461 Department of External Affairs to Critchley

Cablegram unnnumbered CANBERRA, 28 July 1949

We note that the future status of Netherlands New Guinea is listed for discussion at the forthcoming Round Table Conference at The Hague.

2. We feel that Netherlands New Guinea occupies a special position geographically, ethnologically and politically. It is the only foreign territory whose land frontier confronts our own and it occupies a strategic position in relation to Torres Strait and the Northern Australian coastline generally. Moreover, the welfare of the inhabitants of Netherlands New Guinea appears to call for their integration in the long run with the peoples of Papua-New Guinea and the rest of Melanesia rather than for their absorption into an Indonesian or Asian world. Moreover, the establishment of Indonesian control could lead to a large scale influx of Asiatic peoples whose influence on Australian New Guinea to say nothing of the Melanesian inhabitants of Netherlands New Guinea, might be disastrous. Further, Netherlands activities in the area are showing a desire to utilise opportunities for co-operation with Australian Administration in New Guinea and with other Governments in the South Pacific through the machinery of the South Pacific Commission.

3. In these circumstances, we should prefer the substantive issues in dispute between the Indonesians and the Dutch to be settled independently of, or at least prior to, any discussion on the future control of Netherlands New Guinea, the status of which should be treated from the outset as presenting problems not essentially connected with the transfer of sovereignty to the Republic. If this line is followed, the question of Netherlands New Guinea may be settled without our being called upon to express any policy publicly in this connection.

4. If the Indonesians are not at present willing to concede the sovereignty of Western New Guinea to the Netherlands for an indefinite period, an effort might be made to persuade them that the Netherlands should retain sovereignty of Western New Guinea until 1960, when the question of its status could be reopened. It is most unlikely that the primitive inhabitants of Netherlands New Guinea will be capable of self-government for a long time, certainly not by 1960.

5. As a means of retaining Western New Guinea under European hegemony but with a government responsible to world opinion, the Netherlands may be prepared to administer Western New Guinea under trusteeship. We would view such a development with favour for with the Netherlands Government having full powers of administration but accountable to the Trusteeship Council the territory would have some assurance of economic development and social and political advancement to the stage when the inhabitants would become capable of self-government and independence if they so chose.

6. It is not felt that the United States of Indonesia will within the very near future have either the resources, personnel or experience for the administration of Western New Guinea as part of the U.S.I. or as a trust territory. The administrative backwardness of the U.S.I. would also appear to preclude Indonesia from participating in a condominium in Western New Guinea in association with the Dutch. In any event, the condominium form of control government has little to recommend it.

7. Please keep us fully informed as to all likely developments in relation to Western New Guinea.

[AA : A1838, 401/3/1/1, vii]