a practical step towards disarmament.

Despite much talk, the Disarmament Commission achieved little during 1947 with most western powers tending to the view that only political successes would create a confident milieu in which disarmament would be possible, and with the Soviet Union arguing on the contrary that international confidence would follow actual steps in disarmament. Indeed, when the General Assembly met later in the year, Dr Evatt, while allowing that disarmament proposals were important, feared that they distracted people from the UN's main objectives: a system of conciliation and arbitration to prevent war; the economic betterment of mankind. [1]

1 See Document 1.

[AA : A1838, 539/1/2]