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Australia and the United Nations

Author: James Cotton and David Lee

ISBN: 9781743220177

Australia and the United Nations is an authoritative, single volume appraisal of Australia's engagement with the United Nations.

The book brings together distinguished academics and historians in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in an account of the part that Australia has played in the United Nations from its involvement in the League of Nations and the foundation of the United Nations to the second decade of the twenty-first century.

Chapter authors examine Australia's contribution to the UN's roles in international security, peacekeeping, and disarmament; its evolving policy to UN efforts to promote self-rule and independence for dependent territories; its contribution to the work of the UN specialised agencies and the efforts of the wider UN family to promote development; and its engagement with the United Nations on environmental matters, human rights and international law.

The final chapter critically examines Australia's efforts to reform the United Nations.

Appendixes include descriptions of the Australian Permanent Missions to the United Nations and biographies of the Australian Permanent Representatives in New York.

© Copyright Commonwealth of Australia 2012

Unless otherwise noted, copyright (and any other intellectual property rights) in this publication is owned by the Commonwealth of Australia. With the exception of the Coat of Arms, and where otherwise noted, this publication is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Australia Licence. The details of the licence conditions are available on the Creative Commons website, as is the full legal code for the CC BY 3.0 AU licence.

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National Library Catalogue-in-Publishing entry

Australia and the United Nations/ edited by James Cotton and David Lee


ISBN: 9781743220160 (hbk.)

9781743220177 (pbk.)

Includes index.


United Nations–Australia

Australia–Foreign Relations

Other authors/contributors: Cotton, James, 1949–

Lee, David, 1965–

Australia. Dept. of Foreign Affairs and Trade



Book production by

Longueville Media


The Australian Minister for External Affairs and Attorney-General, Dr HV Evatt, signs the Charter of the United Nations on behalf of Australia, watched by the Australian Deputy Prime Minister, Francis M Forde (right), San Francisco, 26 June 1945

The Australian Minister for External Affairs and Attorney-General, Dr HV Evatt, signs the Charter of the United Nations on behalf of Australia, watched by the Australian Deputy Prime Minister, Francis M Forde (right), San Francisco, 26 June 1945. [UN Photo/McLain]

A key point in the foreign policy of Australia is enthusiastic and sustained activity in all aspects of the work of the United Nations.

It is the best presently available instrument, both for avoiding the supreme and ultimate catastrophe of a third world war, waged with all-destroying weapons, and also for establishing an international order which can and should assure to mankind security against poverty, unemployment, ignorance, famine and disease

We shall continue steadfastly and courageously to play our part in this Organisation, on which must rest most of the hopes of men of good will throughout the world.

– Statement to the House of Representatives on Foreign Affairs by the Right Hon. Dr HV Evatt, Minister for External Affairs, 13 March 1946.






Acronyms and abbreviations


  1. 1 Australia in the League of Nations: Role, debates, presence

James Cotton

  1. 2 Dr HV Evatt and the United Nations: The problem of collective security and liberal internationalism

Neville Meaney

  1. 3 Australia and the Security Council

David Lee

  1. 4 Decolonisation

Matthew Jordan

  1. 5 Australia, ECOSOC and the UN specialised agencies

Peter Carroll

  1. 6 Australia and development cooperation at the United Nations: Towards poverty reduction

Chad Mitcham

  1. 7 Australia and UN peacekeeping: Steady and unwavering support

Moreen Dee

  1. 8 Arms control and disarmament

Matthew Jordan

  1. 9 Australia's engagement with the UN on environmental issues:
    Benefits and balance

Lorraine Elliott

  1. 10 Human rights and international law

Colin Milner

  1. 11 Australia and UN reform

Roderic Pitty

Acronyms and abbreviations used in Notes and Bibliography



Appendix 1
Jeremy Hearder

Appendix 2
Jeremy Hearder


James Cotton, Emeritus Professor of Politics, School of Humanities and Social Sciences, University of New South Wales, Australian Defence Force Academy.

David Lee, Director, Historical Publications and Information Section, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.


Peter Carroll, Professor and Senior Research Fellow, Faculty of Business, University of Tasmania.

Moreen Dee, Executive Officer, Historical Publications and Information Section, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Lorraine Elliott, Professor, Department of International Relations, School of International, Political and Strategic Studies, Australian National University.

Jeremy Hearder, Consultant, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Matthew Jordan, Executive Officer, Historical Publications and Information Section, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Neville Meaney, Honorary Associate Professor of History, University of Sydney.

Colin Milner, Director, Pacific Program, Counter-Terrorism Branch, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade; formerly Director, Human Rights and Indigenous Issues, and International Law and Transnational Crime Sections.

Chad Mitcham, Consultant, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Roderic Pitty, Associate Professor and Chair, Politics and International Relations, School of Social and Cultural Studies, University of Western Australia.


It gives me great pleasure to welcome the publication, Australia and the United Nations, a book produced under the auspices of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. The project has been researched and written by a team of historians, both academics and departmental officers, engaged by the Historical Publications and Information Section of the Department.

The book records Australia's engagement with the United Nations, an engagement which goes back to its formation and to the convening of the first UN Security Council. It also covers our involvement with the organisation which preceded the United Nations, the League of Nations.

It tells a story of bipartisan commitment to the United Nations over more than sixty-five years. It also provides an account of Australia's contributions to the formation and operations of the United Nations and our role in many of its achievements.

As the book shows, Australian Minister for External Affairs HV Evatt and his staff played a vital role in the framing of the UN Charter. We held the first presidency of the UN Security Council, and provided the first peacekeepers a year later.

We have made a sustained contribution over the years to the goal of promoting disarmament and non-proliferation, from the Chemical Weapons Convention to the International Commission on Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament. We have supported the efforts of the broader UN family to promote the development of less developed countries and we have a strong record of involvement with the UN specialised agencies.

We were one of the eight countries which drafted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and have since striven to strengthen international law to prevent armed conflict and to promote individual human rights against states which have threatened them. We also played an active part in the negotiation of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.

Australians have been long engaged in efforts to reform the UN organisation to make it work better for the international community, from HV Evatt's efforts to modify the Security Council veto to Gareth Evans's championing of the 'responsibility to protect'. In the more recent era of UN history, Australia has worked energetically to achieve a global solution to the challenges of climate change.

In producing this work, a number of historians were asked to review the documentary record, and were given access where appropriate to official records, in order to tell the story as they saw it. The only standards that were applied were scholarly.

The record that they have produced of Australia's significant part in UN history stands for itself. I commend the publication of this history of Australia and the United Nations.


Bob Carr

Minister for Foreign Affairs


This volume was written by historians based in the Historical Publications and Information Section of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and academic specialists who were invited by the Department to write on their areas of expertise. The book was edited by James Cotton, Emeritus Professor of Politics, University of New South Wales, and David Lee, Director, Historical Publications and Information Section, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. The authors of individual chapters are listed on the contents page. In addition to authoring Chapter 6, 'Australia and development cooperation at the United Nations', Chad Mitcham was a researcher for Chapter 5, 'Australia, ECOSCOC and the UN specialised agencies'. Jeremy Hearder interviewed past and former ministers and departmental officials connected with Australian engagement with the United Nations and compiled Appendixes 1 and 2. Matthew Jordan compiled the Bibliography.

Officers from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the Department of Agriculture Fisheries and Forestry, the Attorney-General's Department, the Treasury, the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations, the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID), the Department of Health and Ageing, and the Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency provided expert comments on draft chapters. The authors of the chapters, however, assume full responsibility for the conclusions, opinions and arguments in this study, such opinions not representing the views of past Australian governments or the current government of the Commonwealth.

The editors and authors gratefully acknowledge the assistance in researching the book of Chris Ritchie, Tamas Uhrin, Rob Schaap, Gregory Pemberton, Adam Henry and Barbara Fothergill. Project members received valuable assistance from the staff of the National Archives of Australia, the National Library of Australia, the Mitchell Library and Melbourne University Archives in locating records. In the H.V. Evatt Library, DFAT, we would like to extend a special thanks to Marisa Vearing, Jenny Ensbey and Robyn Rooney for their constant help and forbearance.

The Australian Institute of International Affairs (AIIA) jointly with the Historical Publications and Information Section of the Department convened a Forum on the history of Australia and the United Nations on 1 and 2 February 2011 to assist in the writing of the book. For organising and presiding over the Forum the editors and authors especially thank John McCarthy AO, National President, Melissa Conley-Tyler, Chief Executive Officer, John Robbins, National Deputy Director, Shirley Scott, National Research Director, and research interns Ashley Jenkins and Naomi von Dinklage of the AIIA. For presenting key-note addresses they thank Richard Woolcott AC, Professor the Hon Robert Hill AC, James Ingram AO and Professor Charles Sampford. Generally they thank all serving officials of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and other agencies who attended the Forum or provided comments to authors. The United Nations Information Centre for Australia, New Zealand and the South Pacific and its Director, Christopher Woodthorpe, gave invaluable assistance to the project throughout and members of the United Nations Association of Australia kindly attended the forum.

The editors and authors gratefully acknowledge the assistance of all the following who either attended the Forum on the book on 1 and 2 February 2011, read drafts, provided general comments or were interviewed for the volume: Professor Philip Alston, HD Anderson AO, Dame Margaret Joan Anstee, Howard Bamsey PSM, Bill Barker, Bruce Davis AM, Professor Joan Beaumont, Anthony Billingsley, Dr Neal Blewett AC, Professor Frank Brennan SJ AO, Richard W. Butler AC, Henry Burmester QC, Colin Chapman, Professor Hilary Charlesworth AM, Denise Conroy, Meghan Cooper, John Dauth LVO, Ian Dudgeon, Professor the Hon. Gareth Evans AO, James Gibson, the late Hugh Gilchrist, Professor the Hon. Robert M. Hill AC, Heather Henderson, Peter Henderson AC, Professor David Horner AM, James Ingram AO, Kim Jones AM, Robert Jauncey, Andrew Leask, Jane Madden, Mary Johnson, Professor John Langmore, Angus MacDonald, Julie McKay, Nina Markovic, Geoff Miller AO, Rachel Miller, John Monfries, Charles Mott, Satya Nandan CF CBE, John Nethercote, Annmaree O'Keefe, Kevin Playford, Daniel Purnell, Connor Quinn, Charles Radcliffe, Dayle Redden, Jonas Rey, Roland Rich, Lindsay Ritchie, John Sanderson AC, Elizabeth Shaw, Emeritus Professor Ivan Shearer AM RFD, Chris Sidoti, Mike Smith, Natasha Smith, Douglas Sturkey CVO AM, the UN Women (Australia), Ron A Walker, Pera Wells, Her Excellency Penelope Wensley AC, Thom Woodroofe and Michael J. Wilson. Special thanks are due to Richard Woolcott AC, who read the whole manuscript in draft.

Moreen Dee prepared all the illustrations published in this book. For assistance with photographs and kind permission to publish we gratefully acknowledge: Frehiwot Bekele and staff at the UN Photo Library; the League of Nations Archives; the International Labour Organization; the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization; the World Health Organization; the World Intellectual Property Organization; the World Bank Archives; the International Institute for Sustainable Development; The National Film Board of Canada; the US State Department; the National Archives of Australia; the National Library of Australia; the Australian War Memorial; the Department of Health and Ageing; the Department of Defence; the Australian Federal Police; the New South Wales Police Force; the University of Melbourne Archives; Flinders University South Australia; the State Library of Western Australia; Robyn Hodgkin and Lauren Stasinowsky from the Australian Permanent Mission to the United Nations in Geneva; and Lisa Sharland and Barry Chapman from the Australian Permanent Mission to the United Nations in New York. For permission to reproduce photographs in their collections, our thanks are due to Professor James Cotton, James Ingram AO, Mrs Margaret Kelly, the Hon. David Kemp, the McDougall Family, Charles and Beth Mott, Lieutenant-General John Sanderson AC (retd), the Hon. Tony Street, Dr Wendy Way and Richard Woolcott AC.

Sarah Shrubb gave invaluable help in style editing the manuscript. From Longueville Media we thank David Longfield, Elmandi du Toit, and Lucie Stevens for their production, design and editing to produce this book.

Acronyms and abbreviations

AAEC Australian Atomic Energy Commission
ACC Administrative Committee for Coordination
ADAB Australian Development Assistance Bureau
ADB Asian Development Bank
ADF Australian Defence Force
AEC Atomic Energy Commission
AFP Australian Federal Police
AIDEP Asian Institute for Economic Development and Planning
AIF Australian Imperial Force
AIIA Australian Institute of International Affairs
ALP Australian Labor Party
ANZUS Australia, New Zealand and the United States
APEC Asia–Pacific Economic Cooperation (Forum)
ATSIC Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission
AusAID Australian Agency for International Development
AWB Australian Wheat Board
BIS Bank for International Settlements
BWC Biological Weapons Convention
CAME Conference of Allied Ministers of Education
CBD Convention on Biological Diversity
CCM Convention on Cluster Munitions
CCOP Coordinating Committee for Offshore Prospecting
CCP Chinese Communist Party
CD Conference on Disarmament
CEB Chief Executives Board for Coordination
CEDAW Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women
CFB Combined Food Board
CHR Commission on Human Rights
CPA Coalition Provisional Authority
CSD Commission on Sustainable Development
CSIRO Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation
CTBT Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty
CWC Chemical Weapons Convention
DAC Development Assistance Committee of the OECD
DAFF Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry
DEA Department of External Affairs
DFA Department of Foreign Affairs
DFAT Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
DK Democratic Kampuchea
DPKO Department of Peacekeeping Operations
DPWR Department of Post-War Reconstruction
DRC Democratic Republic of the Congo
ECAFE UN Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East
  (see also UNESCAP)
ECOSOC UN Economic and Social Council
ENDC Eighteen-Nation Disarmament Committee
EPTA UN Expanded Programme of Technical Cooperation
EU European Union
FAO Food and Agriculture Organization
FEAC Financial and Economic Advisory Committee
FFYP first five-year plan
FIAS Foreign Investment Advisory Service
FRETILIN Revolutionary Front for an Independent East Timor
FSF Financial Stability Fund
FUNDWI UN Fund for the Development of West Irian
GAB General Arrangements to Borrow
GATS General Agreement on Trade in Services
GATT General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade
GDP gross domestic product
GEF Global Environment Facility
GEMS Global Environmental Monitoring System
GOC Security Council Committee of Good Offices
HRC Human Rights Council
IAEA International Atomic Energy Agency
IBRD International Bank for Reconstruction and Development
ICAO International Civil Aviation Organization
ICC International Criminal Court
ICER Interdepartmental Committee on External Relations
ICJ International Court of Justice
IDA International Development Association
IEFC International Emergency Food Council
IEFR International Emergency Food Reserve
IFAD International Fund for Agricultural Development
IFC International Finance Corporation
ILC International Law Commission
ILO International Labour Organization
IMF International Monetary Fund
INF intermediate-range nuclear forces
INFOSAN International Food Safety Authorities Network
INFOTERRA International Environmental Information System
INTERFET International Force for East Timor
IPR Institute of Pacific Relations
ISF International Stabilisation Force (Timor-Leste)
ITO International Trade Organization
JPC Joint Planning Committee
JSCOT Joint Standing Committee on Treaties
JUSCANZ Japan, the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand group
LDCs least developed countries, less developed countries
LNG liquefied natural gas
LNU League of Nations Union
MAD Mutual Assured Destruction
MDGs Millennium Development Goals
MEAs multilateral environmental agreements
MESC Anglo-American Middle East Supply Centre
NAB New Arrangements to Borrow
NATO North Atlantic Treaty Organization
NCC National Consultative Committee (of the WSSD, 1995)
NEI Netherlands East Indies
NGO non-government organisation
NIEO New International Economic Order
NPT (Nuclear) Non-Proliferation Treaty
NPTREC NPT Review and Extension Conference
NWS nuclear weapons states
OCHA Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
ODA official development assistance
OECD Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
OEED Organisation for European Economic Development
ONUC UN Operation in the Congo
OPEC Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries
PCIJ Permanent Court of International Justice
PKI Partai Komunis Indonesia/Indonesian Communist Party
PNG Papua New Guinea
PRC People's Republic of China
PRK People's Republic of Kampuchea
PTBT Partial Test Ban Treaty
RAMSI Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands
SALT Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty
SEAC South-East Asia Command
SNC Supreme National Council (Cambodia)
SOC State of Cambodia
SPS Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures
START Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty
SUNFED UN Special Fund for Economic Development
TBT Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade
TPNG Territory of Papua and New Guinea
UK United Kingdom
UNAMET UN Mission in East Timor
UNAMIC UN Advance Mission in Cambodia
UNCCD UN Convention to Combat Desertification
UNCED UN Conference on Environment and Development
UNCHE UN Conference on the Human Environment
UNCIO UN Conference on International Organization
UNCIP UN Commission for India and Pakistan
UNCLOS I UN Conference on the Law of the Sea 1958
UNCOK UN Commission on Korea
UNCTAD UN Conference on Trade and Development
UNCURK UN Commission for the Unification and Rehabilitation of Korea
UNDOF UN Disengagement Force (Golan Heights)
UNDP UN Development Programme
UNEF UN Emergency Force (Middle East)
UNEP UN Environment Programme
UNESCAP UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific
UNESCO UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization
UNFCCC UN Framework Convention on Climate Change
UNFICYP UN Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus
UNGA UN General Assembly
UNHCR UN High Commissioner for Refugees
UNICEF UN Children's Fund
UNICPOLOS UN Informal Consultative Process on Oceans and the Law of the Sea
UNIDO UN Industrial Development Organization
UNIFEM UN Development Fund for Women
UNIFIL UN Interim Force in Lebanon
UNMAC UN Military Armistice Commission in Korea
UNMISET UN Mission of Support in East Timor
UNMIT UN Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste
UNMOGIP UN Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan
UNMOVIC UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission
UNO UN Organization
UN-OCEANS UN Oceans and Coastal Areas Network
UNOTIL UN Office in Timor-Leste
UNPROFOR UN Protection Force in Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Macedonia
UNRIP UN Representative in India and Pakistan
UNRRA UN Relief and Rehabilitation Agency
UNSC UN Security Council
UNSCOM UN Special Commission
UNSCR UN Security Council Resolution
UNSSOD UN Special Session on Disarmament
UNTAC UN Transitional Authority in Cambodia
UNTAET UN Transitional Administration in East Timor
UNTAG UN Transition Assistance Group (Namibia)
UNTCOK UN Temporary Commission on Korea
UNTSO UN Truce Supervision Organization
UPR Universal Periodic Review
US United States (of America)
USI United States of Indonesia
USDA United States Department of Agriculture
USSR Union of Soviet Socialist Republics
WEOG Western European and Others Group
WFB World Food Board
WFP World Food Programme
WGIP Working Group on Indigenous Populations
WHO World Health Organization
WIPO World Intellectual Property Organization
WMD weapons of mass destruction
WNG West New Guinea
WSSD World Summit for Social Development/World Summit on Sustainable Development
WTO World Trade Organization


The UN Security Council held its inaugural session on 17 January 1946 in Church House, Westminster. In the chair was the Australian representative, Norman Makin, then a Cabinet minister in the Chifley government and shortly to become Australian ambassador in Washington. His opening remarks began proceedings. He observed that 'the very great hopes' of 'the peoples of the world' centred upon the Security Council's work. Provided, he said, the principles of the Charter were adhered to by all its members, it would become 'a great power for good in the world, bringing that freedom from fear which is necessary before we can hope for progress and welfare in all lands'.1 Then, as now, Australia was ready to commit to the great objectives of the UN project.

The history of Australia's UN engagement

This book examines Australia's engagement with the United Nations, from its involvement in the UN's predecessor organisation, the League of Nations, to the present day. In Chapter 1, James Cotton shows how, as a founding member of the League of Nations, the early development of Australia's international personality owed a great deal to the requirements of the League. The debates and meetings at Geneva were a school in international issues for the young federation. Peace and security were initially at the forefront, but over time wider global concerns emerged, including health, economic development, gender and communications. Former prime minister Stanley Melbourne Bruce was Australia's most prominent representative at the League. He served on the League of Nations Council and was an active participant in a number of important negotiations; his greatest contribution, however, was to the social and economic work of the League. The Bruce Report of 1939 argued that the organisation's efforts to improve the human condition–through better nutrition, freer trade and technical and scientific cooperation–would in time erode many of the fundamental causes of international insecurities. This idea was too late for the League, but seminal for the development of the United Nations and its agencies.

At the 1945 UN Conference on International Organization at San Francisco–the conference which laid the foundations for the United Nations–another Australian was similarly prominent: Minister for External Affairs HV Evatt. In Chapter 2, Neville Meaney traces Evatt's many contributions to the debate on and drafting of the UN Charter, showing his tireless pursuit of a positive role within the United Nations for medium powers and smaller states. Later, as president of the General Assembly for the third session in 1948, he endeavoured to reconcile the claims of the major veto-wielding powers while seeking to find mechanisms that the United Nations could employ to avoid the confrontation of the looming Cold War. The 'Uniting for Peace' resolution of 1950 and more particularly the Assembly's first emergency special session of 1956, which established the first UN Emergency Force (to manage the Suez ceasefire), were only possible because of the earlier dogged insistence of the representatives of some of the middle powers, and especially of Evatt, that the United Nations should provide modalities for action on security that were open to all member nations. In a more general sense, the Assembly's willingness to take charge of issues such as climate change and even contribute to the management of development questions has been in accordance with Evatt's ambitions for what he described as the UN's democratic organs. As he stated in 1948:

[n]o power is so great that it can ignore the will of the peoples of the world expressed through the Assembly, and no power is so small that it cannot contribute to the making of world opinion through the Assembly.2

In Chapter 3, David Lee examines Australia's contributions as a member and non-member to the UN Security Council. The chapter focuses on Australia's four terms as a non-permanent member of that body (1945–46, 1956–57, 1973–74 and 1985–86) and on Australian diplomacy in several areas, notably East Timor, Cambodia and Iraq, when it was not a member. Despite being envisaged as the executive of the United Nations, the Council long laboured under the constraints imposed by the Cold War. Yet even in that atmosphere Australia made some important contributions. Presiding over the Security Council in October 1973, Australian Permanent Representative Sir Laurence McIntyre was instrumental in winning approval for Resolution 338 which called on all parties to effect a ceasefire in the escalating Arab–Israeli conflict. Australia then supported Resolution 340, establishing the UN Emergency Force in the Middle East under the direct control of the Council, which allowed the Soviet Union and the United States to disengage from their sponsorship of the antagonists.

Throughout its history the United Nations has remained an organisation under construction and renewal. In Chapter 11, Roderic Pitty examines the important role that Australia has played from 1945 to the present in seeking to improve the UN's performance and to ensure that the new challenges of global politics have been met. Aware that the very considerable powers of the Council could only be wielded effectively if its legitimacy was firmly grounded, Australian representatives at the United Nations have been strong proponents of the greatest practical degree of transparency in its deliberations. If the great powers were to delay or deny Council action by exercising their veto power, as was their right under the Charter, then the debate preceding such action should have the widest audience. The frustrations that were the consequence of Council inaction shifted the focus of attention and activity to the General Assembly, where the expansion of membership brought a diversity of views and demands.3 As offices and programs proliferated, Australia consistently adopted a firm line on the need to improve UN governance by laying down clear lines of authority, removing overlapping functions and responsibilities, and reforming poorly performing agencies. In 1994, seizing the post–Cold War moment, Minister for Foreign Affairs Gareth Evans advocated sweeping proposals for UN reform, including reform of the Secretariat and the Council–proposals that have continued to influence the reform agenda to this day.

While the role of peacekeeping was not envisaged in the Charter, not only did it prove one of the UN's earliest responsibilities but in many respects it has become the function most closely associated with the organisation. In Chapter 7, Moreen Dee looks at Australia's efforts to support UN peacekeeping from the very beginning, with its involvement in the Consular Commission, which was established by the Security Council in August 1947 to observe the ceasefire between Indonesian and Dutch forces, to the present day. Beginning with the contribution of military observers to the commission–arguably the first UN peacekeeping mission–Australian peacekeepers, with varying roles, have been part of some forty UN peacekeeping missions over the past sixty years. This contribution has included two longstanding commitments: to the UN Truce Supervision Organization in the Middle East since 1956 and to the UN Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus since it was established in 1964. In addition to major commitments to the UN Transitional Authority in Cambodia and the UN Transitional Administration in East Timor, Australia has taken the lead in several multinational peace missions in its own region, such as the International Force for East Timor and the Regional Assistance Mission to the Solomon Islands. Australia's political, diplomatic and financial support for UN peacekeeping efforts has been constant. In the Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations, it has played an active role in the development of innovative approaches to peacekeeping and peacebuilding, notably in advancing the idea of 'cooperative security'.

During the Cold War many of the goals espoused by the United Nations were obstructed as a result of great-power enmity. One objective that was widely accepted, however, was decolonisation, which became the focus of considerable attention within the organisation. In retrospect, as Matthew Jordan notes in Chapter 4, Australia's greatest contribution to this process took practical form in the preparation of Papua and New Guinea (the latter a UN-mandated territory) for self-rule and then independence, under consistent UN scrutiny and with the assistance of UN development agencies. In light of the many difficulties faced in parts of the decolonised world, the good relations enjoyed between Australia and Papua New Guinea, which continue to the present, are perhaps the best indicator of the soundness of that preparation. In the 1970s Australia strongly supported the completion of decolonisation, especially in Africa (including Zimbabwe), and was a critic, as a consequence, of the apartheid regime in South Africa.

Awareness of the complementary relationship between development, peace and security was a fundamental of Australian policy towards the United Nations from the earliest days. Even before the drafting of the Charter, Australian policymakers sought to ensure that the organisation included an Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) in order to make economic and social improvement a central part of the UN mission. In the early days of the United Nations, Australian policymakers had high hopes that ECOSOC would perform a major coordinating role in relation to the many specialised agencies in the UN family; however, these hopes were never realised, largely because of the limited authority of and funding available to the council. Australia was a founding member of the UN Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (established in 1943), and Australian personnel played an important part in immediate post-conflict relief efforts. The establishment of the Food and Agriculture Organization owed much to Australian thinking and advocacy; Australia was a founding member of the UN Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East, later the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific; and Australian representatives in the Assembly supported the establishment of the Special UN Fund for Economic Development. With the reorganisation of the UN's development efforts, Australia became a member of the governing body of the UN Development Programme (UNDP) in 1966. Within the UN Conference on Trade and Development, Australia championed the argument that trade and development were inextricably linked; the parallel link between health and development informed Australia's scientific contributions to the World Health Organization, notably in the campaign to eradicate smallpox. Mindful of criticisms of agency duplication and confused administrative structures, the UNDP commissioned noted Australian international civil servant, Robert Jackson, to undertake a capacity study. Jackson's 1969 report, which is still cited by UN reformers today, proposed a refocusing of development efforts under a single authority, a strengthening of ECOSOC to superintend those efforts, and a unified program of development negotiated for each country. Other Australians have also made notable contributions to the UN's international economic and social activities. Under the leadership of Australian James Ingram from 1982, the World Food Programme provided a working example of effective aid and development delivery. Australia was an active participant in the process that led to the UN's adoption of the Millennium Development Goals, and Australia's provision of international aid is now benchmarked against these standards. Australia's level of official development assistance continues to expand to reach the target set by the Monterrey Consensus of 2002.

In a broader sense, the Bretton Woods institutions–the International Monetary Fund and the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (the latter today part of the World Bank Group)–are collateral branches of the extended UN family. Australia was a beneficiary of World Bank loans in the later 1950s. In 1964, as a result of an invitation for an official mission to Papua and New Guinea, the Australian administration engaged the World Bank in development assistance in the territory. Peter Carroll examines Australia's engagement with the UN's specialised agencies, including the Bretton Woods institutions, in Chapter 5, and Chad Mitcham discusses Australia's contribution to the UN's broader development efforts in Chapter 6.

In Chapter 9, Lorraine Elliott examines Australia's engagement with the United Nations on environmental issues. In the earliest period of UN concern with environmental matters, Australia took a particular interest in the oceans, participating from 1958 in successive conferences on the law of the sea, and also becoming an early advocate for applying the precautionary principle to dealing with such issues as ocean pollution and conservation of marine species. Australia was a member of the UN Environment Programme's first Governing Council and has continued to serve on the council frequently; when the Commission on Sustainable Development was established in 1992, Australian representatives were also members of its first governing body. With the emergence of major global summits as vehicles for focusing attention on and addressing environmental questions, Australia has been a consistent participant. Australia was one of the sponsors of the General Assembly resolution that established the UN Conference on the Human Environment of 1972. At the UN Conference on the Environment and Development (the Rio Summit) in 1992, Australian proposals on the principles that should be the basis for dealing with the costs and remediation of environmental degradation were influential in the policy formulation finally adopted. At the subsequent World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg in 2002, Australia embraced the idea of 'action-oriented coalitions' bringing government and non-government actors together to tackle specific environmental issues. Though a late adherent to the Kyoto Protocol, Australia has continued to advocate a comprehensive grand bargain under UN auspices to limit global greenhouse gas emissions.

As Colin Milner observes in Chapter 10, Australia's contribution to the promotion of human rights and international law at the United Nations began with the drafting of the Charter: Article 56, which enjoins member states to observe the human rights specified in Article 55, termed the 'Australian pledge'. With Evatt in the chair, the Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The emerging UN human rights regime also had a strong impact on Australia's own policy, informing legislation on racial and gender discrimination, the status of women and Indigenous rights. The International Criminal Court enjoyed strong bipartisan support in the Australian parliament, and the 2010 launch by Canberra of a Human Rights Framework received strong approval in the UN's Universal Periodic Review of Australia's human rights record. When Australia's performance in observing human rights, including the rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians, has been found wanting, such findings have served as a reminder that UN scrutiny of domestic affairs against international standards is a necessary preventive against complacency.

Arms control and disarmament were important objectives for the League, and they were also among the major objectives of the founders of the United Nations, as Matthew Jordan shows in Chapter 8. From the beginning, Australia had high hopes for international control of atomic weapons and technology–the first meeting of the Atomic Energy Commission, established with that end, was chaired by Evatt. In the Cold War period, progress on disarmament was highly constrained, but when attempts were made to construct a treaty to control the spread of nuclear weapons, the effort won significant bureaucratic support in Canberra, and the Australian government signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in early 1973. Even before then Australian spokespersons had supported the idea of a nuclear test ban, voicing particularly strong opposition to atmospheric testing as a result of French tests in the Pacific from 1966 to 1996. In the 1980s Australia was active in the Conference on Disarmament as an advocate of a Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) and as a critic of further nuclear weapons development and deployment. The Australian focus on weapons of mass destruction broadened: in 1984 the hosting of what became the Australia Group led to supply-side measures to limit opportunities for the manufacture of chemical weapons. In 1992 Australia proposed a draft Chemical Weapons Convention to the Conference on Disarmament; the resulting convention was later accepted at the United Nations by consensus. In 1996 Australia's permanent representative to the United Nations in New York, Richard Butler, persuaded the General Assembly to accept a draft CTBT text. In the more sombre atmosphere following the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States, Australia supported UN Security Council Resolution 1540, which aimed to prevent materials or technologies for weapons of mass destruction passing into the hands of non-state groups. With the danger of further proliferation becoming more apparent in the new century, and in the context of US President Barack Obama's 2009 affirmation of the principle that nuclear weapons would eventually be abandoned, Australia sought a more innovative approach to this issue. The Australian government, which co-sponsored the International Commission on Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament, viewed the proposals of the commission's co-chairs, Gareth Evans and Yoriko Kawaguchi, as a blueprint for proceeding towards the goal of abandoning nuclear weapons altogether.

There is no chapter dedicated specifically to the history of Australian diplomacy in the UN General Assembly. The only organ of the United Nations in which all member nations have equal representation, the Assembly oversees the budget of the organisation, appoints non-permanent members to the Security Council, receives reports from other parts of the organisation and makes non-binding resolutions. Discussion of the General Assembly, however, features throughout the book. For example, Chapter 2 discusses Evatt's efforts to allow the Assembly a more prominent role in security matters, and Chapter 3 examines later occasions when it took on such a role, namely in the 'Uniting for Peace' resolution of 1950 and in the establishment of the first UN Emergency Force.

Just as the League had affirmed at its inception that all of its posts should be open to women, and then became an important international forum for advancing the status of women, the United Nations has always made the rights of women a central objective. Australia has consistently supported this objective, being one of the initial signatories to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, adopted by the Assembly in 1979. Australia has also supported UN Security Council resolutions that recognise the vital role of women in peacebuilding and that condemn sexual violence in areas of armed conflict.

The International Labour Organization (ILO) began as an affiliate of the League, and its tripartite organisation principles, requiring national delegations and negotiations to embrace labour, employers and state authorities, owed something to Australian precedent. With the demise of the League the ILO became part of the UN family, and Australia's engagement with its work to guarantee the standards and dignity of labour has been continuous. The International Institute of Intellectual Cooperation was also a League instrumentality; its functions were assumed by the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). Unlike some Western countries, Australia (as is noted by Peter Carroll in Chapter 5) has been a continuous member of UNESCO since its inception, its National Commission for UNESCO making available expert advice on heritage, scientific, cultural and educational issues.

In addition to the states which are members of the United Nations, and the body of officials in New York, Geneva and elsewhere who constitute its working staff, there is a 'third United Nations'–of national and international groups that engage with the organisation in support of its aims or that seek to influence its agenda. In the era before 'non-government organisations' were commonly known as such, Australia was home to active branches of the League of Nations Union, an international movement centred in London that promoted international understanding, including by working in schools and the media. In 1945 the Australian chapters of the League of Nations Union became the United Nations Association of Australia, and from that time to the present the UN project has engaged many ordinary citizens. UN Women Australia, to take just one example, campaigns to ensure that the Australian government's agents in peace and security missions are aware of gender issues and pursue security outcomes that recognise and empower women.

While this book aims to present a thorough overview of Australia's engagement with the United Nations, there are many topics that could be explored at greater length. To take one example, Australia's support for the work of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees could well have been the subject of a chapter on its own. Moreover, many aspects of Australia's contributions to the development of international law, though important in themselves, have not been addressed in this book because they are outside the UN system. One example is Australia's long involvement with the Geneva Conventions, which were negotiated in the context of the role played by the International Committee of the Red Cross as guardian of international humanitarian law. To this extent, the book may provide an indication to scholars and researchers of further fruitful avenues for study and analysis in the rich story of Australia's contribution to global governance.


When the United Nations was conceived, the problems of war and reconstruction were pre-eminent. As this book shows, Australian contributions were at the forefront of programs designed to deal with both these pressing issues. While broader international objectives were also served by this effort, Australian policymakers focused principally on advancing the national interest. With the advent of the Cold War, Australian expectations of the organisation diminished. Writing in the 1950s, Norman Harper and David Sissons characterised the Australian view of the United Nations as principally 'a framework for co-operation with other like-minded powers'.4 With great-power rivalry impeding the resolution of many issues, development emerged as a major focus of UN activity. Australia has made a sustained contribution in this area, including through its support for attempts to simplify and rationalise the UN's increasingly complex development machinery. Again, the contribution to the national interest was a vital part of this commitment. As one Australian commentator of the early 1970s observed, development was 'a key to peace'.5

Since the 1970s, however, it has become ever clearer that the advancement of the national interest requires solutions to increasingly complex global problems for which responsibility is both international and diffuse. As Thomas Weiss and Ramesh Thakur have argued, in the absence of a global authority or government, 'governance' has become the key focus of the current era, and the idea of 'global governance' has emerged to describe attempts to deal with these challenges. Weiss and Thakur define this concept as:

the sum of laws, norms, policies, and institutions that define, constitute, and mediate transborder relations between states, citizens, intergovernmental and nongovernmental organizations and the market [coordinated] … to bring more predictability, stability and order to … such transnational problems as warfare, poverty, and environmental degradation that go beyond the capacity of a single state to solve and that are increasingly recognized as such.6

In this sense the United Nations has become the chief focus for global governance. Australian efforts through the United Nations–devoted to such objectives as non-proliferation and arms control, peacebuilding, improved food and agricultural production, scientific cooperation, and latterly the Responsibility to Protect and the pursuit of the Millennium Development Goals–may thus be seen as a major part of the nation's distinctive contribution to the unfinished tasks of global governance.

1. Australia in the League of Nations: Role, debates, presence

James Cotton

Australian membership of international society entered a new, and in many respects the beginning of its modern, phase when the nation became a founding member of the League of Nations in 1920. Transnational relations had always been an essential element in the definition of the Australian identity. Prior to 1914, when Australians looked beyond their borders it was exclusively to the British Empire–for security, for prosperity and, to a considerable degree, for authority. The advent of the League began the transformation of this outlook. The story of Australian involvement with the League is the subject of a fine, book-length study by WJ Hudson.7

This chapter sketches the circumstances under which Australia became an original member of the League and how this membership constituted an important element in the formation of Australia's international orientation as policymakers sought, first, to master the novel task of defending essential national objectives within an organisation of global character, and then to contribute to an emerging global discourse on international society. Australians had to face up to new international responsibilities, including being scrutinised for the policies pursued in New Guinea, held under a League mandate. Engagement with the League at Geneva also required the Australian government to take positions on issues of the day, including measures to promote peace and avoid war, that were beyond the familiar confines of imperial consultation. The chapter then considers the debates conducted within Australia on the character, claims and limitations of the League, and the responses of Australians to the disappointments and threats consequent on events in the 1930s.

The chapter concludes by examining briefly the role of some individual Australians who, as delegates, visitors, activists and bureaucrats, played their part in the debates and deliberations of Geneva. However modest this engagement was by contemporary standards, League membership was an important element not only in the schooling of Australian leaders in international responsibility, but also in the internationalising of Australian knowledge and opinion. The League was a school for international citizenship.

Australian membership of the League

The formation of the League of Nations was an integral part of the peacemaking process of 1919. The carriage of Australian policy towards the peace was in the hands of Prime Minister William Morris Hughes, whose abrasive style and confrontational tactics were not best suited to the complex negotiations that were conducted.8 Arriving in London in 1918, Hughes joined the Imperial War Cabinet where the shape of the future peace was under debate; he became a spokesman for those who supported a punitive policy towards Germany and was insistent upon Australia's title to the German New Guinea territories occupied in 1914. He was particularly dismissive of the 'Fourteen Points' that US President Woodrow Wilson had propounded in January as the basis for an end to the conflict. Wilson had not only proposed the formation of 'a general association of nations' (the future League of Nations) to preserve the peace but had made no mention of reparations from the defeated countries and had insisted that colonial territories should be dealt with solely from the point of view of the wellbeing of their inhabitants. Wilson believed that any other policies would sow the seeds of future wars. Hughes, who was of the opinion that warfare was part of the human condition, was enraged when he discovered that British Prime Minister Lloyd George had accepted Wilson's proposals without consulting Australia or the other dominions in the Imperial War Cabinet, a development which further encouraged a dogged insistence upon pursuing his view of the Australian national interest whatever the consequences. He was also unhappy with the time spent upon the plans of Robert Cecil and JC Smuts for a future world organisation which he was suspicious would undermine Australia's national sovereignty. With other dominion leaders, especially Canada's Prime Minister Sir Robert Borden, he advanced the argument–which was ultimately successful–that such an organisation must have a place for distinct representation of the dominions.

The negotiation of the peace, and also of the Covenant of the League of Nations, was accomplished in Paris in the first half of 1919. After some resistance the separate representation of the British dominions at the peace conference was agreed, but though the essential decisions were taken in the councils of the chief powers (the United States, the British Empire, France, Japan and Italy; later Japan was sidelined and Italy withdrew), Hughes took advantage of the fact that he was both the Australian representative and also part of the Empire delegation and was thus privy to the deliberations of the inner circle. The confrontations between Hughes and Wilson were the talk of Paris; when the negotiations concluded, in addition to Australia becoming a founding member of the new League, Hughes achieved two objectives which, by his lights, were essential for the promotion of Australia's security. First, Australia acquired the former German colony of New Guinea as a (Class 'C') mandate on very liberal terms, terms which had been incorporated in the Covenant of the League (in Article 22) directly as a result of the acuity of JG Latham, who was then serving as an adviser to the Australian delegation.9 Second, Japanese attempts to insert into the Covenant a reference to the principle of racial non-discrimination were defeated despite extensive support for the notion among the delegates.10 Hughes regarded this manoeuvre as the precursor to Japanese attempts to use international organisation to undermine the White Australia policy; the outcome was to rankle with Japan and serve as a continued irritant in bilateral relations thereafter. Hughes was especially sensitive to any suggestion that League obligations infringe domestic jurisdiction over such issues as immigration and tariffs. In this sense it may be claimed that Hughes ensured that international organisation helped to prolong empire,11 though it should be noted that the Japanese initiative was itself taken largely for domestic and imperial reasons.12

Beyond these specific objectives, Hughes had added his voice to those others within the British Empire delegation at Paris who were concerned that the early proposals for the Covenant would render the League less a consultative body than a supranational authority. Consequently he was critical of any suggestion that under its provisions members might become obliged to wage war or impose sanctions or conform to the judgements of an external judicial body (the Permanent Court of International Justice (PCIJ), envisaged under Article 14 of the League Covenant, was later established in 1922).13 The Australian delegation was remarkable not least for its inclusion, along with JG Latham, of FW Eggleston and Robert Garran (Latham becoming Australia's first minister to Japan, and Eggleston first minister to China),14 a trio of unusually talented individuals all of whom were to perform exceptional public service for the Commonwealth. In their different ways all became supporters of the League, including, upon their return to Australia, in the Sydney and Melbourne branches of the League of Nations Union (LNU). In Paris, however, though they were less sceptical of the potential for international organisation than Hughes, they were all in agreement that Australia's security was presently founded upon membership of the British Empire and thus also reliance upon the Royal Navy. Consequently, whatever hopes might be entertained for the future of the League, especially as a war preventive, in the meantime nothing should be done to weaken that security guarantee.

Australia's role in the League

The decisions of the League were taken by the Council, which was comprised of delegates from the four major powers–Great Britain, France, Italy and Japan (the United States did not take up membership)–that were joined by Germany in 1926, and in addition an elected group, initially of four countries (enlarged by stages to eleven countries). Australia served on the Council from 1934 to 1936, with former prime minister Stanley Melbourne Bruce acting as chair during the crucial negotiations following the reoccupation of the Rhineland by German forces, Germany having announced its departure from the League in 1933. The Council met five or more times a year and much diplomatic business was also transacted among its members, who often included foreign ministers, in more informal settings.

Australian attention was initially focused on the Assembly, which met annually and in which each nation had a single vote. Australian delegates usually caucused with other members of what was known as the 'British Empire delegation', where attention was often focused on harmonising views within the Empire–Commonwealth, but all countries took their place separately in the Assembly meetings. Nomination of delegates to the Assembly from Australia (each nation was entitled to three; alternates were also permitted) was initially a somewhat haphazard affair, but they included visiting federal ministers, the high commissioners in London, parliamentarians and academics; from 1922 they also included at least one woman. When SM Bruce became, from 1932, resident minister and then high commissioner in London, he became the leader of Australia's delegation, and also an increasingly respected figure of influence in the diplomacy of Geneva.15 His first appearance there, however, had been a matter of happenstance. In 1921, as a junior backbench member of parliament touring the continent, he responded to an urgent summons from the government to attend the Assembly. As a war veteran, he spoke with some passion, applauding the League's mission 'to substitute the law of justice for the hideous arbitrament of war'.16 He warned, however, against the organisation taking on too many tasks as he felt this would be likely to deflect energies from this new international project which was of overriding importance.

The issue of disarmament, being one of the chief rationales for the establishment of the organisation, was indeed to occupy much of the League's time. However, great-power reluctance to accept the full implications of this objective delayed the convening of the long-envisaged full intergovernmental Conference for the Reduction and Limitation of Armaments until 1932, by which time the growth of extremist movements in Europe had ensured its futility. One of the obstacles in the way of serious disarmament was the objection that the collective security arrangements envisaged by the League Covenant were not sufficiently comprehensive, and consequently that states were bound to cling to the means of self-help. An attempt to tighten the requirements was initiated at the 1924 Assembly when British Prime Minister (and concurrently Foreign Secretary) James Ramsay MacDonald proposed a system of compulsory arbitration.17

As it stood, the Covenant (Article 15) required states to submit a dispute (not otherwise subject to arbitration) to the Council and to abide by its decision. However, if the Council failed to agree regarding the remedy for such a dispute, once three months had elapsed the state in question could still make war (under Article 12) without suffering the automatic sanctions prescribed in the Covenant (under Article 16). To deal with this 'gap' in the League system of security, a protocol was formulated by members of the Assembly in committee. It recommended, first, that all states unanimously recognise the remit of the PCIJ to determine on disputes of a judicial character (by adhering to the 'Optional Clause' of the court's defining statute). Second, disputes not brought before the court or otherwise arbitrated would necessarily become the business of the Council which, if it could not decide, would provide for arbitrators whose decision was binding on the disputants. States that did not adhere to these rules and which engaged in warfare would be deemed aggressors, and would be subject to the collective action of the other member states. War would be forsworn by all states other than to counter aggression at the behest of the Council or the Assembly. To provide an atmosphere conducive to these undertakings, a full disarmament conference was to be convened in the following year. 'Arbitration, security, disarmament' was the trilogy of the time. In a development that would have important consequences for Australia, the delegates of Japan proposed a modification to the protocol which appeared to weaken the Covenant's recognition (under Article 15, paragraph 8) that matters of domestic sovereignty were not the province of the Council. In their argument, the Japanese delegates referred both to the difficulties their nationals might face in China and also to the restrictive immigration practices of some Pacific countries.18 Although the original amendment suggested by Japan was considerably weakened, Article 5 of the new protocol seemed to require that states accept the judgement of the PCIJ on whether or not any question pertained to domestic sovereignty; it also explicitly allowed that even domestic matters could be deemed by the Council or Assembly as a threat to the peace and thus (under the Covenant, Article 11) a concern for the League.

MacDonald's tenure of office was brief, and there was a good deal of opposition to the protocol within the successor Conservative government, especially to the possibility, as it was seen, that Britain might be required to put the Royal Navy at the disposal of the League, or that the new arrangements would even risk conflict with the United States. But even before this opposition became clear, the protocol had raised apprehension in Australia.

The protocol had generated a good deal of interest (and a degree of fearmongering) in the Australian press. In a development without precedent in Australian diplomacy, Sir Littleton Groom (Attorney-General and Minister for Trade and Customs), the leader of Australia's delegation to the League, though instructed by Prime Minister Bruce to abstain when the protocol was discussed at the plenary meeting of the Assembly, voted in its favour. All other Empire delegates voted likewise, Groom probably being swayed by considerations of Empire solidarity.19 The protocol's provisions were outlined by Bruce in parliament only a day after it was adopted.20 He declared that Article 5 raised issues 'in which Australia is interested and in regard to which we must exercise the utmost vigilance'.21 In general, he took the position that the protocol represented 'progress' towards the noble objectives for the attainment of which the League had been established, and that Australia's sole concern related to any changes which might infringe upon domestic sovereignty. He particularly noted the contribution of the Japanese delegates and the context of their intervention, which was the failure of the League to adopt the principle of racial equality. In response to an interjection from Hughes, now on the back bench, that 'a fundamental change' had been made regarding the League's powers of scrutiny of domestic matters, Bruce was insistent that, so far, there had been no such alteration. But he did add that 'Australia cannot allow action regarding a question of domestic jurisdiction to be dictated to her by the League of Nations or by any other outside authority'.22 Hughes was not slow to claim in the press that Article 5 'gravely imperilled our White Australia'.23

In the event, Australia's reasons for rejection of the protocol (for which parliamentary assent would have been required) were conveyed to a government in London which had already made the same decision. The reasons Bruce offered included many of the objections voiced by the British, based on the fundamental assumption that the League was more likely to be effective as a vehicle for moral suasion than a legal organisation governed by inflexible rules. In the present state of world opinion, and especially given the absence from membership of important powers, the protocol represented, he wrote, 'a dangerous attempt to accelerate [the] growth' of a still imperfect regime which had yet to develop sufficiently robust foundations of 'mutual confidence'.24 But the issue that most engaged local opinion had been the putative threat to the White Australia policy. If Australians were learning to become citizens of the world, they were as yet little inclined to share their dwelling with others.

However, the momentum created by the protocol was not completely lost. At Locarno, five treaties were concluded, the most important of which guaranteed Germany's frontiers with France and Belgium, any violation of which would be brought to the Council and regarding which Britain and Italy agreed to act to punish the aggressor. Though the Locarno treaties were outside the League system, and their provisions (to quote a contemporary Australian scholar) 'constituted only a strictly limited settlement in a specially troublesome quarter of Europe',25 with France's security thus underwritten they did open the door to the entry of Germany into the League and to membership of the Council. Significantly, though the Australian government was kept informed of the negotiations, the dominions were not parties to the final arrangements, though they were given the option of becoming associated with the treaties. At the Imperial Conference of 1926, they decided not to do so, in the light of Canadian and South African reservations.

Despite the failure of the protocol, the desire of some League members to create a law-bound international sphere remained. The General Act for the Pacific Settlement of Disputes, prescribing specific measures of arbitration and conciliation between states in dispute, was debated in the 1928 League Assembly, and accepted by the Empire–Commonwealth members, including Australia, in 1930. In addition, a movement was initiated to expand the competence of the PCIJ, in particular by encouraging member states to adopt an optional clause which provided for the obligatory acceptance of the court's decisions on a wide variety of matters of fact and law. Although Australia had signed the protocol drawn up to signify acceptance of the role of the new PCIJ in 1921, it had not adopted the optional clause. At the 1926 Imperial Conference the Empire's view of the clause was discussed; the Australian delegation was led by Prime Minister Bruce, its members including Professor W Harrison Moore of the University of Melbourne who served as legal adviser. Bruce was doubtful of accepting the unqualified competence of the court, not least on the grounds that it was still unclear what law would apply. Further discussion of the matter in the League Assembly, the restatement of the preference of Canada to adopt the optional clause, and the election of a Labour government in the United Kingdom that was more sympathetic towards the Canadian view then prompted further review of the issue, and a conference was hastily convened in August 1929 in London to attempt to formulate a common Empire position in advance of the forthcoming meeting of the League Assembly. CWC Marr, in charge of the Australian delegation at the League and a minister without portfolio, was charged with the task, with Harrison Moore dispatched as his expert colleague, of representing Australia. Marr's brief was to delay any decision until further consultation, as well as to obstruct any unilateral action by other Empire members.26 The matter was first debated in an enlarged British Cabinet Committee in London, chaired by the Prime Minister, Ramsay MacDonald.

The Australian government remained convinced that accession to the clause was possible only with very specific reservations. According to a Department of External Affairs memorandum, the grounds for the lack of Empire unity on the optional clause related to the following issues:

(a) disputes in time of war, (b) the desirability and necessity of excluding certain possible disputes touching questions affecting domestic policy, (c) giving effect to decisions of the Court on matters of vital interest where such decisions would necessitate the passing of legislation, (d) the uncertainty of the rules of procedure followed by the Court, [and] (e) the uncertainty of the law to be applied by the Court.27

The document then referred to the Canadian position which was that the time had come for the Empire to accept the clause, noting that this was not the Australian view and that more time and discussion was needed. Although the Australian desire to delay further action was unsuccessful, Harrison Moore played an important role, as Hudson points out, in advising the government that it would be prudent to insist upon stating a reservation regarding matters of domestic jurisdiction. In the event, Britain and the other dominions accepted the optional clause, though reserving some categories of disputes, including those between British states and those regarding domestic jurisdiction.28 As to the latter, Harrison Moore undoubtedly had in mind questions of race and immigration, issues of distinct relevance to Australia. Once more, the desire to preserve matters of 'domestic jurisdiction', which meant the White Australia policy and also tariffs, from League scrutiny indicated that there were clear limits to Australian internationalism.

The League's increasingly complex web of measures and agreements were tested and found wanting in the following decade. Australia's contribution at the League to the crises of the 1930s was largely associated with the person of Bruce who not only led every national delegation to Geneva between 1932 and 1939 but also became an increasingly influential figure in League deliberations including within the Council. Bruce remained based in London though he was a frequent traveller to Geneva; unlike Canada, which had appointed an 'Advisory Officer' to be resident at the League from 1925 (with Walter A Riddell occupying the post until 1937),29 Australia maintained no permanent mission.

The global economic crisis which began in 1929 with the Wall Street crash unleashed forces that the international order of the 1920s, to which the League had been a major contributor, could not accommodate. In retrospect, the occupation in 1931 of northeast China by Japanese military forces, after the staging of a 'terrorist incident' on the Japanese-controlled railway at Mukden (Shenyang), marked the beginning of the decline of that international order. Though that region was under the effectively independent control of a warlord, China at the League brought the issue before the Council under the terms of Article 11 of the Covenant. Even though the United States, regarding the issue of major strategic import, had sent a delegate to attend, and the Council's members were unsympathetic to Japanese claims that their special interests in Manchuria were in jeopardy, they could not take action since Japan, as a member, in effect held a veto given that the League's procedures in relation to Article 11 at the time required unanimity. The best the Council could manage was an agreement to dispatch a Commission of Inquiry under Lord Lytton.

While Lytton and his fellow commissioners were making their leisurely way to the Far East (travelling first to Tokyo), Japan consolidated its control of Manchuria, set up an ostensibly independent administration in the region, and then extended military action to Shanghai, bombing civilian districts with significant loss of life. The Council again considered events in the Far East, the Chinese delegate invoking Article 15 of the Covenant and addressing his appeal to the whole Assembly. After much delay, and with Lytton's recommendations finally to hand, the Assembly voted in February 1933 to condemn Japan, whose delegates subsequently walked out of the League.

Bruce, in his first participation in League affairs at Geneva since 1922, spoke at the Assembly meeting in December 1932 when some smaller powers were calling for harsh censure of Japan while the British were attempting to hold the door open for some form of mediation. Though Bruce was well aware, as he said, that 'the League was in danger', he was concerned with seeking a solution that would be consistent with the fact that 'the authority of the League is based upon moral and not upon physical force'. Taking his cue from the British, he interpreted Lytton as showing that 'the rights and wrongs in this great question are neither on the one side nor on the other' and therefore deprecated any recourse to condemnation.30 As tensions mounted, the Australian government instructed him to avoid any involvement in actions that might result in a commitment to war against Japan.31 The Manchuria issue indeed marked a turning point for the League, but the larger context for the League's inaction is sometimes neglected. The major European powers enjoyed considerable extraterritorial rights in China proper, in regions, unlike Manchuria, which were under actual central government control; unequivocal condemnation of Japan would have been hypocritical. More important was the fact, which Bruce recognised clearly, that a League without Japanese membership, and especially without Japan–the most important Asian power–on the Council, would not command the power to bring its decisions to effect. Only in September 1938, after the Sino-Japanese war proper had been raging for a year, did China finally convince the Council to impose sanctions on Japan (under Article 16 of the Covenant); concrete actions, however, were left to the individual states, and Australia along with all the other powers ignored this directive.

In the midst of the Manchuria crisis, the first session of the long-delayed Conference for the Reduction and Limitation of Armaments of the League convened. In one respect the conference was without precedent, embracing sixty-four countries (including the United States and the Soviet Union); in another, as it began while Japanese troops were fighting near Shanghai, it represented a movement which had had some influence in the 1920s but the impetus of which was now largely spent. Until this point the Australian government had shown little interest in the League's work on disarmament. In any event, in the early 1930s the country had been all but disarmed by the budgetary economies forced upon the government by the Niemeyer mission and its London creditors; the rationale for Canberra's decision to attend therefore lay in the need to reinforce Empire solidarity. The newly elected government of Prime Minister Joseph Lyons appointed JG Latham (Minister for External Affairs and Attorney-General) to the Australian delegation, with the support of Sir Granville Ryrie, High Commissioner in London. Latham actually spent little time at Geneva, being absorbed by imperial business in London; Ryrie's extempore address, however, which drew on his Gallipoli experiences to condemn the unreason of war, made a strong impression.32 The substantive Australian contribution to the conference was slight, and when Germany–unable to secure parity in armaments–left the conference, the inability of the League machinery to address one of the central tasks specified in the Covenant became clear.33 An economic counterpart to the disarmament meeting was the World Monetary and Economic Conference, convened in London in 1933, at which Australia was represented by Bruce. Its outcome was no more positive, as there was a breakdown in attempts by the major economic powers to stabilise currencies.

In Australia, however, it was the Ethiopia issue that was perceived as the League's moment of truth.34 At Wal Wal, in border territory which lay in Ethiopia but was occupied by Italy, a military clash in December 1934–and subsequent Italian claims for compensation and apology–led to Ethiopia bringing the dispute to the Council. Despite the fact that Ethiopia was a member of the League, and that Italy's aggressive intentions were quite apparent, the Italian tactics of prevarication and dissimulation were abetted by most members of the Council, with Britain and France taking the lead in seeking a settlement that would be palatable to Mussolini. When the Council finally did consider the issue directly, as in the case of Manchuria it initially refused to act under Article 11 (which required unanimity).

These developments proved disquieting to many countries as well as to public opinion, and in September 1935 at the annual meeting of the Assembly the British Foreign Secretary, Sir Samuel Hoare, appeared to commit Britain unreservedly to support for collective resistance to aggression. His position was supported by Pierre Laval, Prime Minister of France. Thus prompted, the Council considered the issue anew, under Article 15 of the Covenant, which provided that a party which rejected its findings and which then waged war would be guilty of breaking the Covenant. But before the Council pronounced its view, which found Italy at fault, the final conquest of Ethiopia had begun. Under the requirements of the League, sanctions against the aggressor were mandated. Though some countries avoided taking any such steps and while the measures introduced were modest, the Italian economy suffered considerably. However, Hoare and Laval, dealing with Italy directly, then proposed what would in effect have been a partition of Ethiopia to bring much of it under Italian control. Public opinion was aghast–and Mussolini contemptuous–but though the Foreign Secretary then resigned, the existence of the Hoare–Laval plan had undermined the commitment to international sanctions. Italian conquest proceeded apace; by this time the Italians were using poison gas, and they soon entered the capital. Emperor Haile Selassie was forced to leave his country; in an eloquent speech before the Assembly in Geneva in June 1936 he condemned not only Italy but also France. However, the event was a sad anticlimax, since only New Zealand and South Africa then spoke for the maintenance of sanctions.

Due to his unique position in London, Bruce had been a participant in the deliberations of the British government regarding Ethiopia. As he recounted the events to his biographer Cecil Edwards, he was aware of the acute dangers posed by Mussolini's challenge to the League:

it seemed to me a somewhat dangerous position to accept the principle of the enforcement of the Covenant of the League by imposing sanctions on Italy, when by so doing we would be establishing a precedent which we probably could not live up to in the case of Germany. Yet the whole position of the League would be undermined if it were to acquiesce in the patent and blatant aggression of Mussolini.35

He therefore recommended to Anthony Eden (then League of Nations Secretary in the British Cabinet) and also to Hoare that Britain take the extraordinary step of declaring, at Geneva, that the non-universality of the League prevented it from functioning as an effective mechanism to maintain collective security. In the absence of 'overwhelming strength' with which to deal with an aggressor, it was almost guaranteed that if sanctions were imposed on Italy, war would be provoked. Britain should assert therefore that Mussolini's aggression had shown that the noble principles of the League could not yet be put into practical effect and, therefore, collective action could not be taken. Meanwhile, Britain would devote new resources to rearmament since only effective British power would permit the League to do its work. Such an intervention would alert the world 'to a realization of the dangerous position into which we were drifting'. In the event, the Cabinet did not confront the issue, and Hoare himself told Bruce that he had no specific instructions for the speech he was to deliver at the Assembly.36

In Australia, the Lyons government, though internally divided, followed the British lead and introduced sanctions against Italy.37 The government was embarrassed, however, by the appearance, while the measures were being debated, of Hughes's book, The Price of Peace,38 which argued that economic sanctions could well lead to war, a conclusion Lyons had vigorously denied. At the time, while the Labor Party adopted an isolationist view, much informed opinion showed an awareness that Ethiopia was a crucial test for the League.

Sensitive European questions lay behind the calculations of the powers regarding Ethiopia. The country's very borders were the product of an agreement of 1906 between Britain, France and Italy, and as the colonial occupiers of almost the entirety of the African continent, the former two powers were receptive both to charges that the country was not capable of governing itself in a civilised fashion and also to suggestions that Italy was deserving of territorial appeasement in Africa, as promised at the conclusion of the Great War. The most vital strategic questions were also at issue, affecting the central balance. Under the terms of Locarno, Italy was one of the guarantors of France's borders. With Hitler's denunciation of the treaty and his occupation of the Rhineland in March 1936, the French and British were anxious to find an accommodation in Africa that would be acceptable to Mussolini and thus ensure the continuity of the Locarno commitment. Under Bruce's tenure as chair, the League Council met in London to consider the Rhineland. Of this meeting, FP Walters, the historian of the League, referred to Bruce as 'the best, perhaps, of the many first-rate chairmen who presided' at the various League organisations.39 With German Foreign Minister von Ribbentrop present–by invitation, though Germany had left the League–the German actions were condemned as a violation of Locarno, but no specific policies were adopted. Bruce's diagnosis of the failings in European security had proven accurate. And when the issue arose as to whether sanctions upon Italy should be maintained after Ethiopia had been effectively annexed, Bruce was adamant that since the League was without the means or resolve to take the matter further, they must sooner or later be abandoned. It would be better, therefore, to take the step immediately and not be forced to face further international odium.40 Though most of the dominions counselled otherwise, the British government soon acted thus.

Despite the deteriorating international climate, Bruce was able to score a personal success through his adept chairing of a League conference to revise the regulation of the waterway to the Black Sea which passed through Turkish territory. At Montreux, on 20 July 1936, a convention was agreed by Britain, France, the Black Sea powers (including the Soviet Union) and Greece on the use of the Straits of the Dardanelles, the Sea of Marmara and the Bosporus by merchant and by naval vessels.41 So pleased was the Turkish government with the outcome–a convention which is still in force to the present–that President Atatürk presented Bruce with a gold cigarette case which he used for the rest of his life (and which now resides in the Museum of Australian Democracy, Old Parliament House, Canberra). Bruce also had a role in manoeuvres to pass the Sino-Japanese dispute (which had become a full-scale war in July 1937) to a conference of the Nine Powers (which had stood as guarantors to China as a result of the Washington Treaties of 1921), thus both involving the United States and avoiding the possibility of a further ineffective if not counterproductive invoking of League sanctions.42

The Australian imprint on international organisation is usually associated with the role of External Affairs Minister HV Evatt at the foundation conference on the United Nations held in San Francisco. Though Evatt is undoubtedly pre-eminent, in his later career at the League Bruce also made a major contribution in that sphere. He inaugurated a movement which led ultimately to the creation of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations. He also sought to enlarge the social and economic role of the League, anticipating the organisation within the United Nations of the Economic and Social Council as well as propounding programs for global development of the kind exemplified by the UN's current Millennium Development Goals.

As Australian scholars have shown,43 the influence of Frank McDougall, with whom Bruce had long been associated, was crucial in this enlargement of Bruce's horizons. From being a champion of imperial trading preference and a propagandist in London for Australian primary producers (as well as a source for Bruce of much inside information), McDougall had recognised the connection between trade barriers, excessive supply of food commodities in producing countries, and poor global nutrition. His experience at Geneva, as an Australian delegate at the League Assembly in 1929 and again from 1934 to 1939, undoubtedly was an influence on his outlook. Bruce raised these matters notably in the Assembly of the League in 1935,44 candidly pointing out that greater trade in agricultural products would enhance the health and wellbeing of populations worldwide while also benefiting his own country.45 In raising this issue he was adept in gaining the support of other agricultural nations, in this approach anticipating the strategy of the latter-day Cairns Group.

McDougall characterised his approach as 'economic appeasement'.46 In a memorandum originally presented to the Economic Committee of the League in 1937, McDougall argued the case for 'further initiatives to bring about improved standards of living and by so doing to promote a revival of world trade. This, in turn, should reduce the present political tensions'.47 He looked beyond the troubles of the time to a world of higher wages, extensive social security systems and cheaper food. Significantly, for one who had been prominent as a champion of protected markets for Australian food produce, he had come round to the view that in agriculture, subsidies rather than tariffs were the better means to encourage primary production, but that in the longer term prosperity depended on a general reduction of trade barriers, a measure that would particularly assist the less developed economies. And if the League were at the centre of this ambitious and improving global program, its standing in all spheres would be enhanced: 'If the nations learn to turn to the League for information, help and advice on economic and social questions, the prestige that has been lost on the political plane may be regained on a firmer basis'.48 Later, after impressing many in the United States during World War II, including President Roosevelt, with his ideas, McDougall was appointed to advise the American delegation to the foundational conference of the FAO and he spent the rest of his career with the organisation.

For Bruce (and McDougall), food and agricultural trade were only the beginning of a potential for development in the aims of international organisation that would both benefit the mass of humanity while addressing some of the underlying causes of the extremism with which the security machinery of the League had proven ill-equipped to deal. If the League could not act according to the principles of collective security, its potential as a social and economic force was still considerable. This alternative focus would require some reorganisation of the League's extensive economic and social activities, which had grown in a somewhat haphazard fashion. Having already taken on the task of chairing the Committee on the Structure and Functions of the Economic and Financial Organization, Bruce was invited by the Council of the League to form a special committee to recommend such reorganisation. The resulting document, The Development of International Cooperation in Economic and Social Affairs, appeared in August 1939. It argued that the extensive and ever-expanding 'interdependence' of the modern world required nothing short of a 'Central Committee for Economic and Social Questions' to coordinate the propagation throughout the world of that technical and scientific knowledge which, when applied, would lead to the betterment of the human condition.49 This proposal came too late to save the League, but it was influential in the development of the organisation of its successor, the United Nations. It has also come to be regarded as an early example of the functionalist approach to international order.50

Meanwhile, Australia also contributed to the debate on revision of the Covenant. Following the perceived failure of Geneva to deal with the Ethiopia issue, the League began a review of the Covenant and its provisions to determine whether the organisation could be re-founded upon a new and more practicable basis.51 The Australian view articulated in 1936 was to sever the organisation from the peace treaties and abandon the requirement (under Article 11) that the Council should be bound in its procedures by a rule of unanimity, the latter being the position also favoured by Britain. Following discussions at the 1937 Imperial Conference and a subsequent exchange with the Dominions Secretary, Lord Stanley, Australia also came to support the British view that (in relation to Article 16) the adoption of sanctions against an aggressor should be a matter for member states–and thus, in effect, optional.52

In addition to annual participation in the Assembly and Bruce's role in the Council, Australia's most regular exposure to the processes of Geneva were as a result of the New Guinea mandate and of Australia's administration of Nauru. The League formed a Permanent Mandate Commission which met annually and, as a mandatory, the Australian government was obliged to present an annual report on the administration of New Guinea and respond to any questions raised by the commission. The process was managed by members of the League Secretariat. As Hudson shows, the principal Australian interest in New Guinea was strategic denial whereas the ostensible rationale for the mandate system was the advancement of the inhabitants, especially if the area concerned was categorised 'Class C'. As neither the planters nor (when gold was discovered) the gold miners of the territory took a great interest in native advancement, and as Canberra only provided the administration with the smallest of subsidies, education, health care and infrastructure construction were hardly major priorities.53 Neither did Australia's agents at Geneva (prior to Bruce) demonstrate much diplomatic acumen when the secretariat came to learn of Australian press reports of corruption and malfeasance at Rabaul. Nevertheless, in the absence of the mandatory framework, Australian government attention would undoubtedly have been less and the national purpose and role of Australia's territories in the Southwest Pacific might not have been debated. As an editorial in 1919 opined: 'Our mandate may make Australia rise to a belated sense of her obligations not only in German New Guinea and Papua, but in its general outlook towards the Pacific'.54

The establishment of an International Labour Organisation (ILO) had been one of the achievements of the Versailles Peace Treaty; its constitution, adopted in 1919, envisaged a general conference at which nations would be represented (under a tripartite formula) by delegations composed of employers, workers and governments. The secretariat of the ILO moved to Geneva in 1920 and the organisation became part of the League structure, although its operations were the responsibility of a separately appointed director-general. Its work was generally devoted to improving international standards on hours and conditions of work, and on the protection of vulnerable workers, including women and children. Australia participated in the ILO, sending a delegation to the annual conferences, though often the delegates took the position that the organisation's work was more relevant to less developed or enlightened countries. In addition, Australian participants devoted much of their efforts trying to explain the (baroque) relationship between the federal and state governments in the regulation of wages and labour conditions.55 Nevertheless, the ILO was a forum for major issues of concern to labour. To cite a single example, at the annual meeting in 1939, in addition to officials, the Australian delegates included Andrew Kemp from the Hobart Chamber of Commerce and Thomas Lawton, president of the South Australian Tramways Union. Lawton argued the case, unsuccessfully, for the reduction of the (then) 48-hour working week to 44 hours.56

In retrospect, Bruce's view of the necessarily circumscribed role that the League could play was borne out by events. From such an organisation–which excluded significant powers and which represented, in some respects, the victorious coalition of 1918–persuasion, moral sanctions, and education were attainable objectives whereas a comprehensive system of collective security was a bridge too far. The Covenant's commitment to economic sanctions as the required response to aggression could not work without universal support. In its absence, direct censure or even expulsion of members would do little except harden attitudes. And a decision to use military force against an aggressor would most likely fall to Great Britain to discharge, an outcome which might well prejudice Australia's security by requiring the demanding commitment of forces in European theatres at a time when many critics doubted Britain's capacity to protect its Far Eastern interests. Nor were the League's shortcomings only in the sphere of diplomacy. While the League's social and economic activities expanded to such an extent that the resources devoted to their pursuit rivalled those spent on security, diplomacy and disarmament, they were never coordinated in the fashion that Bruce envisaged. Bruce's realisation that the trend to international interdependence could be fostered so as to build a functional basis for common peace and prosperity was ahead of its time, but it was at the heart of the rationale of most transnational and international organisations postwar, most notably of the United Nations.

Australians and the debate on the League in the 1920s

In the magisterial account of the Paris Peace Conference assembled by Harold Temperley, the negotiation of the future shape of the League is characterised in terms of two competing conceptions: one that envisaged the League as experimental and diplomatic, the other which aimed at producing an organisation that was juridical and definite, even to the point of it comprising a 'super-state'.57 In Australia the debate on what the League was or might become similarly involved widely varying notions. Did it make Australians all equally citizens of the world, or did it merely serve some circumscribed national (and even imperial) purposes?

No sooner had the Great War begun than progressive thinkers began to consider how future wars might be avoided. There were many notable contributions to this question; one of the most influential was Leonard Woolf's International Government,58 which emerged from discussions within the Fabian Society in Britain and which first appeared in the New Statesman in 1915. His proposals anticipated much of the actual organisation of the League of Nations. Australians soon became aware of this debate, and by the final year of the war were pondering the possible shape and rationale of the proposed League. In a lecture delivered as part of a series for the Adelaide Diocesan Social Union, Meredith Atkinson (a pioneer figure in the Australian Workers' Educational Association, and then at the University of Melbourne) argued that the success of such an organisation would lie in its capacity to mobilise 'enlightened public opinion' towards the fostering of 'an international spirit'.59 On this view the League was to be more than a mere summation of the nations. Yet Atkinson was careful to suggest that such contentious issues as 'White Australia' be left until such time as an 'impartial belief in right' had emerged.

In an address given in Melbourne in October 1919, JG Latham, recently returned from Europe, defended the outcome of the Paris negotiations, though in more prosaic terms. The arrangements would preserve White Australia, Latham interpreting Article 10 of the Covenant as guaranteeing that such domestic matters would not be brought before the Council of the League. He also noted that the mandate for New Guinea had been granted under very favourable conditions, and that there was no necessity for Australia to wage war at the behest of the League.60 However, beyond these advantages to the nation, a new international era had been inaugurated that would place novel demands upon Australia. Latham stated the view that at Paris, Australia had 'won nationhood', membership of the League establishing separate representation for Australia in the international arena.61 While the League was untried, its objectives were worthy; for Australia to advance its interests in the new theatre for world affairs thus created, 'we must send some of our best men abroad', especially to assume the roles of delegates to the League and of 'resident Minister in London'.62 Australians now had both 'a responsibility and a duty' to inform themselves of international affairs and the government must make new efforts to ensure that Australia's policy was well understood abroad. Within the government a foreign affairs department was needed to mobilise expert opinion and spread public awareness. Australia should also emulate British practice and establish an institute of international affairs and a League of Nations Union. In something of a riposte to this argument, Sir James Barrett, a prominent member of the Royal Colonial Institute in Victoria, while commending the suggestion of devoting more talent to foreign affairs, especially by way of sending suitable officers to London, cautioned severely against any notion of separate dominion representation in foreign capitals.63

The Australian League of Nations Union (LNU) was founded in 1921, with the first branches established in Melbourne and then in Sydney and Adelaide. A federal organisation followed in 1930. Through the production of publications, the organisation of public lectures and later broadcasts, and a vigorous program of education in secondary schools, the LNU performed a remarkable service in educating Australians about world affairs and the League's role therein. Not quite a pressure group, with many senior political, legal and ecclesiastical figures associated with its leadership, the LNU nevertheless campaigned tirelessly in favour of the doctrine of collective security, support for which was seen as integral to Australia's responsibilities as a member of the League.64

A recurrent theme in early Australian writings on the League was its connection with Christianity, no doubt encouraged by Wilson's insistence on the use of the Presbyterian term 'covenant' to describe its foundational articles. In an early exposition of the League's principles of organisation, Trinity College, Dublin alumnus Patrick Glynn, a former minister for external affairs, having invoked Saint Augustine, expressed the hope that the League would function 'to develop and extend an international temper that will eventually both save and redeem'.65 An early publication of the LNU appealed for the cooperation of the Christian churches on the basis that 'the Covenant embodies, and applies to international relationships, principles and lines of action which derive their sanction and authority from the truths of Christianity'. With the 'fundamental purpose' in view being 'the creation and effective expression of a sound and well-instructed public opinion',66 church authorities were urged to sermonise in favour of the League and its objectives of peace, justice and protection of the weak. However, some Christian figures gave the League's appearance quite a different reading. For Baptist Leonard Sale-Harrison, the League was a vindication of prophecy, being the confederation of the ten kingdoms of Revelation. With its Covenant 'God-dishonouring' and its mechanisms powerless to control the world's growing disorder, history required the appearance of a 'superman', of whom Mussolini was perhaps the prototype, before the stage could be set for the final battle of Armageddon.67

The question of Australia's possible adherence to the additional protocol stimulated an extensive public debate in 1924. Speaking at a meeting of the newly organised Australian Institute of International Affairs (AIIA) in Sydney on 24 October, Professor AH Charteris argued that though the powers of the League (under Article 11 of the Covenant) to examine any issue of contention might be enhanced by the protocol, if the document produced any consequential change in the League's procedures it would render 'war against Australia over the White Australia Policy' even less likely.68 The real innovation in the protocol was contained in Article 4, which provided for compulsory arbitration, but this feature had attracted less attention in Australia. When the full details of the deliberations on the protocol became known, the Federal Council of the League of Nations Union released a statement to the press giving its assessment. The protocol was declared 'the most practical scheme yet elaborated for securing the pacific settlement of international disputes' and thus deserving of support. Regarding the objections of Hughes and other like-minded critics, the Council asserted that the 'existing safeguards to the White Australia policy are probably increased under the protocol, or at least put upon a surer footing'.69 This finding referred to Article 10(1) of the protocol which proposed that a state would necessarily be designated an aggressor if it ignored a League ruling that an issue of dispute between that state and a second state was a matter relating to the domestic sovereignty of the latter state. Nevertheless, attention in Australia was focused on the rider to that proposal, which specified that there could only be a presumption of aggression in such cases if the issue had not previously been drawn to the attention of the Council or the Assembly. The rider, however, did not preclude the Council from determining that such a state was not an aggressor. And the clear intention of these provisions was to ensure that if a state in this position did bring a matter of concern to the attention of the League under Article 11 of the Covenant, a judgement that the matter at issue was domestic would not necessitate identifying the complainant as an aggressor. As H Duncan Hall argued in a paper prepared for the Sydney League of Nations Union, for Australia, the most important aspect of the protocol was to ensure that, in the event of a hypothetical dispute between Australia and Japan regarding the White Australia policy, there were remedies beyond the three-month delay allowed for under Article 12 of the Covenant.70

Some commentators took a more expansive view of the League. Speaking at the English-Speaking Union in 1924, former Australian commissioner in New York, Sir Henry Braddon, characterised the League as an experiment in establishing 'a disinterested international agency' in place of the partiality of individual nations which had already scored some successes in mediation between nations and in dealing with the aftermath of war.71 While Braddon clearly regarded the League as essentially dependent upon the support of the major nations–its closest historical parallel was the post-Napoleonic Holy Alliance–he did see it evidently having the potential to transform world politics. Supporting the League would see the emergence of a 'new international agency which seeks to substitute equity for exploitation, law for war'; the alternative was 'a relapse to the "balance of power" ' from which conflict would result.72 And the interests of Australia were already engaged. Regarding the mandate over New Guinea, Braddon noted that 'the League could take away the mandated authority if we failed in our duty' to civilise the inhabitants and to improve their conditions of life.

In the light of his role in connection with the additional protocol, it is noteworthy that Sir Littleton Groom returned from Geneva impressed with the achievements of the League. In a lecture delivered in 1925 he stated the view that while the League was ultimately an 'agreement between sovereign states', its objective–to foster 'an international public opinion and an international conscience'–was worth pursuing. Consequently, Australia's membership and participation were entirely consistent with membership of the British Empire.73 Personal exposure to the League Assembly seemed to induce a positive appraisal of the organisation. Victorian politician and engineer George Swinburne was a delegate to the Assembly in 1925; he was proud that Australia had participated from the first in the League as 'an independent state'. The organisation was 'the greatest experiment in cooperation among nations in the history of mankind', but though in its councils there was much talk of 'a common brotherhood', the Australian contribution to the debate on the additional protocol revealed a less generous spirit while demonstrating which issues were of vital importance to his countrymen:

Australia is not prepared to submit its Immigration Policy, which includes a White Australia, to any outside jurisdiction. It is not prepared to submit matters which may concern its national honour, its economic or tariff questions, to any Court, although they contain many root causes of war.74

This position was subject to an implicit critique, clearly prompted by Swinburne's personal contact with the delegates from the many nations:

Do not forget that, with all that wonderful variety [of humanity at the League], it is the first time in the history of mankind that the nations of the earth have come together to publicly discuss the international problems which confront them. Remember also, that humanity is all the richer for its wide variations, and we have seen enough to realise that it is quite possible to have a fundamental unity of spirit underlying these differences. If we are to advance it is not through nationalism alone, or the cultivation of racial feeling. It is by making men who are proud of their race more perfect in their qualities in which that race is pre-eminent, to serve their fellows and uplift the world.75

The most important work written specifically on the League and Australia under the auspices of the LNU was by AD Ellis (the first edition published in 1922). He characterised and then rejected what might now be termed realist and utopian views of the League: the former held that such a project denied the fundamentals of an unchanging 'human nature', the latter that it was a scheme of universal peace that had succeeded in outlawing war.76 Rather, as the world was still in the process of restoring 'normal conditions' after a devastating conflict, the League was essentially an artifice of diplomacy. By serving to reduce 'international friction, and increasing, even slightly, international understanding, it was a most promising sign' for the prospects of constructing order. In the longer term, its aim was to have states behave 'in accordance with the ideals of justice and humanity and commonsense', and it was a reasonable expectation that 'civilized nations' would honour their obligations.77

In the 1920s, the League of Nations and Australia's obligations thereto were the focus of university courses in Melbourne, Perth and later Adelaide. At the University of Western Australia, Fred Alexander (also a leading light of the local LNU) produced a book-length study on the League which constituted the most considered Australian statement on the subject. In From Paris to Locarno and After: The League of Nations and the Search for Security, 1919–1928, Alexander argued that the framers of the Covenant took:

the opportunity of creating machinery which would be in the first place cooperative rather than strictly legal, and which would consequently look to persuasion by consultation and unanimous decision around a common council board rather than to persistent and interfering supervision and punitive action by means of the armed forces of the super-State.78

In the late 1920s Alexander thought that such a cooperative approach could be the basis for those policies of disarmament and arbitration that would provide for the security of Europe; after the Ethiopian debacle his hopes for the League were dashed.

And the most onerous responsibility for Australia derived from its responsibilities as a mandatory. This matter was debated by the Victorian branch of the LNU, and the proceedings were published by the Institute of Pacific Relations. According to FW Eggleston, far from constituting a strategic advantage, Australia's occupation of New Guinea imposed a significant burden on a country still itself in need of capital and resources for its own internal development.79

Perhaps the most considered view of the League and its impact on Australia was presented by Professor William Harrison Moore who, in addition to his occasional role as adviser to Bruce, served as Australian delegate to the Assembly in 1927, 1928 and 1929. In a lecture given in Melbourne in May 1929, Harrison Moore developed his analysis of the League and, indeed, of the fundamentals of international relations. He regarded its advent as, in some particulars, the appearance of 'a new international system'.80 There were at least two senses in which the League was a novel departure. First, it was designed as a comprehensive institution for the prevention of a new form of war. As shown by the experience of the Great War, conflict now knew no borders, once started was bound to expand its sphere, recognised no neutrals, and was unprecedentedly devastating in its results. Harrison Moore's last point was of particular importance, as the worldwide economic misery and discontent of the time could be traced to the War. This objective, which was novel in itself, entailed nothing less than the creation of a new system of security. For the old was rooted in the pursuit of security through armaments and alliances which issued in a self-defeating security dilemma: with such a strategy, 'you are seeking your security by means of other people's insecurity'. If this accustomed pattern was to be abandoned there was then a 'gap', so a 'new and effective system' of security must be organised 'which will give security, which will remedy injustice, which will remove wrongs, and which will settle disputes'. However, with the erection of this system, guarantees must be sought that no state will break the rules established for the reduction of armaments and for the settlement of disputes.81

Here Harrison Moore suggested that the exploration of new territory in international organisation was required, meaning nothing less than developing the means to reconcile the interests of nations in the widest sense. He explicitly noted conflicting economic interests which he described as 'outstanding'; he also suggested tackling common problems such as disease and pursuing other means to seek the 'promotion of common welfare'. In what would be taken today in international relations as a 'constructivist' observation, Harrison Moore suggested that the idea that must replace the former notion of competitive security was 'that for each country the realisation of its own greatest good is to be attained only in cooperation with others', and what will teach the benefits of cooperation will be its practice:

Cooperation in itself is perhaps one of the most valuable ways of peace, because through that cooperation, through active participation in it, and the constant preoccupation with cooperation we are continually learning more and more how those interests the countries have in common preponderate over those that are in conflict. The work of cooperation, then, is valuable, not merely for its immediate and material objects and aids. It is valuable as part of our education, and here we are coming to the moral and intellectual aspects of international relations.82

In addition to the prevention of war, and the development of new mechanisms for cooperation, there was a third sense in which the League represented a major innovation, and this was in the creation of the elements of 'a new international system' through such devices as the mandate and the protection of minorities. In all, '[t]he League is a system of states bound by mutual obligations in a permanent union'.83

In December 1930 Harrison Moore delivered a lecture entitled 'Australia's Place in the League of Nations'84 which addressed Australia's dual responsibilities to the League and to the Empire–Commonwealth. He developed an argument that was drawn from direct observation of intra-Commonwealth relations, given his presence (as an adviser to Bruce) at the 1926 Imperial Conference as well as his role in the formulation of the Commonwealth position on the PCIJ. In matters of foreign policy the Empire was increasingly inclined to place the League in the foreground, aiming to take 'concerted action in League measures'. In support of this contention he observed that 'at the Imperial Conference just concluded [of 1926] the greater part of the committee work on foreign affairs consisted in the detailed consideration of measures for strengthening the League in the prevention of war'.85

The demands of League and Empire had thus become not merely reconciled but mutually reinforcing. The international system had enjoyed the stabilising effect of the presence of a group of states all accepting League principles; at the same time those principles were increasingly what gave the Empire members their unity:

it is only through concentration on the League and the pursuit of a policy of co-operation in and loyalty to League obligations in their letter and their spirit, that it is now possible to maintain any united or common Empire policy.86

In the wider development of the Commonwealth idea, the notion that the Empire–Commonwealth and League were homologous had its origins ultimately in South African statesman and internationalist JC Smuts and also owed a debt to Lionel Curtis.

Nor did the Australian debate on the League neglect the popular arts. Following a practice that had begun in Britain,87 on 7 December 1929 a musical 'pageant' was staged at the Theatre Royal in Adelaide. In three acts the prelude to and outbreak of the Great War were depicted; the formation of the League was then presented in which 'Humanity banishes War'. The final scene offered the prospect of a new dawn for the human race:

The Nations and Counsellors all acclaim Humanity. Peace brings in a friend to assist him; to the surprise of everyone he turns out to be War! War surrenders to Peace, and under the name of the 'Warrior of Peace', will assist him in the work he has to do. New hope dawns on the World!88

The event was so successful that the secretary of the NSW branch of the LNU, Raymond Watt, made a hurried trip to Adelaide to determine whether or not a similar performance could be repeated in Sydney. The League was not simply a preoccupation of the political class.

Australians on the League in the crisis of the 1930s

Works written in the 1930s in Australia presented a decidedly more sombre, but often still hopeful, interpretation of the League.

As preparations for the League's major disarmament conference were underway, Australians debated the prospects of attaining this major objective, long delayed, of the organisation. On League of Nations Day, 1931, a symposium was convened at the University of Sydney at which motions in favour of disarmament were supported. While the conventional argument for disarmament–that those who possessed weapons that gave the capability to wage war would someday use them–was expressed, a more expansive view of the issue was also taken. Both Professor Francis Anderson (president of the LNU in New South Wales) and NSW Chief Justice Sir Philip Street developed the view that peace, while a vital objective, was but a means to that more comprehensive cooperation between the peoples of the world that the League had made possible for the first time. For Anderson, every Australian was, in a sense, a member of the League: 'the great discovery of our time is that the world really is one'.89

Raymond Watt was a tireless worker for the cause of the League. Secretary of the NSW branch of the LNU, and later federal secretary, he attended the Assembly as a delegate in 1931 and again in 1936 and was also present at the Brussels disarmament conference in 1936.90 In 1933, in response to the League's undoubted inability to protect (under Article 10 of the Covenant) the territorial integrity of China during the Manchuria crisis, Watt penned a trenchant but still positive account of the organisation.91 The world disarmament and economic conferences held under League auspices had produced no advance, but despite these failures the organisation had become 'an integral part of world management' or, in modern terms, of global governance. The League could take few initiatives without the explicit backing of governments, but it had nevertheless scored notable advances in social policy, in improving labour conditions and also in conciliation by way of the judgements of the PCIJ. Its methods–namely research, publicity and conference (commonplaces today, but innovations at that time)–had become entrenched, and given that 'the choice is between the prewar method of direct diplomatic negotiation, with all the incalculable risks surrounding secrecy, or the more open door method of Geneva', the latter in Watt's view was clearly preferable since only its practice would produce the education of public and government opinion–in modern parlance, the construction of international norms–that would permit the transcendence of parochial power politics.

By this stage the LNU had become very active in schools. The NSW branch had been permitted to conduct a 'peace ballot' among secondary school pupils, of whom 155,164 affirmed a preference for peace and peaceful methods (with 181 against).92 Teaching on the League became widespread, with the Victorian LNU publishing a guide to curriculum and methods. Written by senior teachers Gwenda Lloyd and John Merlo, International Affairs in Schools advanced the view that it was to education that the world should turn for the overcoming of the narrow nationalism that was seen as the root of world conflict. In its place an 'international mind' must be cultivated, and the focus of that cultivation should be 'the instruction of youth in the aims and ideals of the League'.93 Lloyd and Merlo suggested that teachers consult such progressive authors as Norman Angell, HG Wells, Alfred Zimmern, Leonard Woolf, GDH Cole and Salvador de Madariaga. Study of the activities of Australian H Duncan Hall, who was then working in the Opium Traffic Section of the League, was suggested as illustrative of the social activities of the organisation. By 1935 the worsening world situation had brought Professor Anderson almost to suggest that the fault for the League's failings lay in the persistence of atavistic attitudes in all national populations–aggressors and status quo powers alike.94

The entry of the Soviet Union into the League in 1934 stimulated renewed interest in the organisation from the political left. While mainstream Labor persisted in an isolationist view, pro-Soviet opinion saw the entry of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics as augmenting the forces for peace in the world and a sign of the desperation of the Western countries for reassurances against the rise of fascism.95 However, it was the appearance of the Soviet Union at Geneva which also led some parliamentarians in Australia to advocate complete withdrawal from the League–now condemned as of 'no practical good'–and the saving of the £52,000 annual subvention.96 The government defended the League's continued diplomatic usefulness, while suggesting that economies could nevertheless be effected in the Geneva bureaucracy.

At the time of the Ethiopia crisis in 1935, Fred Alexander, who had served as an alternate delegate to the Assembly in 1932, expressed the view that:

if the League failed to prevent Mussolini getting his way in Africa, the League was doomed and the world must inevitably return to the bad and dangerous system of pre-war alliances, with its attendant race in armaments and future conflicts, which must finally spell the end of Western civilisation.97

But these larger issues were scarcely confronted by a government unprepared to fulfil its duty of public education for fear of offending the non–status quo powers. As the Empire-focused journal The Round Table noted, while the country would fall in behind British policy whatever the consequences, 'the Government has no tradition in Australia of taking the people very much into its confidence in matters of foreign policy, and this [issue] is proving no exception to the rule'.98

Other commentators saw the problem against a different conjunction of factors. Professor JB Brigden produced some sustained reflections on the League for the Courier-Mail which were then reproduced as a pamphlet by the LNU. The League was admittedly an imperfect mechanism; its chief failing, however, was a lack of commitment by governments and peoples, notwithstanding their avowed support of its goals and purposes. Despite its great achievements in social issues, including public health, refugee relief and labour conditions, it had yet 'to get the nations into a habit of cooperation'.99 What explained this failing? Brigden suggests too great a reliance on arms as a means of security, but he also evinced some sympathy for the non–status quo powers. Reflecting on the judgement of the Council against Italy, Brigden stated:

The present crisis has shown, as the Manchurian crisis showed before it, that there is yet no effective means of dealing with the grievances of Nations such as Italy or Japan except by war or threat of war. These grievances have been lack of needed access to neighbouring territories not adequately utilised. They may not be genuine grievances at all, but whether or not they are or are not is beside the point. Until the Italians threatened war they were not listened to.100

Even after the Italian invasion of Ethiopia influential Australian supporters of the League were still inclined to favour appeasement,101 which included suggesting that the League's provisions for mandates could be used simultaneously to assuage the non–status quo powers while also addressing the needs of 'backward peoples' for development. But while there was some talk of Britain or France surrendering some colonies to the League, and even of some 'adjustments' made in Africa, specifically to the benefit of Italy, few were prepared to suggest the surrender of New Guinea.102

The decade that separated the work of Ellis and JC Rookwood Proud's World Peace, The League and Australia had tested many of the supporters of the League, within the LNU as well as beyond. Proud conceded that various states, not least Australia, had used the League for their own narrow purposes; while affirming the principle of disarmament they had nevertheless relied on arms for their own security.103 He also argued that the breakdown of the Washington Treaty system after 1931 had seriously destabilised the Pacific. Yet even in 1936 he found the best guarantee of Australian security to lie not in rearmament but rather in 'progressive disarmament in conjunction with the elimination of fortified advance bases'.104 Nor did he reject the viability of a rationalist project to build world order. The League's failure 'lies in its inability to deal with the racial hatreds and fears and the clashes of economic interests which are the root causes of war'.105 Against this view, FW Eggleston argued in 1936 that 'armaments are the main cause of insecurity' and that consequently the current crisis reflected the fact that the League had never implemented its policies on armaments:

Nobody in the position of the League can exercise the control over a number of highly armed nations necessary to adjust their contentions. It is not a super state or a world state, and if a world state were created it would not command sufficient obedience or force to give effect to its decrees. Disarmament was thus a paramount factor in the system of Collective Security as contained in the Covenant. It has completely broken down.106

The AIIA hosted a major conference of sister institutes in the Empire–Commonwealth at Lapstone, New South Wales, in 1938. One of the background papers prepared for the event dealt with Australia's view of the League. According to institute delegate Frederick Aarons the most salient aspects of Australia's foreign relations were, on the one hand, a general apathy regarding international affairs that extended even to a lack of parliamentary discussion and, on the other hand, an overriding concern to pursue the appeasement of Japan. Support for League-initiated sanctions against Italy should be seen as a case of the Lyons government following the British lead, despite a strong strain of isolationism from within the Labor opposition; however, neither side of politics had any enthusiasm for collective security. The collapse of sanctions had 'delivered a blow to collective action and to League prestige in Australia'.107 In these circumstances, with the outbreak of the Sino-Japanese war in 1937, 'League intervention was neither anticipated nor desired either by the Government or the Opposition'.108 Australia's engagement with the social and economic work of the League was episodic, he noted, and there was a good deal of ignorance about the role of Geneva; the issue that had generated public interest was the additional protocol, in respect of which '[t]here were visions of Australia being marked as an aggressor because of her reluctance to abandon the "White Australia Policy" '.109

Even the dire circumstances of 1938 produced contrasting approaches to the League, as is shown by contributions to Australian Quarterly. According to AG Colley, the foreign policy of the Lyons government was in a serious muddle, pursuing identification with Britain and support for League principles while conceding that the League's collective security system had broken down. Given Australia's national interest in discouraging aggression in the Pacific and Britain's evident inability to repel any such aggression, there was still time to seek to revive the League.110 By December of that fateful year, A Murray Smith had come to reject the League as it was then constituted. In 1918 there had been the 'omission to distinguish adequately … between two conceptions of the League–as a super nation for the prevention of war and as a society for promoting peace'.111 In the absence of a genuine international federation, war prevention was beyond the capacity of the organisation, which, shorn of Articles 10 and 16 (the latter requiring economic blockade of aggressor states), should instead be focused on 'peace promotion', with security left to regional pacts.

At the outbreak of war, the Victorian LNU published an exchange between Melbourne University colleagues Professor Kenneth Bailey and W Macmahon Ball on the causes of the war and the issue of war aims. Even at this late date Ball was still inclined to accept some of the arguments regarding access to colonies which had long been articulated by Germany (and Italy and Japan). He suggested that after the peace 'all European countries should have equal opportunities for developing the backward territories of the world'.112 Bailey's view was that the failure of the League was the outcome of expecting a degree of cooperation between states that was beyond their capacity: 'The League of Nations failed because it was based on a principle of political organisation for which the world was not yet ready'.113 A future League should take a more collaborative and less ambitious approach, dispensing with Article 16 (requiring economic blockade of states deemed aggressors). International mechanisms, appropriately designed, were still regarded as a means to world order.

The Australian debate on the League demonstrated some variety of views, with a few individuals prepared to see, or to hope for, a new era in international affairs. However, many Australians exhibited a more limited, if not parochial, interest in the League; rather than look forward to the peaceful resolution of conflict or to comprehensive disarmament they were often more preoccupied with concerns that the League would impose new restrictions upon their freedom to maintain favoured domestic policies, not least the White Australia policy. Far from internationalism supplanting or displacing the Empire–Commonwealth, if they considered the matter, Australians were more inclined to view the League as animated by the same principles as the Empire, though there were some glimpses of a more progressive view that saw the Empire–Commonwealth retaining its coherence as a result of its principal members affirming the rules of the League. There was little sign of any belief that empire and internationalism were necessarily inconsistent.114 And such internationalism as did exist was of an 'institutional' rather than a 'moral' mode,115 with very few examples of expectations that the nation state would or could be transcended through the solidarism of humankind.

Australians at Geneva

At a time when the difficulty, slowness and expense of international travel presented considerable obstacles, a surprising number of Australians made the pilgrimage to Geneva to participate in the League's proceedings, including in the annual meetings of the Assembly of the member nations. An even more surprising number became passionate supporters of the League as an ideal, forming, in imitation of the British parent organisation, a League of Nations Union, dedicated to the propagation of the spirit of Geneva to the general population. And Australians were among the international secretariat who staffed the organisation and who, as a body, constituted the first genuinely international civil service.

As has been noted, at various times Sir Littleton Groom, JG Latham, W Harrison Moore, Sir Granville Ryrie, RG Watt, FL McDougall and Fred Alexander all attended League meetings at Geneva. To their number may be added RG Casey, Sir Joseph Cook, Dr Walter Henderson, DB Copland, Ian Clunies Ross and others, in all a remarkable rollcall that illustrates the importance of the League in exposing politicians, officials and intellectuals to international and global concerns. Through the tripartite formula for representation at the ILO, prominent labour unionists and members of employers' organisations in Australia also found their way to Geneva.

Australians were also among the significant international community in Geneva. In the League Secretariat and also in the ILO a number of Australians served including, in the League Minorities Section, Raymond Kershaw (later an international banker), in the Health Section, Dr Charles Leslie Park, and also in several capacities JG Starke (Oxford scholar; subsequent associate of HV Evatt and, as a law professor, teacher of future Australian prime minister, Gough Whitlam). In the ILO William Caldwell was the first Australian appointee; he was joined by Walter Crocker (later to work at the United Nations and to become one of Australia's most distinguished ambassadors). The most senior Australian member of the League bureaucracy was H Duncan Hall.116 Duncan Hall was long a supporter of the LNU and of the League; while teaching at Syracuse University in 1927, he experimented with a model League of Nations Assembly (in what would now be called a simulation) which became, in part due to subsequent Carnegie Foundation support, a movement involving many colleges and universities across the United States. That movement survives as the Model United Nations. In 1927 he joined the Opium Traffic Section, becoming a noted authority on the international control of dangerous drugs.117 Having recruited JG Starke for the League, Hall transferred to the Information Section in 1935, being responsible in part for League relations with the British Commonwealth, and in that role making a number of trips to Australia during which he spoke in all the capital cities on the League.

All positions in the League were open to women (under Article 7 of the Covenant), and many international women's movements engaged with the League as a means of advancing the position of women as well as of bringing a feminist perspective to bear, especially on questions of peace and disarmament. The Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, for instance, maintained a liaison office in Geneva.118 It is in this context that a number of progressive Australian women took part in the activities of the League.119

From 1922 Australia's delegates to the Assembly always included one woman. The first president of the Australian Federation of Women's Societies, Bessie Rischbieth (who had prevailed on Prime Minister Hughes to send female delegates to Geneva), historian Jessie Webb, and Dr Ethel Osborne, physician and hygienist, all made the journey to Geneva. In 1929 pioneer women's health advocate Dr Roberta Jull was nominated, along with FW McDougall, as an alternate delegate to the Assembly. The League had organised an Advisory Committee on the Traffic in Women and Children that reported to the Fifth Committee of the Assembly, which dealt with humanitarian issues. As a result of this work, the Fifth Committee encouraged states to adopt legislation or regulations to raise the age of consent, withdraw the approval of licensed brothels and protect minors from transport abroad.120 At the Fifth Committee, Jull spoke 'in the name of a large number of women's organisations throughout Australia' in advocating 'the education of public opinion by the dissemination of knowledge and by the steady pressure exerted by organisations of all kinds upon the legislature' which was the best means to the remedy for this problem.121 Partly as a result of her experience at Geneva, Jull became one of the most prominent public figures in Perth in the LNU and particularly in the campaign for disarmament.122

When the Manchuria crisis erupted in 1931, journalist Janet Mitchell was in Shanghai as an Australian delegate at the biennial conference of the Institute of Pacific Relations (IPR). She was persuaded by WH Donald (Australian China hand and journalist) to travel to Mukden to view the confused situation for herself, which led to her spending almost a year living in Harbin. On her return to Australia she became a frequent broadcaster for the LNU, and in 1935 the Information Section of the League invited her to Geneva as a 'temporary collaborator' from Australia under a scheme which allowed journalists and activists to work and research temporarily at the organisation. Mitchell had met H Duncan Hall at the first meeting of the IPR and as Hall was now at the Information Section he is likely to have supported this arrangement. Arriving when the Ethiopia issue was being debated, Mitchell recorded her initial optimism, having heard Hoare's speech to the Assembly to the effect that the League would rise to the challenge; unfortunately this optimism was soon dispelled by Laval's remarks two days later.123 Nevertheless, Mitchell was active in the Fifth Committee, championing the cause of Russian refugee women in Manchuria, having already involved herself in their plight in Harbin. The Hoare–Laval pact and the subsequent sanctions fiasco diminished her hopes for the League, though she continued to work in Australia in the leadership of the LNU.124 She conceptualised the problem in the following terms:

How could the League succeed? As the time approached for me to leave Geneva, I began to see it, not as it was conceived by its founders as an effective force for peace, but as a little world born before its time, bound to fail in its main purpose, not through any flaw in its machinery, nor even because many nations stand outside it, but because its activities are conducted by men and women still actuated in the main by motives of national self-interest, motives leading inevitably to international distrust–the old diplomacy at work in new guise. Diplomacy may stave off war; it cannot remove any cause of it.125

Despite the partial receptiveness of Geneva to feminist perspectives, its significance should not be overstated. As the prominent Australian peace activist Eleanor Moore noted, the participation of women in Australia's work at the League was far from a concession to female equality:

Under pressure, which we helped to apply, these delegations [to the League Assembly] always included one woman, who, however, was never accorded full voting status, such as the British Government gave to Mrs. HM Swanwick. Characteristically, the Australian Government thought it had done the handsome and democratic thing by the feminine half of the community when it granted them one substitute delegate.126

Conclusions: The League as prelude

The League of Nations, while it failed in its central mission, did usher in a new age in international organisation. Even at the time of its nadir, this role was recognised in Australia, despite the nation's modest contribution to and hopes for the League. As the Sydney Morning Herald reminded its readers in the dark days of 1940, while as a vehicle of high politics the League might be judged a failure, it is forgotten that its other functions were discharged successfully and should be continued:

At a time when the waging of another world war is demonstrating only too tragically the failure of the League of Nations as a body for promoting political conciliation and securing the peaceful settlement of disputes between nations, it is important to remember that the League has another, if less conspicuous, side to its activities and that, in contrast to its political failure, it has attained considerable success in its social, economic, and cultural endeavours. No less than 60 per cent of its annual budget, in fact, has been devoted to such work. Even now, while its political prestige is suffering eclipse, it is still keeping alight the torch of international co-operation in the non-political field.127

Between 1920 and 1939 a diverse group of Australians, considerably more diverse than those political elites who had assumed formal roles in League organs, had learned what was required in order for Australia to make a distinctive contribution to international society. The LNU in Australia was reconstituted in 1945 as the United Nations Association of Australia, and received significant support for its activities from the government of Prime Minister Ben Chifley. The next phase in the development of Australia's international personality owed its origins to Geneva.


The Australian delegation to the Paris Peace Conference, 1919. Front (left to right): JG Latham, Sir Joseph Cook (Minister for Navy); WM Hughes (Prime Minister); Sir Robert Garran (Solicitor-General); P Deane (delegation secretary); and FW Eggleston (standing back left)

The Australian delegation to the Paris Peace Conference, 1919. Front (left to right): JG Latham,
Sir Joseph Cook (Minister for Navy); WM Hughes (Prime Minister); Sir Robert Garran (Solicitor-General); P Deane (delegation secretary); and FW Eggleston (standing back left). [Australian War Memorial]


The Australian delegation to the First Assembly of the League of Nations, Geneva, 1920. Front (left to right): Senator ED Millen (delegate); JR Collins (Secretary to the Treasury, adviser); Back: P Hunter (adviser); GS Knowles (Attorney-General's Department, adviser)

The Australian delegation to the First Assembly of the League of Nations, Geneva, 1920. Front (left to right): Senator ED Millen (delegate); JR Collins (Secretary to the Treasury, adviser); Back: P Hunter (adviser); GS Knowles (Attorney-General's Department, adviser). [UNOG Library/League of Nations Archives]


Dr Roberta HM Jull, physician, and social welfare and public health reformer, an Australian alternate delegate, League of Nations Assembly 1929. [State Library of Western Australia]

Dr Roberta HM Jull, physician, and social welfare and public health reformer, an Australian alternate delegate, League of Nations Assembly 1929. [State Library of Western Australia]


The First Committee of the League Assembly, Geneva, 1924, chaired by Sir Littleton Groom. Australian delegation in foreground with Groom (third left, facing). [National Library of Australia]

The First Committee of the League Assembly, Geneva, 1924, chaired by Sir Littleton Groom. Australian delegation in foreground with Groom (third left, facing). [National Library of Australia]


The Australian delegation to the Tenth Assembly of the League of Nations, Geneva, 1929. Front left (right to left): CWC Marr (leader); Sir Granville Ryrie (obscured); Sir W Harrison Moore; RHM Jull; FL McDougall. [National Library of Australia]

The Australian delegation to the Tenth Assembly of the League of Nations, Geneva, 1929. Front left (right to left): CWC Marr (leader); Sir Granville Ryrie (obscured); Sir W Harrison Moore; RHM Jull; FL McDougall. [National Library of Australia]


The Australian delegation to the League of Nations, Geneva, 1924. Front (left to right): Sir Joseph Cook (High Commissioner in London); SM Allan (substitute delegate); Sir Littleton Groom (Attorney-General, leader); M Charlton (Leader of the Opposition); Sir William McBeath (substitute delegate). Standing (second left): OCW Fuhrman (delegation secretary); (centre): GS Knowles (adviser); (second right): WH Bale (adviser). [National Library of Australia]

The Australian delegation to the League of Nations, Geneva, 1924. Front (left to right): Sir Joseph Cook (High Commissioner in London); SM Allan (substitute delegate); Sir Littleton Groom (Attorney-General, leader); M Charlton (Leader of the Opposition); Sir William McBeath (substitute delegate). Standing (second left): OCW Fuhrman (delegation secretary); (centre): GS Knowles (adviser); (second right): WH Bale (adviser). [National Library of Australia]


Frank Lidgett McDougall, public servant and economist, adviser to SM Bruce from 1923 and to Australian delegations to the League of Nations from 1929. [McDougall Family]

Frank Lidgett McDougall, public servant and economist, adviser to SM Bruce from 1923 and to Australian delegations to the League of Nations from 1929. [McDougall Family]


Professor William Harrison Moore, Dean of Law, University of Melbourne, 1892 to 1927, and an Australian delegate to the League of Nations, 1928 to 1930. [University of Melbourne Archives]

Professor William Harrison Moore, Dean of Law, University of Melbourne, 1892 to 1927, and an Australian delegate to the League of Nations, 1928 to 1930. [University of Melbourne Archives]



Stanley Melbourne Bruce (centre) chairs a meeting of the Council of the League of Nations, Geneva, 1936. [Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade]


Delegates to the League of Nations Union Annual Meeting and Conference, Canberra, 28 to 31 January 1938. Seated (left to right): O Smith (Tas); L Littlejohn (NSW); WA Woods (Tas); Rev Norman Lade (SA); FE Barraclough (NSW); Ruby Rich (NSW); Constance Duncan (Vic); Sir Robert Garran (President); W Macmahon Ball (Vic); Standing (left to right): Captain F O'Sullivan (Qld); RJF Boyer (Qld); MM Rischbieth (WA); Professor Fred Alexander (WA); and Ray Watt (NSW). [National Library of Australia]

Delegates to the League of Nations Union Annual Meeting and Conference, Canberra, 28 to 31 January 1938. Seated (left to right): O Smith (Tas); L Littlejohn (NSW); WA Woods (Tas); Rev Norman Lade (SA); FE Barraclough (NSW); Ruby Rich (NSW); Constance Duncan (Vic); Sir Robert Garran (President); W Macmahon Ball (Vic); Standing (left to right): Captain F O'Sullivan (Qld); RJF Boyer (Qld); MM Rischbieth (WA); Professor Fred Alexander (WA); and Ray Watt (NSW). [National Library of Australia]

2. Dr HV Evatt and the United Nations: The problem of collective security and liberal internationalism

Neville Meaney

Dr Herbert Vere Evatt, Australia's Minister for External Affairs from 1941 to 1949, was one of the founders of the United Nations, and from its establishment until his death he remained an unwavering supporter of this international organisation. He played a major part in the San Francisco Conference which adopted the UN Charter and claimed a leading role for himself in the first turbulent years of the organisation's existence. As a result of his efforts Australia was elected to the first Security Council, and in 1948 he became the third president of the General Assembly. At the formation of the United Nations he identified himself with its informing doctrine of liberal internationalism and collective security, and in all his subsequent speeches he asserted that the United Nations was 'the first principle of Australian foreign policy' and the only hope for world peace and justice. It is the aim of this chapter to explore Evatt's vision of liberal internationalism and collective security and to show how he adapted this vision to the coming of the Cold War.128

The origins of liberal internationalism are to be found in the optimistic strand of the eighteenth-century Enlightenment which viewed war as an unnatural excrescence, believed in human progress and human rights and asserted that if all peoples were given self-determination they would live together in peace and harmony. During the nineteenth century these ideas were ingrained in the liberal discourse of the English-speaking countries. They were not systematically developed as a theory of international relations but became an integral part of the political tradition in both the British Empire and the United States,129 and in the latter case they were identified with America's very definition of itself.

Thus when the United States, breaking its Monroe Doctrine taboo against involvement in European affairs, entered World War I, President Woodrow Wilson demanded a peace in these terms. In his 'Fourteen Points' and associated speeches, he produced the first comprehensive overview of liberal internationalism. In addition to calling for open diplomacy, free trade, disarmament, national self-determination and trusteeship for captured enemy colonies, he added, as the most important element of his peace program, collective security through the creation of a worldwide organisation. Justifying his decision to join the European conflict, he had assured the American people that this would be 'the war to end all wars' and 'the war to make the world safe for democracy'. The League of Nations was to fulfil that promise. It would put an end to contending alliances and replace the balance of power with the concert of power as the means by which to protect all peoples from the scourge of war. If the League found a state guilty of a violation of the peace then its members, acting in accordance with their obligations under the League Covenant, would rally to the assistance of the victim. World opinion would ensure that the League reached just decisions and carried out its responsibilities.

Though the League failed to prevent World War II, it was this same ideal of collective security which, at the end of hostilities, inspired the Allies' leaders to establish the United Nations, and it was this ideal which Evatt embraced as Australia joined the other victorious powers to plan for the peace.

The origins of Evatt's thinking about a new world order

Tracing the origins of Evatt's ideas about international relations is a difficult undertaking. Few scholars say much about this question. Even those who do normally begin their treatment of the subject well into the middle of World War II, with the Atlantic Charter of August 1941 and President Franklin Roosevelt's 'Four Freedoms' speech in January 1942. And there is good reason for ignoring Evatt's earlier career since there is no evidence of an interest in the League of Nations then and only marginal evidence of an interest in foreign policy. It was not until he became Minister for External Affairs and responsible for Australia's foreign policy–in the midst of a global cataclysm which threatened the nation's survival–that he seems to have given thought to these questions.

It is passing strange that Evatt before this time should have ignored international relations. While at the University of Sydney he had been deeply affected by World War I. His two brothers had enlisted in the Australian Imperial Forces, and were killed on the Western Front. He was a brilliant scholar and clearly ambitious to succeed. He took a very active part in student affairs and was the editor of the student paper, Hermes, and the St Andrew's College Magazine. He contributed short pieces to these journals–some dealing with the war–and wrote a prize-winning essay on 'Liberalism in Australia' which was subsequently published. Yet in all this intellectual activity there was scarcely a word about peacemaking and the League of Nations.130 This silence is even more remarkable in that his mentor, Professor Francis Anderson, was a founding member of the League of Nations Union. As far as is known Evatt never joined the League of Nations Union or the Australian Institute of International Affairs, or showed any interest in their activities.

In the 1920s, when Evatt was practising as a barrister and serving as a NSW state Labor parliamentarian, and in the 1930s, when he became a Justice of the High Court, he published numerous books, journal articles and newspaper opinion pieces, but these publications dealt overwhelmingly with Australian history, politics and law. His greatest work, Australian Labour Leader,131 was a biography of a political hero, WA Holman, a former premier of New South Wales. This parochialism was not a result of isolation. He was not, in these years, cut off from the wider world. He travelled to America and Europe, where he attended international conferences and could not avoid observing European politics. Yet he brought back with him no serious reflections about international affairs. Returning in 1926 from a Worldwide Immigration Conference his only comment was that '[f]rom what he had seen in France and Germany … it would only be a matter of time before there would be another European war'. If the Locarno Treaty–an agreement under which Britain and Italy guaranteed that if France attacked Germany or Germany attacked France, they would come to the aid of the victim–were ratified Australia might well be drawn into another war and its future 'imperilled'.132 Unless this was the observation of a Labor isolationist worried about Australia being drawn into another European conflict, it is very difficult to make any sense of the dark prophecy.

In the 1930s, even though restrained somewhat by his appointment to the High Court, Evatt continued, through his historical writings and reviews of books, to express sentiments friendly to the labour cause. His lengthy review of Ernest Scott's political volume of the Official History of Australia in the War of 1914–1918 dwelt on the labour movement's problem with conscription and censorship and ignored the Paris Peace Conference and the League of Nations altogether.133 It would appear that he said nothing in public on the gathering international crisis. The only known reference to it appears in a January 1939 letter, just after he had returned from a visit to Europe, and in this private communication all he offered was a jejune 'Popular Front'-style condemnation of Neville Chamberlain's Munich agreement with Adolf Hitler: 'It's little use talking about Chamberlain and his gang–they are really sympathisers with Fascism because their one fear is insecurity through Socialism. Money first and to hell with their own country.'134 It would appear that Evatt had no knowledge of the Western debate over the Treaty of Versailles and the League of Nations which had raged across the 1920s and 1930s, from John Maynard Keynes's The Economic Consequences of the Peace in 1920 to EH Carr's The Twenty Years' Crisis, 1919–1939 in 1939.135 It might also be worth noting here, since it subsequently became so important to his wartime view of Australian security, that while Evatt, from the beginning of his public career, was a resolute defender of the White Australia policy, in the years leading up to the war he seems not to have written anything about Japan, its imperial expansion into China and its alliance with Germany and Italy.

Following the outbreak of World War II, Evatt was compelled to consider the problem of Australia's national security and eventually the problem of international order. He recognised immediately how important the role of the national government would be in the war effort, and like his World War I hero, WM Hughes, he wanted to find a place for himself at the centre of world affairs.136 With this end in view he resigned from the bench and won the seat of Barton for the Labor Party in the 1940 federal election. Once in parliament he was greedy for office, and wanted Labor to join with the United Australia Party and Country Party in a coalition government. Knocked back by caucus, he privately criticised his colleagues for their lack of a 'will to power'. When Labor, under the leadership of John Curtin, did come to power, in early October 1941, Evatt was given the external affairs ministry, along with that of Attorney-General, and was in his element. For the next eight years, during the Curtin and Chifley Labor governments, apart from some occasional interventions by the prime minister, he was in charge of Australia's foreign relations, and this was especially true for Australia's relationship with the United Nations.

Evatt's early diplomacy was shaped by the imperatives of the Pacific War. After Japan attacked Pearl Harbor and advanced rapidly towards Australia, his first concern was to obtain maximum assistance from Britain and the United States and an effective voice in the great powers' grand strategy. He was, however, bitterly disappointed with the results of his efforts. It was not until six months after Japan began its assault on Southeast Asia that he discovered the British and Americans had agreed on a 'Europe first' policy and had allocated their resources accordingly. Likewise, though he persuaded President Franklin Roosevelt to establish a Pacific War Council in Washington for consultation with America's allies, this did not give Australia any influence in strategic decision-making. Indeed, within a year, all parties had come to see that the council was not serving any useful purpose, and so it died from inanition.

Similarly, in 1943, when the 'Big Three' allied powers (the United Kingdom, the United States and the Soviet Union) began tentatively to plan for peace, Evatt directed his energies primarily towards ensuring Australia's future security against Japan or any other would-be Asian enemy. While he repeatedly praised the Atlantic Charter and Roosevelt's Four Freedoms speech, especially the freedom from want and the freedom from fear, he gave little attention to global collective security or the creation of a new League of Nations. Having learnt that Churchill and Roosevelt were considering establishing regional councils for the Western hemisphere, Europe and East Asia which would be under the control of the great allied powers–the so-called Four Policemen: the United States, the United Kingdom, the Soviet Union and China–Evatt, who resented having been left out of these discussions, proposed a regional defence structure for the South Pacific and Southeast Asia. In a speech to the Overseas Club in New York in April he admitted that 'security has to be universal or everyone will be insecure', but he was insistent that 'the United Nations in the Pacific will have to be assured of their own security' and in this respect 'Australia will naturally regard as of crucial importance to its security the arc of islands lying to the north and north-east of our continent.' He had doubts about whether another League of Nations could be established and, even if it were, whether it would prove any more effective than its predecessor. Given these uncertainties, he felt that it had to be recognised that Australia was entitled to be 'vitally concerned as to who shall live in, develop and control these areas so vital to her security from aggression'.137

On 18 August, at the very time that Roosevelt and Churchill were meeting in Quebec to consider, among other matters, a postwar international organisation, Evatt elaborated further on this regional idea:

While security for the Pacific and the Far East is inseparably bound up with security elsewhere, it is obvious that there will have to be zones of security in areas like South-east Asia and the South and South-west Pacific.

Of crucial importance to Australia's own security will be such islands as Timor, New Guinea, the Solomons, the New Hebrides, Fiji, and New Caledonia.

I therefore visualise the formation of a great South-west Pacific zone of security against aggression, and in its establishment, Australia must act with such colonial powers as Holland, France and Portugal as well as with the United States and Great Britain …138

Under this regional plan Australia, it might be thought, was claiming for itself the role of a Fifth Policeman. Evatt maintained that by the end of hostilities, Australia's:

successful war effort will have converted Australia into a great nation. We cannot escape such a destiny. In truth, we will be trustees not only for British civilization, but also for a decent world order in the Pacific sphere of influence.139

Returning in late October from his second mission to the United States and Britain, Evatt for the first time welcomed the possibility of a new League of Nations to give order to the postwar world. While overseas he had learnt something of the Anglo-American scheme by which the four great powers would assume control of peacemaking and take responsibility for protecting small powers from future acts of aggression. The Anglo-Americans' treatment of Australia during the war had left Evatt with some doubts as to whether these great powers could be relied on to defend Australia. Thus, in an address to parliament, he stated that there was no good reason why collective security could not be integrated into the framework of a new League of Nations. Collective security, he said, had been the core principle of the League Covenant and the failure of the League to uphold the principle was not a failure of the League itself but of its members. However, he offered neither any further analysis of the problems that had beset the League nor any suggestion as to how a new international organisation could be constructed so as to make members take their commitments more seriously. It would seem that this enthusiasm for the creation of a new League of Nations was prompted by the hope that it would enable small and middling powers like Australia to have a greater say in the way international security would operate, and that this would ensure that the 'lesser powers' were more certainly protected against aggressor nations.

Evatt's first response to the news of the great powers' plan was to try to create a security arrangement for the Pacific region. In the same speech in which he welcomed the formation of a new League of Nations he gave most attention to a 'Pacific Regional organisation'. He believed that Australia could and should 'make a very special contribution towards the establishment and maintenance of the peace settlement in South-east Asia and the Pacific'. Taking his earlier sketchy suggestion further, he looked forward to working very closely with New Zealand. In his view, 'permanent co-operation' between the two dominions was 'pivotal to a sound post-war policy'.140 As Evatt explained his intention to the New Zealanders, the two Pacific dominions acting together ought to be 'the foundation of the British sphere of influence in the South-West and South Pacific'. Their future safety and prosperity depended on both dominions having 'a decisive voice in these areas'–which, it was implied, they would not have if their protection was left in the hands of the great powers. Thus, before calling a conference of all the interested nations, he wanted to have preliminary discussions with the New Zealanders.141

When, a few months later, Evatt read in the press that Roosevelt and Churchill had met with Chiang Kai-shek at Cairo and agreed to terms of peace for the Pacific he was greatly incensed at being presented once again with a fait accompli. It seemed that what he called the 'greater powers' took no heed of Australia's protests and blithely continued to decide on peace matters without consulting the 'lesser powers'. He then persuaded the New Zealanders to join Australia in a quasi-alliance that would proclaim their determination to 'act together on matters of common concern in the South West and South Pacific areas'. At their conference in Canberra in January 1944 the Australians and New Zealanders, without informing or consulting the Americans or the British, reaffirmed their right to be represented 'at the highest level' on all planning and executive bodies involved in deciding the arrangements for the armistices and the constitution for a new international organisation. Moreover, the Australasians announced their intention to establish a regional zone of defence 'stretching through the arc of islands north and north-east of Australia, to Western Samoa and the Cook Islands'. They asserted, taking their lead from the great powers, that until a new world order was established they would 'assume full responsibility for policing or sharing in policing' such a zone. They further demonstrated their resentment of the US's hegemonic tendencies in the Pacific by specifying that powers which had built bases on Allied territory in wartime had no right to keep such bases at the end of the war. Finally, they gave notice that they proposed to call a conference of all nations who had territories in the region for an exchange of views on 'the problems of security' as well as matters related to the future welfare of the island peoples.142 This Canberra Agreement was in essence Australia's riposte to the Cairo Declaration.

The making of the Charter of the United Nations

Yet even as the two dominions were working on their regional démarche, talk about regionalism was being overtaken by the movement for a 'world organisation'. At the very time when the Australians and New Zealanders were preparing their regional scheme for the South Pacific, Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin were at the Tehran Conference, agreeing that their representatives should put together a draft constitution for an international organisation which would then be submitted to all the Allied nations. Evatt might well have been 'truculently pleased'143 with his Pacific pact idea, but the Americans would have none of it and the regional conference proposal had to be abandoned. Accepting this reality, he quickly grasped that the Big Three's decision to create a new League of Nations was the great issue that lay ahead, and he turned his attention increasingly to how this new system of collective security should be structured. In doing so, he focused his mind on the central problem of collective security–that is, how the members of such an organisation, especially the great powers, could be brought to submit their disputes to the judgement of the international community and induced to do their part in upholding the decisions of that body.

Evatt had no hesitation in accepting the idea of a new world order based on the principles of President Wilson's liberal internationalism. His moral sensibility and labour predilections recoiled from the 'realist' notion of an anarchical world marked by a violent struggle for survival and supremacy. As a theory of international relations, the search for security through the balance of power and contending alliances had little attraction. He looked forward to all nations uniting in a 'concert of power' that would guarantee to each, under collective security, a world of peace with justice. Though the harsh experience of war had shown dramatically the importance of giving pre-eminence to the defence of the nation, and had caused him to plan for a postwar zone of security, the great powers' decision to establish a new international organisation convinced him to set aside, at least for the time being, the regional scheme. Instead, he devoted himself to this grand project, which might itself include regional arrangements and provide more completely and certainly for the defence of Australia against predatory powers.

Thus while officials from the United States, the United Kingdom, the Soviet Union and China were meeting in Dumbarton Oaks, in Washington DC, to draw up a framework for the new international organisation, Evatt, in a speech to parliament, traversed nearly all the subjects which were to preoccupy him at the San Francisco Conference. It was as though he himself were taking part–at one remove–in the Dumbarton Oaks discussions. He stressed that that meeting and the conference of all the United Nations which was to follow were 'of supreme significance to Australia'. Because of its 'vulnerable position', Australia was 'vitally concerned' with the making of a world security system and a regional defence system which would be associated with it. In his view the world organisation's most important functions would be, first, to provide for security against aggression and second, taking into account the dehumanising effects of the Great Depression, to promote economic and social progress. He understood that maintaining world peace was a formidable task. In looking back at the experience of the League of Nations he recognised that 'mere declarations' would not be enough. This new world body had to establish procedures by which disputes could be 'adjusted promptly' and threats of the use of force be met 'by the authority of the security organization'. In the latter case the organisation had to have at its disposal a 'sufficient military force'. Though Evatt confessed that this might sound like 'power politics', he argued that the experience of Wilson's League had shown that unless a world body had ready access to armed power with which to enforce its decisions, it would suffer the same fate as the League.144

The problem facing liberal internationalists was how the world organisation would determine whether an act of aggression had taken place and, if it had, how military forces could be raised to deal with the offending nation. Central to this question was the role that the great powers would play. Evatt accepted that the United States, the United Kingdom and the Soviet Union held such an 'overwhelming preponderance of the world's armed strength … that any security system which did not have the full backing of all three would have little chance of success'. Indeed it was 'doubtful whether, if any one of these three were minded to commit an act of aggression, it could be checked by anything less than another world conflict'. To avoid this dread prospect, Evatt stressed that 'a means must be found for composing amicably any differences amongst the Big Three'. They should, in the spirit of the 1928 Kellogg–Briand Pact, renounce war as an instrument of national policy and be prepared to 'act unitedly against aggression or threats to peace' by any other nation.145

But these prescriptions were like the members' pledges that had failed the original League of Nations, and so he kept returning to the point. There was wartime evidence that the great powers could work together. The Soviet Union and the United Kingdom had a treaty of mutual assistance and the four powers–the Big Three plus China–had signed the Moscow Declaration on Peace and Security. Furthermore, to ensure that the great powers would act together to maintain the peace, he allowed that any enforcement decision made by the new international organisation would have to be 'convenient to the major powers'.Here he probably had the Soviet Union's treatment of Poland especially in mind. If this concession to the great powers had the appearance of expediency and power politics, this defect would be overcome by 'the spirit that animates its members and their abiding faith in the possibility of maintaining peace through joint action'.146 But after all these tergiversations it is clear that Evatt could still not find a way to make collective security a reliable basis for world peace. Probably more than any other national leader he was, throughout the process of making the UN Charter and then during the complexities of its operation in the following years, troubled by the possibility of divisions among the great powers and their potential for destroying the liberal internationalist ideal of 'collective security'.

In speaking about the formal structure of the world organisation Evatt contended that while the great powers were entitled to primacy in the task of maintaining world order, the constitution of the new institution should also respect the 'cherished doctrine of equality of States' and make proper provision for the representation of 'smaller' nations–with Australia in mind, he wished to include 'near-great powers' as well as small powers in this category. No nation would want to accept that 'its destiny has been handed over to another power, however great'. The strongest nations did not necessarily have a monopoly of wisdom. By giving the smaller powers an assured place in the organisation, the great powers would be able to profit from their knowledge and gain the confidence of the world community. Evatt presumed that following the example of the League there would be an executive made up of the great powers plus a number of other nations elected by members of the international organisation. The latter should be chosen in order to ensure that all distinct regions were represented on the body responsible for global security. Evatt wanted the constitution to recognise 'regional groups of powers' which, while subject to the world organisation, would be 'empowered by it to exercise jurisdiction over local or special questions such as joint defence measures, and the welfare of native peoples within the selected region'.147

In the event, the Dumbarton Oaks draft proposal was an updated version of the League Covenant. There was to be a General Assembly on which all members were represented and a small executive body, a 'Security Council', made up of great power permanent members, named in the draft as the United States, the United Kingdom, the Soviet Union, China and France, along with six other members elected for two-year terms by the Assembly. The Security Council, like the League Council, was to have responsibility for maintaining the peace. But here the similarities ended. The General Assembly was restricted to discussing general principles and the Security Council had sole responsibility for dealing with disputes and imposing sanctions. In this new constitution there was a desire to make enforcement processes against aggressors clearer and more immediately effective. As enforcement depended primarily on the cooperation of the great powers, there had to be unity among the permanent members of the Council and, therefore, each was to have a right to a veto over decision-making. But since the officials at Dumbarton Oaks were unable to agree on how the veto should apply, this central question for the working of collective security was left over for the leaders of the Big Three to determine at their meeting at Yalta in February, when they would formally approve the proposals to be put before a conference of the United Nations.148

Australia's initial reaction to the Dumbarton Oaks proposals was tentative and modest. Its only formal response appeared in a joint statement coming out of the Australian–New Zealand meeting which was held in Wellington in November 1944. Lacking any guidance from Dumbarton Oaks, this relatively brief statement did not touch on the key issues of collective security–that is, how the Security Council would reach decisions on disputes and enforcement and how the veto would fit into its decision-making processes. The Australasians' main concerns were to tighten up the responsibilities that members of the world body would assume, such as promising to preserve 'the territorial integrity and political independence' of all states against change by force or threat of force; to expand the functions of the General Assembly so that all members would be able to 'actively participate in the direction and control' of the organisation's affairs; and to add to its objectives the principles of the Atlantic Charter, the ILO's Declaration of Philadelphia and the trusteeship for dependent peoples as set out in the Australian–New Zealand declaration on the South Pacific islands.149

During the next few months, while waiting for the great powers to pronounce on the Dumbarton Oaks draft and settle the veto matter, Evatt and the Department of External Affairs worked hard on these latter principles, which had scarcely rated a mention at Dumbarton Oaks. As part of their support for 'freedom from want' the Australians sought to give greater weight to social welfare and to hold a conference on full employment. Similarly, they tried to convince the British that the trusteeship principle should apply not merely to territories under League of Nations mandates but to all dependent peoples who lacked self-government. These efforts proved fruitless. The Americans, believing that lowering trade barriers, not artificially creating jobs, was the key to economic growth and improved labour conditions, would not support a conference on full employment; the British, hostile to the idea of international supervision, refused to support trusteeship for their colonies. The Australians, however, gave notice in these early exchanges that they would seek to enshrine these principles in the new organisation's constitution.

It was only after the great powers, at Yalta, had agreed on the final form for the Dumbarton Oaks proposals and invited Australia, along with forty-one other countries, to meet in San Francisco in the northern spring of 1945 to write a charter that Evatt returned to pondering the riddle of collective security and concomitantly the problem of the great power veto.150 Churchill and Roosevelt, who might have been willing to make some concessions, had given way to Soviet Union insistence that the permanent members of the Security Council should have a right of veto over all substantial issues coming before the executive body as well as over amendments to the organisation's constitution. With the completed draft at last in his hands Evatt used the six weeks prior to the opening of the conclave to prepare to take a leading part in the gathering. He threw himself into the task, reading all the briefing papers from his department as well as those from Great Britain and other dominions and, where available, other countries. He also used public addresses and a pre-conference meeting of British Commonwealth ministers to expound and clarify his views.

Like all the other British Commonwealth leaders, Evatt accepted that 'in broad outline' the great powers' draft would serve the purposes of 'collective security'. That is, it would provide the framework for a constitution which would ensure that international disputes could be 'adjusted promptly'; 'the authority of the whole organization' could be used against an aggressor; and a 'sufficient military force' could be available 'to make a quick end to any armed conflict'.151 Yet the more he looked into the great powers' proposals, the more dissatisfied he became. To him the exclusive authority given to the Security Council to deal with disputes between nations and to decide on economic and military sanctions, when connected to the permanent members' almost total right of veto over issues coming before the Council as well as over constitutional amendments, seemed dangerous.

As he saw it, these particular provisions were merely prolonging the great-power domination that had been evident in the wartime alliance. That form of 'dictatorship' could only be accepted as a temporary measure justified by the exigencies of war. It could not be accepted as a proper arrangement for maintaining peace under an international organisation. The memory of how Roosevelt, Churchill and Chiang Kai-shek at Cairo had, without a word to Australia, determined the territorial peace terms for the North Pacific was still fresh in his mind. Under the Dumbarton Oaks proposals the General Assembly, where all members had equal rights, would have a more limited function than under the League of Nations Covenant. The Security Council, where the great powers had a 'preponderate' position, could 'even force the parties to a dispute to accept whatever settlement (including territorial settlements)' it chose to impose on them. It was Evatt's view that the new world organisation should not only offer the 'lesser powers' an ability to participate in its work but also give them reason to become enthusiastic supporters of this new experiment in international cooperation. With Australia in mind he asserted that 'even the so-called small Powers may have an important and even decisive influence in certain regions and in special circumstances'.152 So he wanted the General Assembly, the more 'democratic' body and 'the conscience of the peoples of the world', to be accorded a right to deal with not only general principles but also specific disputes, subject to only two reservations. First, the Assembly would be barred from taking up a dispute which the Council was already working on, and second, where the Assembly thought sanctions were required it would have to make recommendations to the Council for their adoption.153

The claims of the 'lesser powers', however, had to be limited by the overriding objective of establishing an effective system of collective security. Evatt, still much influenced by memories of the Japanese threat to Australia, gave priority to security. He maintained that '[t]he expectation of complete and immediate application of Collective Security measures was the chief element commending the Dumbarton Oaks proposals to the peoples of the world'. He recognised that, at bottom, this new international organisation could not overcome the most evident weakness in the League of Nations unless the great powers, all of whom possessed overwhelming military might, were given authority to act decisively and quickly in dealing with disputes and enforcing the peace. Thus Evatt had no sympathy with the other dominions' wishes, either of the Canadians who wanted to leave it to the individual member states themselves to decide whether to assist with the sanctions imposed by the Security Council, or of the New Zealanders and South Africans who wanted to have the General Assembly consulted before the Council adopted sanctions. 'Due regard [should] be paid to [the] necessity for leaving the Security Council unhampered in handling immediate threats to peace', he said. Likewise, since the great powers had to 'act unitedly' in quashing incipient aggression, he reaffirmed, without showing how it could be achieved, that it was important to 'eliminat[e] every possible difference of opinion' among them. To meet the objection that the permanent members with their veto might abuse their unqualified power, he suggested inserting in the Charter a requirement that the Council should act with justice and fair play in reaching their decisions and make more use of the world court in settling disputes.154

While Evatt reluctantly allowed that each of the five permanent members who had the major responsibility for the enforcement of the organisation's decisions should have the right to reject the imposing of sanctions, he could not see why they should be able to prevent particular disputes from being brought before the Council or to block attempts at conciliation or arbitration. If this extensive power of veto over decision-making was understood to be only a transitory provision as the world moved from war to peace, then the other members of the organisation might be more easily reconciled to accepting it. But if that were to be the case, then it was important that the great-power veto should not apply to amending the constitution.155 The Australian delegation at the British Commonwealth meeting in London, reporting back to Curtin, considered their case against the veto over revisions to the Charter 'one of the most notable contributions' that they had made to the discussions about the proposals. Evatt, who was the effective author of this missive, had pointed out that 'periodical revision of the charter would be necessary to ensure that the World Organisation developed to meet changing world conditions'. While 'extreme flexibility is undesirable nothing could be less satisfactory than to place the nations of the world under an unyielding and over-rigid constitutional control'.156 This concern about rigid constitutions might have had something to do with the Australian Labor leader's frustration with the difficulties of amending the Commonwealth's federal constitution, but it was more likely motivated by a desire to have the opportunity to cut back progressively the great powers' privileged position in the Charter.

The Australian delegation took the results of all this analysis and reflection on the proposals to the San Francisco Conference.157 The substance of much of their thinking was summarised in their opening address to the conference and informed the extraordinary number of amendments, many small but some quite important, which they submitted to the conference. Australia was the only nation to take the opportunity of the opening address to set out its reservations about the Dumbarton draft and to foreshadow in general terms most of the main amendments it intended to seek. Though the statement itself was delivered by Frank Forde, the Deputy Prime Minister, who was the head of the delegation, the text was almost wholly the work of Evatt. (At the earlier Wellington and London conferences, Evatt, much to his chagrin, had also had–on the formal occasions–to defer to Forde, who, as Australia's High Commissioner in London, SM Bruce commented, was 'a very well meaning and quite amiable person with an unrivalled capacity to mouth platitudes'.)158 In the event, it was Evatt, with his External Affairs officers, who conducted the Australian case throughout the conference itself.

The prime purpose of the proposed new world organisation, according to Australia's opening address, was to provide collective security for all nations. It was to provide 'speedy and orderly procedures for the peaceful handling of disputes between nations'; create a 'system of sanctions which can be imposed very rapidly and which will be based on the united military strength of the Great Powers, but shared in by all powers'; and promote 'economic and social justice', the only true basis for 'real international stability'. The chief changes which Australia sought to make to the proposals were to raise the status of the General Assembly, to expand the functions of the Economic and Social Council, to bring all dependent peoples into a mandate or trusteeship arrangement, and to limit the use of the great powers' veto over the business of the Security Council and the amending of the Charter.159

Evatt envisaged that the General Assembly 'ultimately … should become the central organ or forum in which the conscience of the peoples of the world should have its most potent expression',160 presumably thereby acting as a more effective balance to the great powers and their control of the Security Council. For him the Assembly, where all nations were equally represented, was the 'democratic' organ of the United Nations–though democratic because it represented all the states equally rather than all the people equally–and therefore the key agency for bringing about a better world. At the conference he took a leading part in strengthening its functions. In addition to those assigned to it by the Dumbarton proposals, Evatt was successful, with the help of other small-power representatives, in amending the proposals so that the Assembly was given equal authority with the Council to deal with and make recommendations to the Council about 'any questions or any matters within the scope' of the Charter. The only exception was that the Assembly could not take up any dispute or question that was already before the Council.

Similarly, he did much to assist in extending and defining the proposals' rather modest references to the UN's economic and social role. Impelled by his liberal and social ideals, he took a leading part in fighting for the insertion in this section of the Charter a pledge by members to promote 'high standards of living, full employment and conditions of economic and social progress', plus universal respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms for all. Furthermore, in tune with liberal internationalism's critique of imperialism, he offered a new section for the Charter which aimed to bring all non-self-governing peoples–that is, not only those under existing League of Nations mandates but all colonies of imperial powers–under the supervision of the United Nations.161 The British, backed by some of the other great powers, would not make any concessions, and as a result the imperial powers kept their colonies effectively free of UN oversight. All that Evatt achieved was the inclusion in the Charter of a declaration by members who had responsibilities for non-self-governing peoples that they would see their responsibilities as a 'sacred trust … to promote [to] the utmost the well-being of the inhabitants of these territories', and, to this end, 'to ensure … their political, economic, social, and educational advancement'.162

The most contentious topic at the conference was the great-power veto, and probably for that reason it was left for the last days. Evatt became the more or less acknowledged leader of the small powers in arguing the case for limits on the exercise of the veto. These issues went to the heart of the collective security idea since they touched directly on the question of how the central functions of resolving disputes between nations, protecting them from aggression and enforcing sanctions, would be managed. In the midst of war Evatt had had no choice but to accept the tendency of the great powers to act without consulting the small powers, but with the end of the conflict now in sight he, like many of the leaders of the other small nations, regarded this practice as less tolerable for the postwar world organisation. Thus even as he allowed that the great powers, because of their prime responsibility for enforcement of collective security, should have a special place in the Security Council, he was critical of the blanket veto powers which they had given themselves in their proposals.

Under the draft charter each of the five great powers had a permanent seat on the Security Council and a veto over all enforcement decisions and, with a minor exception, over all decisions relating to the peaceful settlement of disputes. What Evatt objected to was that any one of the great powers could, unless it was a party to a dispute, use its veto to ignore the wishes of the overwhelming majority of other members and block the Council from pursuing peaceful settlement processes. This, in his view, could make the peacemaking function of the Council moot. Indeed it was partly this concern about the veto that had caused him to press for an explication of the powers of the Assembly which would allow the Assembly, provided the Council had not already taken up a case, to assume responsibility for it. Despite his best efforts, the Soviet Union would not be moved on this, and the other great powers, though they were prepared to accept the Australian amendment, felt obliged to join the Soviets in opposing any change.

Evatt was greatly angered by the Soviet obduracy but did not know how to handle this rejection. All he could suggest was that if the Soviet Union persisted, it should be made 'quite clear to the Conference and to world opinion the issues involved and the different views of the Soviet Union on the one hand and the remaining members of the Big Five [and] of the Conference as a whole on the other hand'. Yet even as his anger drew him in this direction his reason at the same time told him to 'avoid any … action which might result in Russia's withdrawal from the conference or refusal to sign or ratify the Charter'.163 Evatt had recognised from the beginning that the efficacy of collective security under the United Nations depended centrally on the unity of the great powers and that this was at most risk from the Soviet Union's suspicions of Western intentions. Unless allowance was made for these suspicions, the Soviet Union might leave the conference, which would be tantamount to undermining the organisation's claim to represent the world and its ability to act effectively to enforce the will of the organisation.

Facing up in the pre-conference period to this very possibility, Evatt had thought that if the great powers proved immovable on the veto over peaceful disputes, their position might be acceptable if seen as part of a transitory process from war to peace, and provided they gave some ground on their veto right over Charter amendments. As it stood, the proposals' position would make it almost impossible to change the constitution, and so would almost certainly freeze the Charter in the form adopted at the conference. It would prevent the organisation from adapting to changing world circumstances and almost rule out any possibility of modifying the great powers' veto rights. The amendment which Evatt put forward at San Francisco was still quite conservative. It followed the great powers' proposals in requiring that an amendment to the Charter, in order to be successful, would have to be approved by two-thirds of the General Assembly, but differed from the original in that it would need the concurrence of only three out of the five permanent members in order to be adopted. This was not likely to produce changes to the constitution in the short term or radical changes in the long term, but the great powers, led by the United States and the Soviet Union, would not have it and it failed. Once more Evatt had fought to the end but to no avail. Another crucial element in his revision desiderata had been rejected.

Collective security and East–West tensions

Evatt was by no means disheartened by his defeat on the veto question. Indeed, in the aftermath of San Francisco the United Nations became his great cause. He had put an extraordinary, almost superhuman, effort into the work of the conference and in fighting for Australia's amendments to the Dumbarton Oaks draft. Paul Hasluck, who as an officer of the Department of External Affairs was closely associated with Evatt during the conference, wrote of his minister that:

Day after day for ten weeks from early morning until late at night his concentration on the task and the intensity of his efforts had a ferocity that made me wonder what strange demon had possessed him.164

In his early career as a student and a barrister, the 'demon' ambition had driven Evatt on, and at every stage he had marshalled all his energy and intellect for the task at hand. At San Francisco he was on the international stage and determined to play a great part in making the constitution which was to bring lasting peace with social justice and human progress to the world. By the end of the conference he was recognised as a fervent advocate of the United Nations and a champion of the 'lesser nations'. As a mark of his eminence the members of the General Assembly chose Australia to hold one of the elective seats in the Security Council. As a result of his contribution to the San Francisco Conference he had raised Australia's international status and had identified himself with the liberal internationalist cause.

On his return to Australia, Evatt, who following Curtin's death had become Deputy Prime Minister to Prime Minister Ben Chifley, gave the parliament a very positive account of the Charter. For the sceptics who maintained that the United Nations was the League of Nations reprised and therefore bound to collapse, he pointed out that, unlike the League, it included all the major states, that the Council would be able to call upon the military resources of all the organisation's members to combat aggression and that all members had agreed to cooperate in enforcing the decisions of the Security Council. He asserted that the great powers' veto was justified since they had the chief responsibility for enforcement and that if a majority of the Security Council attempted to enforce its will on any of the three greatest powers, it would mean a new world war.

Evatt also acknowledged that there were weaknesses, as the veto could be used to prevent the United Nations coming to the aid of a small power that was a victim of aggression. 'In short,' he admitted, 'the new system, functioning under the constitution … offers no absolute guarantee against armed conflicts and aggression'. Consequently, a victim–and clearly he had Australia in mind–would ultimately have to 'fall back on regional arrangements, and ultimately upon its own defence forces and those of its Allies'. But he was still flushed with the success of the San Francisco Conference, and thought this possibility remote. The Big Three were still bound by the close ties of the war years. Moreover, he believed that the enhanced position of the General Assembly and the hostility shown by the small powers to the veto over conciliation would warn the great powers against 'any capricious or unjust exercise of the veto privilege'.165

Within a few months, however, his hopes for this new cooperative world of peace and justice were beginning to unravel. The great powers seemed intent on continuing their wartime dictatorial practices. Ignoring the smaller allies, they were taking upon themselves responsibility for determining the occupation policies and peace terms for the defeated enemies, and in the process were showing the first signs of serious divisions. Evatt, along with the leaders of other small powers, protested and succeeded in convincing the great powers to allow the 'lesser allies' to take part in a conference to consider the European peace settlement. He was even more insistent that Australia should have an equal say in the making of policy for the occupation of Japan, and urged the Americans to set up a Far Eastern Commission in Washington comprising all the Pacific allies. Likewise, he persuaded Great Britain and the other dominions to agree to allow Australia to command the British Commonwealth Occupation Force in Japan, and to represent the British Commonwealth on the four-power Allied Council in Tokyo, which advised the Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces, General Douglas MacArthur, on occupation policy. But in all these arrangements, the great powers still had the upper hand, either through their military dominance and veto rights (as in Europe), or through the total control of occupied Japan by the United States (as in the Far East).166

Evatt was even more dismayed by the cracks appearing in the 'Grand Alliance'. In the process of peacemaking, the United Kingdom and the United States on the one side and the Soviet Union on the other were beginning to engage in vituperative exchanges. The meetings of the Security Council, like the great powers' foreign ministers' meetings, were becoming arenas for the angry airing of charges and counter-charges. Issues were not being judged on their merits, as Evatt believed the UN Charter required, but were being treated as tests of will by the opposing sides as they jockeyed for the higher moral ground in capturing world opinion. When in January 1946 the United Kingdom and the United States accused the Soviet Union of failing to withdraw its troops from Iran in accordance with a wartime treaty, the Soviet representatives countered by pointing to the Western powers' interference in the internal affairs of Greece and the Indonesian nationalist revolution.

Two months later Winston Churchill, now leader of the opposition in the British parliament, gave an address in Fulton, Missouri, with President Truman's tacit consent,167 setting out these differences in Manichean terms. In this so-called 'Iron Curtain' address Churchill still paid his respects to the wartime alliance, reminding his audience of the great regard that the Western nations had come to have for Marshal Stalin and the valour of the Russian people. But, he went on to say, 'a shadow had fallen across the scenes so lately lighted by the Allied victory'. From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an 'iron curtain' had descended upon the middle of Europe. Behind this curtain Eastern Europe was not only subject to Russian influence but also in thrall to communist governments which, though totally unrepresentative of their peoples, took their orders directly from Moscow. Outside this closed world the Soviet Union was bringing pressure to bear on Iran and Turkey in order to gain territorial and other concessions. In Western Europe itself there were large communist parties, 'fifth columns' that were under instruction from Moscow. As a result, the Western countries did not know 'what Soviet Russia and its communist international organization intended to do in the immediate future, or what are the limits, if any, to their expansive and proselytising tendencies'. He concluded that if the Western democracies were to 'stand together in strict adherence to the principles of the UN Charter, their influence will be immense and no one is likely to molest them'.168 Churchill might speak of 'strict adherence' to UN principles, but what his call for Anglo-American solidarity meant was that the great powers would be confronting one another, not cooperating with each other in the Security Council.

Evatt was greatly perturbed by these developments. He feared that if this deterioration in East–West relations persisted it would prevent the United Nations from carrying out its collective security function–his vision of the United Nations seemed to be in jeopardy. Just a week after Churchill's speech, Evatt gave a speech in the House of Representatives that was a tour d'horizon of world affairs and that focused especially on the United Nations. It showed his dismay at the growing hostility between the great powers and responded to the Anglo-American attacks on the Soviet Union. He conceded that, unfortunately, at the end of wars there was 'a tendency for Allied countries … to become more aware of and to accentuate differences in outlook' and it was easy for these countries 'to accept them not only as vital, but as irremediable'. This was 'a most dangerous attitude of mind', and could 'lead only to disaster, if it is unchecked'. Turning to the Western criticisms of the Soviet Union, he was willing to admit that the Soviet territory and spheres of influence had expanded as a result of the war, but noted that the question which had to be determined was not the expansion itself, but 'the underlying intention'.169

What was important was whether the Soviets' expansionist policy was aimed at the political domination of other countries, or at protecting the Soviet Union 'against any repetition of the so-called cordon sanitaire which [had] united all reactionary influence in Europe against her' in the years between the great wars. He stressed that the Russians had reason to distrust the Western leaders who had in the 1930s abandoned the League of Nations, appeased the fascist aggressors and refused to enter into mutual defence alliances with the Soviet Union against the fascist powers. Here again was a Popular Front view of anti-Soviet 'appeasement'. It was also understandable that the Russians should be suspicious of the British and Americans, who had signed a treaty to protect their monopoly of the atomic bomb. He concluded that 'this pessimism with regard to relations with Russia seems to be unjustified'. As he had said from the beginning of the process which had led to the formation of the UN Charter, mutual confidence among the great powers was an 'essential feature of the new international order'. If these antagonisms were left to fester, the world would once again be dominated by rival blocs engaged in struggles for survival. Those who sowed distrust among the great powers threatened the continuing existence of the United Nations and thereby the existence of the 'chief bulwark against a third world war'.170

What Evatt then required, to meet this problem, was that all disputes, including these East–West examples, should be brought before the Security Council, where they could be discussed freely and frankly in the full light of world opinion. The facts of the case should be established by an independent body–the details of which were never specified–and on the basis of the evidence the Council should arrive at a just decision. Liberal internationalism here showed its inherent weakness. It assumed too easily that independent investigators acceptable to the disputants could be found. It did not accept the shortcomings of public diplomacy for the purpose of arriving at peaceful solutions. It also placed too much faith in the nebulous notion of 'world opinion'. It carried the Western liberal democratic idea of vox populi, vox dei, with all its flaws, to the world stage. It did not explain why any of the great powers should submit to this process. Vague analogies to British traditions of law and royal commissions mixed with some European judicial practices were wrested from their cultural contexts. From the beginning, neither the United Nations nor Evatt himself conformed in any serious way to these abstract ideals.

For all his liberal internationalist aspirations, Evatt had always been aware that the basic condition for the success of collective security was the unity of the great powers, and since this was problematic, he believed Australia should look to regional defence arrangements for its security:

Whatever the United Nations Organization may do, it will be essential to guard the security of the South-West Pacific Area, and in its defence there must be the closest co-operation, not only with the United Kingdom … but also with other peace-loving Pacific neighbours, especially the United States.171

Thus, even as he was chastising Britain and the United States for allowing these divisions to emerge and take over the centre of the world stage, he was also reasserting the need for a regional alliance in association with these two great powers. What he envisaged was not a regional organisation without distinction of race or ideology and modelled on the United Nations, but one composed of those natural protectors who could be relied on to come to Australia's rescue when it was confronted, as it had been so recently, by a 'deadly and ferocious enemy'.172

Indeed, at the very time when the East–West tensions were rising, Evatt was deeply engaged in secret diplomacy with the British and the Americans about setting up a regional security scheme. The Americans' postwar desire to keep all the bases that they had built in the Pacific had created an opening for such negotiations. Of all the bases in the Southwest Pacific, the one most important to the United States was that on Manus Island, which was in Australia's mandated territory–the United States claimed that they had during the war spent US$140 million on air and naval facilities there–and Evatt sought to take advantage of this to insist that the discussions over its future use should be connected to a regional defence arrangement. While willing initially to have British participation, Evatt understood, as a result of the Pacific War, that only the United States, in fact, had the capacity to protect Australia. So gaining American participation in any defence arrangement was indispensable. When in April 1946 the Australian government was preparing for further negotiations, Evatt advised the Cabinet that they should not include France or Holland in the defence arrangement, since this 'would raise more directly the question of Russian participation', a possibility that would alienate the Americans. In his view, Cabinet should seek a tripartite alliance made up only of Australia, New Zealand and the United States.173

The Americans refused to cooperate. The Navy and State departments had no interest in such an alliance, and even if they had, they knew it was highly unlikely that the US Senate would approve an alliance outside the Western hemisphere. Thus in visiting Washington in the middle of the year, Evatt was given a frosty reception. President Truman ruled out any kind of treaty or informal statement of policy which would have had the same general effect. In desperation, Evatt, ever resourceful, proposed an arrangement whereby Australia would give the Americans the use of Manus Island and other facilities in return for the United States giving Australia use of one of their major bases in the North Pacific, such as Guam or Truk. The most, however, that the American authorities would agree to was access to its small bases in Eastern Samoa or Canton Island in a distant part of the South Pacific.

Early in 1947 the Australians seemed to have accepted these less than satisfactory terms. Evatt had argued in the Council of Defence that even though the American offer:

did not go as far as we would have liked, and was, perhaps, of doubtful practical value for Australian defence, nevertheless it was a recognition of United States willingness to make an arrangement on the principle of reciprocity and it represented an initial step in the direction of co-operation with the United States in the Pacific, which it was Australia's aim to foster.174

However, by this time the Americans had begun to lose interest in Manus Island and other bases in the South Pacific, and in June 1947 they withdrew their offer. Negotiations for an Australian–American security arrangement of any kind had come to an end. During the diplomacy there had been no reference to the United Nations or to the Security Council. The Australians did not see this as an inclusive regional collective security organisation based on United Nations principles. The members of Australia's prospective Southwest Pacific region group, like those of the subsequent North Atlantic alliance, were not selected for their geographical propinquity, but for their common mind about a common threat from a common enemy.

Simultaneously, Evatt was having great difficulty in persuading the United States to move towards a peace settlement with Japan. Fearful of a resurgent Japan, he was adamant that Japan should be demilitarised, disarmed and democratised so that it could never rise again to threaten Australia. He was concerned that the Americans might, as time went by, soften their attitude to peace terms. Thus, in early 1947, when Evatt learnt that the United States was intending to call a peace conference, he organised a British Commonwealth meeting with the aim of securing support for a harsh peace. In response to the remark of John Burton, the newly appointed secretary of the Department of External Affairs, that the British Commonwealth countries should not be 'allowed to go back on voting arrangements'–that is, that they should vote as a bloc at the proposed peace conference–another official pointed out that Americans did not like 'blocs'. Evatt, however, who had also criticised countries for voting in blocs at San Francisco and at the United Nations, arguing that the practice was contrary to the world body's liberal internationalist spirit, dismissed the objection and defiantly declared, 'Be damned! They do it themselves.' Likewise, in a discussion with a departmental officer he was crudely blunt about the claims of other powers to take part in the Japanese peace settlement:

Evatt: Why should Canada for instance be in the peace settlement? They will, I think, follow the U.S. in a crisis or sit on the fence. They will sign anything. They were a miserable crowd at San Francisco.

[WD] Forsyth: They were cautious but acted in their own interests.

Evatt: South Africa should not be in the peace settlement though I am glad to have them at the Canberra Conference.

Forsyth: Shouldn't the criterion be active participation in the war against Japan?

Evatt: Then we should cut out France and the Netherlands.

Forsyth: That would limit it to the Big Five.

Evatt: I don't mind the Big Five if Australia is one of them.175

Evatt also had no confidence in the British, since 'U.K. policy is to give concessions in the Pacific for similar ones in Europe'.176 He was willing for the great powers to have exclusive responsibility for making peace with Japan provided Australia was one of them. As a result when the Russians and Chinese, ignoring his protests, insisted that the veto should apply to a Japanese peace conference, Evatt took the view that if Australia agreed to a 'modified veto' it should be on the understanding 'that Australia should represent the British Commonwealth as at Tokyo'–that is, as it did on the four-power Allied Council in Japan.177

Evatt was in fact suggesting that Australia should exercise the United Kingdom's great-power veto at the Japanese peace conference. Since he blamed the great powers and their vetoes for the stalemate in the European peace negotiations and the breakdown in dispute resolutions at the United Nations,178 it was ironic that he was willing to countenance a great-power peace for Japan provided Australia was accepted as one of the great powers. In the event, Evatt's desire to protect Australia by working for an early peace treaty with Japan was thwarted. When the United States decided that a conference with the Soviet Union and China exercising veto powers was not likely to produce a satisfactory peace treaty, it postponed the peacemaking indefinitely and set about rebuilding Japan's economy, including its industrial infrastructure, in order to win its former enemy's goodwill and turn it into an ally of the West. Again the Americans had frustrated Australian attempts to secure protection against the prospect of a resurgent Japan. The great power that Evatt had assumed was Australia's natural regional protector had abandoned it. Evatt was again feeling Australia's isolation in the Pacific and was furious with the Americans over this outcome.

The Cold War crisis

The crisis moment for Evatt's idea of collective security came in the early months of 1948. By this time the United Kingdom and the United States had reached an impasse with the Soviet Union over all the great questions of the postwar settlement in Europe. The failure of the December 1947 great powers' foreign ministers' meeting to resolve the longstanding problem of peace terms for Germany finally caused the British to take steps to create a Western Union aimed at resisting the Soviet Union's further subversion, infiltration or intimidation in Europe. With this objective in mind, British Prime Minister Clement Attlee cabled Chifley, along with the other dominion prime ministers, asking for support in organising 'the ethical and moral resources of Western Europe, backed by the power and resources of the Commonwealth and the Americas … to stem the further encroachments of Soviet Union'.179 Australia, alone among the dominions, refused to approve what seemed to its leaders to represent a complete break with the Russians, and therefore a deadly blow to the United Nations and its role as peacemaker and peacekeeper. The longish reply was drafted by John Burton and approved by Evatt and Chifley. Though for the most part couched in the language of liberal internationalism, it also expressed something of the bitterness which the Australians felt about the developments in international relations in the preceding months, especially the way they had been treated by the Americans and the way their interests had been ignored or overridden.

At the outset, the Australians complained that Britain and America were once again presenting them with a fait accompli. They warned London that Canberra could not undertake to support any British or British–American policy which had been decided upon 'without the fullest prior consultation and agreement by us at every stage of consideration of that policy'. It was pointed out that though Evatt had been in New York just a few weeks previously, neither the British nor the Americans had informed him that they were considering a new approach in dealing with East–West relations.180

Their rejection of the British request was predicated on two grounds: liberal internationalism and regional realism.

The first and most extensive argument was that the British proposal would conflict with the ideals of the United Nations. The Australian government told Attlee that they would 'endeavour to mobilise moral and material forces by always upholding the United Nations and principles of justice rather than policies of strategy and expedience'. It was only by working through the United Nations that a solution to the East–West tensions could be found. The Russian suspicion of the West was understandable, since the hostility which had marked Western attitudes to the Soviet Union prior to World War II had not been wholly removed by wartime cooperation. This problem could not be solved by 'making an offensive alliance against Russia'. Instead, they continued, '[s]uch an alliance would seem to give justification for the policy that she [Russia] has been pursuing since the end of the war'.181

There was no good reason for the breakdown in the talks on Germany. The Council of Foreign Ministers, representing only the great powers, and 'lacking the broader approach of a larger body has made very little contribution to the peace settlement or to peace'. The Australians saw no justification for taking up a confrontationist position, and felt that if and when justice demanded it, 'the strongest action should be taken through the United Nations against the Soviet or any other power in order to uphold the United Nations'. While stating that Australians had 'far less sympathy for extreme policies such as Communist and Fascist movements than most other people', they were not convinced of the desirability of 'a Western alliance directed against the Soviet'. Australia would thus hold itself aloof so that when the opportunity presented itself they would be free to act as mediator between the two camps.182

Mixed up in this liberal internationalist argument was a carping criticism of the United States. They believed that if the United States had provided 'the necessities of life for the people of Western Europe', then the communists would never have been able to gain such a large influence in Europe. In a passing aside aimed at the Marshall Plan aid program, the Australians said that they 'would not use economic power and relief to determine forms of government'. Furthermore, they implied that the British, in proposing this Western Union, were acting on behalf of the Americans, and queried whether, if it led to war, the British government might be left to carry out a policy which the United States itself was 'not prepared or able, for constitutional reason, to carry through'. The British might be 'over-optimistic … to count on the support of the Americans'.183

Lastly, Chifley explained that Australia's regional situation would prevent it from assisting in this European-centred scheme. He told the British that:

the Australian Government believes its interests [are] very much bound up in the Pacific area: in the event of European conflict, our whole manpower might have to be diverted to the protection of our position and interests in this area.

Australia found itself in a very vulnerable position. No government in the region was 'stable'. Indeed 'every government' could be 'prevailed upon to adopt a policy hostile to us if it so suited powers engaged in a European conflict'.184 What Chifley was essentially saying was that Australia, in the case of a war breaking out in Europe, would again be fighting for its survival in the Pacific, and this without any great and powerful protector to whom it could look for help.

This alarm about national security seems to have been written in a fit of resentment which expressed itself as panic-stricken fear. There was no proper assessment of what this 'instability' might mean for Australian security. While it was asserted that every one of these unnamed unstable governments could be manipulated by powers engaged in a European conflict to attack Australia, these European powers were not identified and it was not explained how they could exercise such an influence over Australia's neighbours. It was ironic that the Australians–who were accusing the British and Americans of conjuring up, without good reason, a European threat and so turning their back on the UN's ideals–were themselves putting forward a much less credible spectre of a Hydra-headed monster lurking on their borders, waiting for the moment to strike. Perhaps Australia's rejection of the proposal for a Western Union, though expressed primarily in the language of liberal internationalism, was in truth much more a response to fears about what another European war might mean for its survival in the Pacific.

Though poorly expressed, poorly composed, and poorly argued, this Australian answer to the British request for support for a Western Union is one of the most remarkable documents in the history of Australian foreign policy.

For the next few months Evatt continued his attack on this movement for a Western Union and the propensity of the British and Americans to see all global problems in terms of a nascent East–West conflict. The communist coup d'état in Czechoslovakia had no visible impact on his view of the Soviet Union and its intentions. In parliament he attacked the United States for postponing the convening of a Japanese peace conference and for continuing to build up the Japanese economy beyond the limits set by the Far Eastern Commission. While the United States might hope that Japan's resources would provide an arsenal to be used in a future struggle with the Soviet Union, it was possible that Japan's military resurgence might be 'turned in the direction of the South Pacific to the detriment of this country'. It would be 'an evil day for Australia if Japan is given capacity to rearm'.

Though in the same speech Evatt praised America's Marshall Plan and the Western Union movement for their 'contribution to the stability and economic welfare of Europe',185 underneath he was seething about what he felt the Americans had done to Australia and to the United Nations. The day after delivering this address he unburdened himself to the British High Commissioner in Canberra. America's Cold War policy of containment of the Soviet Union threatened war, he said. The US position on Palestine, Trieste and Japan was not helpful in advancing the cause of peace. Drawing on some of the crudest neo-Marxist stereotypes, he launched into a stinging denunciation of the country. US policy was 'revealed as mercenary and opposed to any system of democracy as we understand it'. The Americans were 'more concerned about their own financial interests than about the peace of the world'. It was clear that their actions had in the main been 'dominated by vested interests which took the form of [an] anti-communism which could not be distinguished from anti-socialism'.186

On the other hand, Evatt expressed his great admiration for the British government and people, who had from the start of the war sacrificed so much that they were now obliged to seek aid from the United States. The crippling conditions that the United States had placed on its loans were the result of 'American suspicions of a Labour Government in Britain'. And so he proposed to the High Commissioner that:

the three Labour Governments of the British Commonwealth should … form some kind of democratic nucleus which could act as a midway power between United States individualism and Soviet Communism and so secure the peace of the world.187

The British envoy could not help but be struck by Evatt's 'veering from his earlier attitude of closer co-operation with the United States', and wondered whether Evatt was beginning to realise that 'putting all one's money on the United Nations is a risky business and that greater reliance should be placed in a strong Commonwealth'.188 The British, however, had no interest in Australia's 'midway' proposal. In taking the lead in campaigning for a Western Union, the British Labour government had already shown that it accepted the permanence of the East–West divide and looked forward to allying itself with the United States in order to contain Soviet expansionism. As a result, Australia's new path to securing world peace led nowhere.

By the middle of 1948 Evatt was becoming reconciled to the reality of the Cold War and the need to contain the Soviet Union, at least in the Pacific. He was most immediately troubled by the spread of communism in Southeast Asia and by evidence that Moscow, working through the Cominform, had begun to encourage the communist parties in Australia's region to try to seize control of their countries' national independence movements. He was particularly concerned by the outbreak of a Chinese-led insurgency in Malaya. Talking with British officials, Evatt declared that the Malayan situation was 'of great concern to Australia' and that Australia would be willing to give aid to Britain, including possibly the commitment of military forces.189 Though the Australian Cabinet refused to send troops–the fall of Singapore was perhaps still too fresh in their minds–they did agree to provide some arms to assist the British in Malaya. Indeed when the communist-led Seamen's Union in Australia threatened to stop the transport of the arms by sea, Chifley dispatched them by air.

At about the same time, the possibility of communist exploitation of the turmoil in Indonesia was thought to pose an even greater threat. In discussions with the British Foreign Minister, Evatt predicted that unless the Western powers 'moved with speed and decision' to settle the disputes between the Dutch and the Indonesian nationalists, the Dutch East Indies 'might become one of the great danger spots in the world and … Russia would spread onto that area as she had done in Europe'.190 Showing how widespread was Australia's anxiety about the threat from communism in the region, Burton wrote to a senior officer of the department a few days later that '[i]t is bad enough to have a Malaya situation on our doorstep' but the Indonesian question was even more pressing. It was his 'guess that if there is no settlement, or convincing indication of a desire for settlement within the next month or six weeks, then Indonesia would be lost to a potentially hostile Republican Left Wing movement'.191 It was possible for Evatt to view the Soviet Union as an expansionist power in Asia, an expansionist power whose aggression–through its proxies in Australia's region–posed a great danger.

In Europe, as one crisis followed another the Cold War became set in concrete. The blockade of the Western powers' sectors of Berlin did much to remove lingering doubts about Soviet intentions and to hasten the formation of the North Atlantic alliance. The stand-off over Berlin, unlike any previous confrontation, carried with it the imminent possibility of war. Australia's leaders could not avoid taking a position on these developments, and so were ineluctably drawn into identifying themselves with the Western Union. Evatt publicly blamed the Soviet Union, and the Australian government sent an aircrew to assist in flying supplies to West Berlin.

At the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference which was held in London in October 1948, Evatt, representing Chifley, showed how events had coerced the Australian government into coming to terms, at least to some extent, with the new bipolar world. The British had summoned the meeting for the purpose of persuading the dominions to join in global planning to contain the spread of the Soviet Union. Of all the dominions' responses, Evatt's was the most forthcoming. He agreed that in these new circumstances the principle of justice upon which the United Nations was based might have to give way to the demands of expediency since–and here he might have had in mind Southeast Asia as well as Europe–'Soviet expansionism could not be permitted to continue'. Australia was helping to break the Soviet blockade of Berlin, which gave assurance to its friends about where it would stand 'if the crisis should deteriorate'. He accepted that the Commonwealth's defence policy had to be based on the assumption that 'the enemy would be Soviet Russia'.

Nevertheless, perhaps influenced by the fact that he had just been elected President of the UN General Assembly, Evatt still hoped to mend the breach between the great powers, and he reaffirmed his earlier belief that the organisation of 'a central power between Soviet Russia and the United States was of cardinal importance'. Moreover, he expressed some sympathy for Russian opposition to the partition of Germany, as he thought that the division of the country might result in a revival of German nationalism. On the pressing matter of Berlin he would not accept that a settlement satisfactory to both sides could not be found. Without giving any reason or support for this view, he asserted that the Russians were 'anxious to retreat' and hinted that the Western governments should provide a way out of the impasse which would enable the Russians to end their blockade without loss of face.192

Looking back at Evatt's last year as Minister for External Affairs, one might have thought that he would have been greatly disheartened by the failure of the United Nations to unite the great powers through the Security Council and so uphold the principle of collective security. All the efforts of the United Nations, including the one he had initiated jointly with the UN Secretary-General, Trygve Lie, to bring the four great powers together to negotiate a settlement for the Berlin blockade, had been aborted. The Western powers' persistence and their ever-increasing ability to supply their Berlin sectors by air made a farce of the blockade and caused the Soviet Union in mid-1949 to lift the embargo. Likewise, his efforts to persuade the United Kingdom and the United States to agree to a United Nations-sponsored four-power conference on Greece that would link that country's internal troubles with its communist neighbours' external aggression fell on deaf ears. It was Anglo-American aid to Greece and the Soviet Union's problems with Yugoslavia that enabled the Greek government to secure its frontiers and crush its domestic enemies. Most important, with the signing of the North Atlantic Pact in April, Evatt's endeavours to prevent the East–West differences from being given permanent form through the creation of contending alliances were shown to have failed.

Despite these setbacks, Evatt still continued to talk of the new international order as though the original aims of the United Nations and the principle of collective security still underpinned the postwar world. He reasserted his wholehearted commitment to the United Nations, and in an address to parliament declared that 'the first and fundamental principle' of Australian foreign policy was a 'steady and unfaltering support for the United Nations, and especially the purposes and principles declared in the Charter'.193 The events of the previous years had in no way shaken his belief in the institution and its ideals. In his judgement, '[a] close examination of the three years' work of the United Nations … shows a faithful pursuit of its objectives'. But in order to give credibility to this narrative, which promised world peace through mediation and consultation–military and other peace-enforcing sanctions were now not mentioned–in dealing with disputes that involved the great powers, he made totally unjustified claims for the United Nations having some influence over their settlement.194 On Greece, he maintained that:

the [United Nations Special] Commission [to the Balkans] has rendered invaluable service in limiting the area of the dispute … and in preventing what was certainly occurring at the time the Commission was appointed, that is, the giving of aid to the rebels in Greece, especially by Yugoslavia.195

And even on the Berlin blockade he boldly stated that the United Nations 'played a part, an important part, in the reopening' of the German question, which led to the Soviet Union restoring the Western powers' sea and land access routes to Berlin.196

But his greatest difficulty in trying to make this account of the UN's success convincing was to show how the emergence of the rival East–West alliance systems in Europe did not mean what it seemed to mean, namely a permanent breakdown in the relations of the great powers and therefore the inability of the United Nations to carry out its core security function of protecting the territorial integrity and political independence of its members. In particular, the North Atlantic Pact seemed to symbolise all that Evatt and his colleagues had fought against in January 1948, all that they had said was anathema to the principles of the United Nations and the liberal internationalist doctrine of collective security. Yet when it was suggested in parliament that the pact offered an alternative source of security to that found in the United Nations, Evatt denied that this was so. It was not an 'alternative'; it was an 'addition'. It was an expression of regional cooperation which was recognised in the Charter. The North Atlantic Pact was 'supplementary to the United Nations … not a substitute for it'. These regional alliances were 'good in their place so long as people do not treat them as the substitute to the world organisation'.197

Almost immediately, however, he seemed to admit that this was what the North Atlantic Pact and its Soviet Eastern European counterpart were, in essence. He could not refuse altogether to acknowledge that though the North Atlantic Pact was formally set up as a regional association under the UN Charter, it was a security alliance created not by geography but by geopolitics, and was in no way subject to the Security Council. In accepting this, Evatt lowered his sights for the role of the United Nations. He admitted that if there were:

two regional organisations in the world struggling for mastery without a forum in which they can meet and discuss their differences with a view to preserving the peace, the future of the world under those conditions may be a terribly dark one.198

In such circumstances all that would be left for the United Nations to do in the field of security would be to provide a meeting place for the global adversaries. 'Collective security' was left as an empty phrase.

From almost the beginning of his career as minister for external affairs, Evatt had identified himself with the United Nations and its liberal internationalist ideals. At San Francisco he had done much to help broaden its potential as a consultative and mediating body. He had tried to commit the organisation's members to place the development of non-self-governing peoples towards self-government first and foremost in their colonial policies–and had had modest success. Likewise, he had been primarily responsible for expanding the UN's social and economic welfare functions. Subsequently, as an elected member of the Security Council and then as President of the General Assembly, he had expended an enormous amount of energy trying to give life and meaning to these ideals.

But, curiously, he was still reluctant to concede that the United Nations could have only a marginal influence in shaping the postwar world order, that the great powers and the Cold War were beyond the control of the United Nations and that the keeping of the peace through the principle of collective security under the United Nations was not feasible. He had recognised when the Charter was being framed that collective security could only work as long as the Grand Alliance of the Big Three allied powers remained intact. He had himself, at the outset, expressed scepticism about Australia relying on collective security alone, and had through secret diplomacy sought to negotiate a security arrangement with the United States. Out of frustration he had blamed the great powers for the impotence of the United Nations, and in trying to heal the growing division between them, he had found himself caught between a desire to have the West appease the Soviet Union and an awareness that it was Soviet provocations that were primarily responsible for the Cold War.

In explaining this conundrum one has to look at the elements of his psyche which had made him a true believer or, even more, a devout apostle. Evatt's 'strange demon', his personal ambition for fame, found in the United Nations a stage upon which, as a leader of a small country, he could gain recognition as a world expert in affairs of state. He also found that through the United Nations his country, Australia, which the great powers had so casually overlooked in the war years, could gain a significant place in an organisation composed predominantly of other small powers. Finally, at the public persona level, the United Nations provided him with an outlet for his socialist progressive principles. In his biography of WA Holman, Evatt commented, perhaps in a brief moment of insight about his own nature, that 'little can be done in the absence of that noble ambition which truly seeks to serve the people, although convinced that the way of service is also the way of personal achievement and supremacy'.199 In Evatt's case, while there may be something to be said for this connection of 'noble ambition' with 'personal achievement and supremacy', his handling of the problem of collective security and the issues at stake in the emerging Cold War produced only self-deceptions, contradictions and confusions which contributed little at the time to the easing of international tensions and the making of a more secure world.

However, looking further ahead, it might be said that Evatt's efforts at San Francisco to allow the Assembly to play a more prominent role in security matters, especially if the Security Council were hamstrung by great-power vetoes, did bear fruit. This can be seen most clearly in the 'Uniting for Peace' resolution of 1950 and the Assembly's first emergency special session of 1956, which established the first UN Emergency Force (UNEF I), to manage the Suez ceasefire. And even if, in contrast to the Security Council, the General Assembly lacked the power to require all members to act on its recommendations, the Uniting for Peace principles gave individual members the right to impose sanctions on those nations which had been found to have violated the 'territorial integrity and political independence' of peace-loving nations. Certainly Evatt would have approved of the great expansion of UN peacekeeping, peacemaking and peace-enforcing roles since the end of the Cold War,200 most strikingly manifested in authorising military forces to turn back Iraq's invasion of Kuwait. He would also undoubtedly have been pleased with the United Nations sending forces to assume temporary authority over war-torn Cambodia and East Timor in Australia's region, initiatives in which Australia played such an important part.


The Australian Minister for External Affairs and Attorney-General, and President of UN General Assembly, Dr Herbert V Evatt, 1948 to 1949. [UN Photo]

The Australian Minister for External Affairs and Attorney-General, and President of UN General Assembly, Dr Herbert V Evatt, 1948 to 1949. [UN Photo]


The Australian Prime Minister, John Curtin, signs the Australia–New Zealand Agreement, Canberra, 21 January 1944, watched by the Australian Minister for External Affairs and Attorney-General, Dr Herbert V Evatt (left), and the New Zealand Prime Minister, Peter Fraser. [National Library of Australia]

The Australian Prime Minister, John Curtin, signs the Australia–New Zealand Agreement, Canberra, 21 January 1944, watched by the Australian Minister for External Affairs and Attorney-General, Dr Herbert V Evatt (left), and the New Zealand Prime Minister, Peter Fraser. [National Library of Australia]


Members of the Chilean delegation chat informally with the Australian Minister for External Affairs and Attorney-General, and leader of the Australian delegation, Dr Herbert V Evatt, United Nations, New York, October 1947. Left to right: Rodrigo Aburto; Amilcar Chiorrini (deputy delegation leader); Senator José Maza (delegation leader); and Dr Evatt. [UN Photo]

Members of the Chilean delegation chat informally with the Australian Minister for External Affairs and Attorney-General, and leader of the Australian delegation, Dr Herbert V Evatt, United Nations, New York, October 1947. Left to right: Rodrigo Aburto; Amilcar Chiorrini (deputy delegation leader); Senator José Maza (delegation leader); and Dr Evatt. [UN Photo]


The Australian Deputy Prime Minister and leader of the Australian delegation, Francis Michael Forde (left), confers with the Australian Minister for External Affairs and Attorney-General, and deputy leader, Dr Herbert V Evatt, San Francisco Conference, April 1945. [UN Photo]

The Australian Deputy Prime Minister and leader of the Australian delegation, Francis Michael Forde (left), confers with the Australian Minister for External Affairs and Attorney-General, and deputy leader, Dr Herbert V Evatt, San Francisco Conference, April 1945. [UN Photo]


Meeting of the Executive Committee, San Francisco Conference, 25 April to 26 June 1945. Seated left to right: Jan Masaryk (Czechoslovakia); WL Mackenzie King (Canada); Herbert V Evatt (Australia); Anthony Eden (United Kingdom); and VK Wellington Koo (China). [UN Photo/Rosenberg]

Meeting of the Executive Committee, San Francisco Conference, 25 April to 26 June 1945. Seated left to right: Jan Masaryk (Czechoslovakia); WL Mackenzie King (Canada); Herbert V Evatt (Australia); Anthony Eden (United Kingdom); and VK Wellington Koo (China). [UN Photo/Rosenberg]


Missing media item.

The Australian Minister for External Affairs and Attorney-General, and deputy leader of the Australian delegation, Dr Herbert V Evatt, receives a vote of thanks as 'the champion of small nations', San Francisco, 26 June 1945. [Australian War Memorial]


Missing media item.

The Australian Minister for External Affairs and Attorney-General, and deputy leader of the Australian delegation, Dr Herbert V Evatt (left), arguing a point with a member of the US delegation, Captain Harold E Stassen USN (former governor of Minnesota) (centre), after a session of Commission I, Committee II, San Francisco Conference, 15 June 1945. Back left: members of the Australian delegation, John Wear Burton (left) and Jessie Street. [UN Photo/Rosenberg]


Missing media item.

The Australian Minister for External Affairs and Attorney-General, and deputy leader of the Australian delegation, Dr Herbert V Evatt (right), with an Australian delegation adviser, Dr John Burton (left), San Francisco, 1945. [Evatt Collection/Flinders University SA]


President of UN General Assembly, the Australian Minister for External Affairs and Attorney-General, Dr Herbert V Evatt (centre), with UN Secretary-General Trygve Lie (left), and Executive Assistant to Secretary-General Andrew Cordier (right), addressing the opening of the second part of the Third Session, New York, 5 April 1949. [UN Photo]

President of UN General Assembly, the Australian Minister for External Affairs and Attorney-General, Dr Herbert V Evatt (centre), with UN Secretary-General Trygve Lie (left), and Executive Assistant to Secretary-General Andrew Cordier (right), addressing the opening of the second part of the Third Session, New York, 5 April 1949. [UN Photo]

3. Australia and the Security Council

David Lee

An important component of HV Evatt's campaign in San Francisco in 1945 was to recognise the General Assembly as the premier organ of the United Nations even on matters of peace and security. For the great powers201 and many of the founding members, however, the Security Council was given primary responsibility for maintaining international peace and security. While the General Assembly could discuss matters and make recommendations, or refer them to the Council, it had no power to instigate action. Article 39 of the UN Charter made the Security Council responsible for determining 'the existence of any threat to the peace, breach of the peace, or act of aggression' and for making recommendations, or deciding 'what measures shall be taken … to maintain or restore international peace and security'.202 Chapter VI of the Charter, dealing with 'Pacific Settlement of Disputes', empowered it to recommend ways of settling disputes that were likely to endanger the peace through peaceful means.203 The provision of last resort of the UN Charter was Chapter VII: 'Action with Respect to the Peace, Breaches of the Peace, and Acts of Aggression'.

Under Chapter VII, the Security Council was empowered to call upon members of the United Nations to impose sanctions short of war against offending states and, if need be, to take such 'action by air, sea, or land forces as may be necessary to maintain or restore international peace and security'.204 A measure of the importance attached to the Council by the drafters of the Charter was that, in accepting membership of the United Nations, states agreed to carry out the Council's decisions. Members of the United Nations took upon themselves the obligation of making available forces and facilities to support actions under Chapter VII, and a Military Staff Committee comprising the chiefs of staff of its permanent members was established to advise and assist the Council. This chapter examines Australia's role in and influence on the Council, particularly in its four terms as a non-permanent member, and discusses some of the ways in which Security Council action has been particularly important for Australia and its region.

Election to the Council in 1946

Towards the end of 1945, the UN Preparatory Commission met in London to lay the groundwork for the first meeting of the Security Council. Under Article 23 of the UN Charter, five great powers–the United States, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, China and France–were represented on the Council permanently, and had a right of veto. Article 23 further stipulated that the General Assembly would elect six other members, 'due regard being specially paid, in the first instance, to the contributions of Members of the United Nations to the maintenance of international peace and security and to the other purposes of the Organization, and also to equitable geographical distribution'.205 In the first election conducted for the Council it was the second of these principles, that of geographical distribution, that came to the fore. The great powers reached agreement among themselves on the division of seats between geographical groupings: one from the members of the British Commonwealth, one from Eastern and Central Europe (the Soviet zone of Europe), one from Northern, Western and Southern Europe, one from the Middle East, and two from the large group of South American countries.206 (Clearly, the British Commonwealth was not a geographic region; it was a disparate association comprising the dominions, the autonomous polities nominally under British sovereignty–Australia, Canada, New Zealand and South Africa–and the soon to be independent British dominion, India.) The convention on the geographical distribution of non-permanent seats on the Council would last from 1945 to 1965. There was no grouping for the Far East because that region's UN membership in 1945 only included China, the Philippines and India; Thailand and Japan would not become members until 1946 and 1956 respectively and the other parts of Southeast Asia remained colonies of European states into the 1950s and 1960s.207

In its discussions with dominion high commissioners in London at the end of 1945, the British government let it be known that it intended to support Canada for the British Commonwealth seat.208 Although Canada and Australia had both played a major part in World War II and were both influential in the debates over the establishment of the United Nations, Canada was the older and more populous of the two, generally known as the 'senior dominion', and had already taken part in discussions with the United Kingdom and the United States about atomic matters. Australia, however, would not be deterred from asserting a claim to membership. When Evatt heard the news of the British decision to support Canada he bluntly informed the British government that Canada's election at Australia's expense would be unacceptable to public opinion in both Australia and New Zealand.209

Voting for the non-permanent members of the Council took place on 12 December 1946. The result of the first ballot was Brazil 47, Egypt 45, Mexico 45, Poland 39, the Netherlands 37, Canada 33 and Australia 28. The first five countries, having obtained the necessary two-thirds support of the UN members voting, were immediately elected. Because neither Canada nor Australia had obtained a two-thirds vote, there was a run-off election for the sixth spot, the result of which was 27 for Australia and 23 for Canada. Following this election, Canada withdrew and Australia was elected to the Council for a two-year term: 1946–47. Mexico's election on the first ballot meant that some states were reluctant to elect Canada to the Commonwealth position, because there would then be three North American countries on the Council. Canadian diplomats admitted privately that 'if we did not withdraw at this point, more votes would have shifted to Australia'.210 Australia's support came not from the Permanent Five members, but from New Zealand and the smaller powers in Europe, the Middle East and Latin America, many of which were grateful for Evatt's advocacy of their interests at San Francisco.211 These countries also recognised the strength of Australia's campaign, which had emphasised its war effort from 1939 to 1945 and its ability to give expression on the Council to the interests of the Pacific region.

The Security Council met for the first time in London on 17 January 1946. The honour fell to its first president, Norman Makin, the Australian Minister for the Navy and leader of the Australian delegation to the United Nations, to 'declare the Security Council duly constituted and convened'.212 It was not long before the high expectations for the Security Council were clouded by the onset of the Cold War–the long period of antagonism between, on one side, Western countries led by the United States and the United Kingdom, and on the other, the communist bloc led by the Soviet Union.213 The atmosphere of tension between the Permanent Five members manifested itself in the earliest meetings of the Council. The Military Staff Committee, which was affected by the growing discord among the Permanent Five, quickly became a casualty. Then, at only the second of the Council's meetings, Iran's government complained to Makin, as Council president, that Soviet forces had not left Iran as promised under an earlier agreement and that a situation had developed that might lead to international friction. Bringing the matter to the Council angered the Soviet delegate on the Security Council, Andrei Vyshinsky,214 who countered by criticising the presence of British troops in Greece.215

Foreseeing the possibility that Soviet–Western antagonism could cripple the Council, Evatt tried to devise a strategy whereby the Council might be governed by the principles of the UN Charter rather than traditional power politics. The Australian delegation was instructed not to side with the three Western powers, but instead to support the fullest possible Security Council investigation of Iran, and use this opportunity to establish the principle that the Security Council should operate impartially, considering the interests of all states, great and small:

Either these matters will be dealt with by the Security Council in the regular way and in accordance with the principles of justice and fair play which principles are stated in the Charter or else they will be dealt with secretly according to the dictates of power politics. Australia favours the former and opposes the latter. In each case, it is probably necessary to ascertain precise facts. This cannot be done by assertion and counter-assertion at the Council but only through the work of smaller committees with authority to enquire, and if necessary, visit places involved in the disputes. If a single false step is taken in the direction of evading these issues, the blow to the United Nations' prestige will be very considerable.216

Evatt's approach irritated not only the Soviet Union but also the United States and the United Kingdom. When reports reached Washington of Soviet troop movements on Tehran, so charged had the debate in the Security Council become that Secretary of State James F Byrnes came to New York in March to take the place of Edward R Stettinius as head of the US delegation at the Security Council.217 With the Soviets reportedly on the verge of an agreement to withdraw their troops from the country, Soviet Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko asked that the Security Council postpone discussion of the issue. Evatt instructed WR Hodgson, Australia's delegate on the Security Council, that the Council should nonetheless remain 'seized of the matter'.218

Evatt thought that the Iranian matter should be considered by the Security Council; that Iran having made a complaint in writing, the Soviet Union should be invited to answer within a reasonable time; and that the Council should then fix a date when the whole dispute could be investigated–by the Council or by a special committee of inquiry. Australia, Evatt insisted, had no preconceived idea of the outcome. Justice might require that Soviet troops be withdrawn immediately and unconditionally from Iran; on the other hand, justice might require a settlement which was not limited to the question of breach of a particular treaty but dealt as well with other aspects of the situation in Iran.219 The United States, the United Kingdom and the Soviet Union criticised Evatt's suggested approach to the operation of the Council as overly idealistic and impracticable.

In hindsight, this was an early Australian reform initiative aimed at instituting 'new means to order and regulate international relations'.220 Despite the controversy, the Council duly debated the Iranian matter in 1946; US President Harry S Truman and Secretary of State Byrnes refused to accept Soviet assurances that they would withdraw from Iran and, on 27 March, Gromyko dramatically walked out of the meeting.221 Gromyko's withdrawal was a blow to the prestige of the Security Council, but the crisis eventually was resolved when, a few weeks later, Soviet troops did leave Iran, as promised. Despite this ultimately successful resolution, the Iranian debate, unfortunately, set the tone for the operation of the Council during the Cold War–from 1945 to the late 1980s.

Indonesia: 1947–49

Despite the United Nations being hamstrung by Soviet–US disagreement and by the Soviet Union using its veto power on many matters affecting international peace and security from 1946 onward, the Council was able to achieve its first great success between 1947 and 1949–on Indonesian decolonisation. It was a matter in which Australia was actively involved.

Centuries of Dutch colonial rule in the Indonesian archipelago had been interrupted by Japanese occupation between 1942 and 1945. Shortly before the Japanese surrender in August 1945, Indonesian nationalists, concentrated on the islands of Java and Sumatra, declared an independent Indonesian Republic. This did not deter the Netherlands from attempting to resume its rule and trying to organise its colony on a federal basis. In a compromise commonly known as the Linggadjati Agreement of 1946, the Netherlands recognised the Indonesian Republic as exercising de facto authority over the islands of Java, Sumatra and Madura. In return, the Republic agreed to cooperate with the Dutch in building a sovereign, democratic and federal United States of Indonesia (USI) made up of three components: the Republic (on Java and Sumatra), Borneo and East Indonesia. The USI and other former Dutch colonies were to be united with the Netherlands in a Union that would administer joint interests such as foreign relations and defence. The Linggadjati Agreement broke down in July 1947 when the Dutch launched what it called, from its juridical standpoint, a 'police action' against the Republic. The latter described it as full-scale warfare.222

The British government was sympathetic to the position of its fellow colonial power, the Netherlands, and tried to dissuade Australia, still a non-permanent member of the Council in 1947, from referring the conflict in the Netherlands East Indies to the Security Council. Britain's preference was to settle it by mediation outside the Council.223 Australia, however, would not be put off. Prime Minister JB Chifley told British Prime Minister Clement Attlee on 28 July 1947 that:

we have always supported the view that the Security Council of the United Nations is the appropriate constitutional tribunal. It has a function analogous to an arbitration Court in relation to international situations and disputes, and the bypassing of this tribunal for reasons of expediency will be most difficult to justify.224

Consequently, the Chifley government referred the Indonesian dispute to the Council under Article 39 of the Charter. This was the first time that that article had been invoked. Hodgson stated to the Council that the Australian government considered the hostilities a breach of the peace and urged it to order a ceasefire.225 Fortified by rare Soviet–US agreement, the Council passed the ceasefire resolution, although France, Belgium and the United Kingdom all abstained from voting on it. This was the first ever ceasefire resolution adopted by the Security Council, and commentators in the United States speedily pointed to the establishment of a new principle, namely that a 'threat to the world peace, under whatever circumstances, is a matter of concern to the United Nations'.226 Under international pressure the Netherlands yielded to the Security Council's will and ordered a ceasefire at midnight on 4 to 5 August 1947 with similar orders following from the Republican capital Yogyakarta.227 The New York Times commented that with this ceasefire 'the United Nations had probably won its first major victory and through this victory has given the new international organization a sorely needed boost in prestige'.228 On 19 August 1947 the Australian government, represented by Hodgson, sponsored–with China–a resolution that Council members with consuls in Batavia (Jakarta)–Australia, Belgium, China, France, the United Kingdom and the United States–report on the 'observance of the "cease fire" orders and the conditions prevailing in areas under military occupation or from which armed forces now in occupation may be withdrawn by agreement between the parties'.229

Having successfully achieved its first goal, persuading the Security Council to order a ceasefire in Indonesia, Australia's next major objective was to ensure that the form of arbitration would be satisfactory to both parties and that Australia should play a part in the arbitration process.230 But how the dispute between the Netherlands and the Indonesian Republic should be settled was a matter of serious contention. The Netherlands favoured non-justiciable mediation of the matter outside the United Nations; the Indonesian Republic sought an arbitral procedure for which the Security Council would remain responsible. Australia too supported arbitration under Chapter VII of the Charter, arguing that each party should appoint an arbitrator, with the Council appointing a third. The United States proposed a compromise: its delegate argued that the Council ought to avoid imposing any particular method of settlement on the parties but should instead simply tender its good offices to both parties. Australia's Department of External Affairs was frustrated by this outcome. Arbitration, the department wrote to its delegation in New York, had the support in principle of the majority of the Council. If it had been put to a vote immediately, it 'would probably have been carried'.231 The approach favoured by the United States–offering good offices to both parties–would involve a three-member committee, with each party choosing one state to represent it and the third member being chosen by the two so selected. The Security Council approved this compromise on 25 August 1947. The Netherlands chose Belgium to represent it, the Indonesian Republic chose Australia, and Australia and Belgium together chose the United States to sit on the Security Council Good Offices Committee (GOC) on the Indonesian Question, which would meet in Jakarta.232

Although Australia's term of membership of the Security Council expired at the end of 1947, it stayed on as a member of the GOC–later renamed the United Nations Commission for Indonesia–because it had been appointed for the duration of the work. The decision to set up a good offices committee rather than a committee of arbitration was a compromise: the United States had favoured the Dutch position, after all, and had not acceded to the Republic's request for Security Council arbitration. But because the Council, rather than a government, had tendered its good offices, the Security Council had agreed to the Republic's request that it should continue to be directly involved in the political negotiations. This continuing Security Council involvement proved crucially important for the future of the Indonesian Republic.

In early 1948, the GOC helped the Netherlands and the Republic agree to a truce and political agreement as a platform on which the Netherlands could negotiate peacefully with the Indonesian Republic. Nevertheless, the UN-assisted negotiations broke down at the end of 1948 when the Netherlands again resorted to force against the Republic. In Australia's view their purpose was to 'clean up the Republican regime as quickly as possible, capture all influential leaders, and install a regime in Republican territories which will be willing to co-operate in a federal interim government established according to Dutch plans'.233 In 1947, the Council had ordered a halt to the hostilities but had not made any formal recommendation for resolving the political deadlock. In December 1948 and January 1949, Australia pressed it to act more decisively. On 21 December 1948, Chifley announced that Australia would call on the Security Council to order a ceasefire in Indonesia and the withdrawal of Dutch troops behind demarcation lines, and would discuss with members of the Council the possibility of the Council ordering an immediate election in Indonesia, hastening the transfer of sovereignty and establishing a UN trusteeship over Indonesia.234 The Australian government was unhappy with the Council's initial reaction to this, in December 1948, and Hodgson, who had 'spared no effort to impress our views on all members of the Council (and on those non-members participating continuously)', lamented that it had been due to 'weakness and vacillation of UK and US who retreated from the reasonably firm initial stand'.235

Early in January of 1949 the Chifley government sent John Burton, Secretary of the Department of External Affairs, as its representative to an Asian Conference on Indonesia held in New Delhi. The resolution of this conference took the form of a recommendation to the Security Council to order the restoration of the Indonesian Republic, the immediate resumption of negotiations and the prompt transfer of sovereignty to a United States of Indonesia.236 On 28 January, responding to international opinion, the Council ordered the physical restoration of the Republican government and the renewal of Dutch negotiations with it; the holding of elections to an Indonesian constituent assembly by 1 October 1949; and the transfer of sovereignty to the United States of Indonesia at the 'earliest possible date and in any case not later than July 1, 1950'.237 The Netherlands bowed to the will of the Council, restored the Republic, and established in 1949 a federal United States of Indonesia which in the following year dissolved itself into a unitary republic. The involvement of the Security Council in Indonesian independence, involvement that was instigated and strongly supported by Australia, led to one of its earliest and most emphatic successes. Instead of prolonged military conflict, as occurred in France's colonies in Indochina, the parties to this conflict had been involved in a process of peaceful decolonisation, led by the Security Council, and resulting in the birth of an independent Indonesian state. As Evelyn Colbert wrote in 1973, 'Indonesian independence was in a sense a real triumph for the United Nations–just as Indochina was, as it has been since, an area of U.N. failure.'238

The Korean War: 1950–55

The next major initiative for the Security Council was in Korea. Annexed by Japan in 1910, the Allies had agreed at the Cairo Conference in 1943 that Korea would regain its independence 'in due course' after the military defeat of Japan.239 At the end of World War II, the Soviet Union occupied the northern half of Korea and the Americans the southern part. In 1947 the United Nations agreed to supervise elections in the two zones for a united national assembly for Korea. The UN General Assembly created the UN Temporary Commission on Korea (UNTCOK), on which Australia was represented, for this purpose. However, UNTCOK was hampered by the refusal of the Soviets to cooperate in the holding of the nationwide elections. The Australian government shared the view of several other states, including India, that nationwide elections should be held. These states, however, were unable to withstand American pressure for elections to take place in the south alone.240 The elections in 1948 gave power to a conservative government led by Syngman Rhee; in the following month a communist government headed by Kim Il-sung took power in the north.241

In June 1950, North Korea launched a massive invasion of South Korea. At the time of the invasion, the Soviet Ambassador to the United Nations, Jacob Malik, was boycotting Council sessions. The boycott was a protest over the fact that China's seat in the United Nations was being occupied by the government of the former Chinese Republic led by Chiang Kai-shek (Jiang Jieshi), the remnants of which had fled to the island of Formosa (Taiwan), rather than the communist government, led by Mao Zedong, that controlled the China mainland after 1949. Malik's boycott meant that he forfeited the opportunity to exercise a veto on the events in Korea. For UN Secretary-General Trygve Lie, the Security Council had a clear obligation to defend South Korea, and he strongly urged that it carry out its duty. Lie was emphatic: North Korea's actions violated the resolutions of the General Assembly and the principles of the UN Charter. 'The Security Council,' he said, 'is, in my opinion, the competent organ to deal with it. I consider it the clear duty of the Security Council to take steps necessary to re-establish peace in that area.'242

The Council endorsed Lie's sentiments by adopting the proposed resolution–by nine votes to none–with the Soviet Union absent and Yugoslavia abstaining. The resolution called for an immediate cessation of hostilities, for North Korea to withdraw their forces to the 38th parallel, which divided the two Koreas, and for UN members to assist the United Nations in the execution of the resolution.243 Later, on 27 June 1950, the Council called on members of the United Nations to 'furnish such assistance to the Republic of Korea as may be necessary to repel the armed attack and to restore international peace and security in the area'.244 By this time a Labor government in Australia had been succeeded by a Liberal–Country Party coalition government. The new prime minister, Robert Menzies, was personally much less enthusiastic about the United Nations than his Labor predecessors, Curtin and Chifley, but his external affairs ministers, Percy Spender and RG Casey, were more favourably disposed to the organisation.

When the Soviet Union decided to return its delegate to the Security Council after 1 August, it was able to veto Security Council resolutions on Korea but too late to prevent the called-for forces, which included Australia, the United States and other states, from defending the beleaguered South Korean Army under the UN banner. By October they had repelled the North Korean Army back beyond the 38th parallel. The success of UN arms notwithstanding, the return of the veto-wielding Soviet Union to the Council was a source of extreme frustration, particularly for the United States but also for its ally Australia.

In Percy Spender's view:

the vote of the Soviet representatives on the Security Council has been used, not as an instrument to promote the establishment and maintenance of peace, but as a weapon to be used against particular nations in the course of the Soviet's own policy of imperialistic expansion, and world domination.245

Seeking to bolster the Western position in the United Nations, US Secretary of State Dean Acheson tried to circumvent the Soviet veto by persuading the UN General Assembly to adopt, by a margin of 52 to 5, a 'Uniting for Peace' resolution. Under this plan, whenever a veto of a permanent member prevented Security Council action on a particular measure, seven members of the Council, or a majority of members of the United Nations, could call an emergency meeting of the General Assembly. Because the United States at that time could count on the support of two-thirds of the Assembly–the number of votes required to pass the Uniting for Peace resolution–it resolved to obtain UN backing for its actions in Korea from the Assembly rather than the Council. Spender supported the substance of the resolution on the grounds that the great-power veto might prevent the Security Council from working effectively:

The fate of humanity may well turn upon our ability to carry out the provisions of the United Nations Charter, to ensure that the machinery established by the Charter is permitted to work effectively in the spirit of the Charter, and to see that the action of the United Nations is not obstructed or perverted by those who have little regard for the sovereignty and security of other states.246

The Security Council had only been permitted to act in Korea at all by the fortuitous and temporary absence of the Soviet Union at a critical time. Between October and December 1950, anytime UN forces advanced north of the 38th parallel, they were repelled by Chinese military. After that, the situation settled into a stalemate. This lasted until 1953, when an armistice divided Korea permanently into two states.247

While the Security Council was able to act in the Dutch–Indonesian dispute and the Korean conflict, the Soviet veto limited its effectiveness. During the Cold War, the Council could only act on issues where the vital interests of the United States and the Soviet Union were not involved. From 1950 to 1955 the United States and its Western European and Commonwealth allies, including Australia, used their dominance of the UN General Assembly to bypass the Security Council when the Soviet Union used its veto. They treated the General Assembly's recommendations as the better representation of broad international opinion. This period of Western dominance of the organisation only lasted until the 1960s, when decolonisation brought many non-aligned, developing states into the United Nations. In the meantime the Security Council would be affected by a split among the Western powers over the Suez Crisis, during which Australia was again a temporary member of the Council.

The Suez and Hungarian crises: 1956–57

By what had become known as the 'gentlemen's agreement' of 1945 to 1946, the six non-permanent seats on the Council were still apportioned in 1955 as they had been ten years earlier, with the Commonwealth nations holding one of the seats. When South Africa decided not to contest the Commonwealth seat after New Zealand's term (1954–55), the Menzies government decided to stand for the seat for 1956 to 1957, and received the support of Canada, South Africa, New Zealand, Pakistan and the United Kingdom to do so. Non-aligned India's decision not to stand also increased Australia's chances. Nevertheless, some members of the United Nations were by that time challenging the conventions regulating election to the Council. Four countries in East Asia–the Philippines, Indonesia, Burma and Thailand–did not fit into the existing groups and could never sit in the Council under a strict interpretation of the gentlemen's agreement. Chafing against these limitations, the Philippines decided in 1955 to contest the seat to replace Turkey, despite the fact that Turkey had been elected to an Eastern European seat. With the United States inclined to support the candidacy of the Philippines, its former colony, and the United Kingdom preparing to support an Eastern European state, in accordance with the gentlemen's agreement, Australia feared that the split could prejudice not only its own chances, but also the very notion of a Commonwealth seat.248 In the event, the Philippines did contest the Eastern European seat but this did not jeopardise Australia's candidacy. Australia won its election to the Council easily, with a two-thirds majority on the first ballot. Yugoslavia eventually beat the Philippines to the last seat, but on the condition that it would resign at the end of 1956 and be replaced by the Philippines for the remainder of the term. It was with some pride that on 15 October 1955, the acting Australian Minister for External Affairs, Sir Philip McBride, announced that Australia had been elected to its second two-year term as a non-permanent member, and added that the Australian government welcomed the opportunity 'of contributing to the discussion of the difficult problems, such as the situation in the Middle East, which now face the Council'.249

McBride's remarks were prophetic, because a major Middle Eastern crisis developed between Israel and Egypt during Australia's second term on the Council. Britain's period of power in Egypt ended after Colonel Gamal Abdel Nasser seized power from King Farouk in 1952 and the last British troops left the Suez Canal zone in 1956. The Suez Canal, the strategic waterway built by the French and the British in the nineteenth century and jointly owned and managed by them since then, was the main link between the Mediterranean and the Middle and Far East, and thus was important to both Britain and Australia. It had become particularly significant for Australian trade with Britain and Europe.

The British government was the largest single shareholder in 1956, though French shareholders owned the majority of shares. But international ownership of the canal had been coming under challenge from an increasingly assertive Egyptian nationalism from early in the 1950s. From 1953 the Eisenhower administration had supported Nasser's project to build the Aswan Dam to regulate the flow of the Nile and supply power to Cairo. However, Nasser's recognition of the People's Republic of China prompted Eisenhower's Secretary of State, John Foster Dulles, to withdraw support for the Aswan Dam project. In July 1956 an incensed Nasser then decided to nationalise the Suez Canal.250 After the Egyptian takeover of the canal, the British and the French set up a plan, with Israel, to commence hostilities with Egypt. Under this plan, which was kept secret from the United States (and Australia), Israel would provoke a military conflict, and then British and French troops would retake the canal under the pretext of separating the warring parties. Israel therefore invaded the Sinai Peninsula on 29 October 1956. Britain and France then issued an ultimatum to Israel and Egypt to withdraw a distance of 16 kilometres either side of the Suez Canal. When Egypt refused, Britain and France began military action to occupy the canal.251

President Eisenhower was furious with the Anglo–French action, declaring that 'these actions have been taken in error, for we do not accept the use of force as a wise or proper instrument for the settlement of international disputes'.252 In a nationally broadcast statement he said:

There can be no peace–without law. And there can be no law if we were to invoke one code of international conduct for those who oppose us, another for our friends. The society of nations has been slow in developing a means to apply this truth. But passionate longing for peace–on the part of all peoples–compels us to speed our search for new and more effective instruments of justice. The peace we seek and need means much more than the mere absence of war. It means the acceptance of law, and the fostering of justice, in all the world.253

Robert Menzies disagreed with Eisenhower's reaction, defending the actions of Britain and France as 'proper'.254 He gave his permanent representative to the United Nations in New York, Dr E Ronald Walker, clear instructions on how to respond if confronted with any resolution condemning France and Britain as aggressors or demanding the withdrawal of their forces from Egypt. In such an event Walker was to say that Australia accepted the British assurance that its forces would enter Egypt only temporarily, to secure the treaty rights of an open waterway for the world's shipping that would otherwise be threatened by hostilities in the area between Egypt and Israel. Menzies further instructed him that a General Assembly session would be unlikely to solve the problem and that the entire issue should remain in the hands of the Security Council.255

On 30 October 1956 the United States went to the Security Council with a draft resolution demanding that the forces of Israel return to their own land and that hostilities in the area should cease.256 In the American view, a postponement of consideration of the US resolution would have been tantamount to the Security Council's sanctioning of the Anglo–French invasion.257 Shortly before the vote, the British Permanent Representative to the United Nations in New York, Sir Pierson Dixon, urged Australia to vote with Britain and France: by his calculation, there would be sufficient votes for Britain not to have to resort to the first ever use of the veto by the Western powers. Walker had no time to refer the matter to Canberra and, being personally critical of the actions of France and Britain, decided to abstain. Britain and France were therefore forced to use Soviet tactics and veto the resolution. While the Australian prime minister later indicated that he accepted that Walker had voted according to conscience, he recorded that his own judgement would have been the other way.258 Walker's ambivalence highlighted the fact that while Menzies and most of his ministers supported the Anglo–French action, key Australian diplomats were disquieted by the vehemence of Australia's support for Britain and France. One of them, Alan Renouf, later secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs, commented that:

[i]n issuing an ultimatum to Egypt and Israel outside the context of the Security Council and in then preventing by the use of the veto the exercise by the Council of its responsibilities, the United Kingdom and France have flouted the U.N. Furthermore, it would be difficult to answer effectively a contention that the United Kingdom and France have breached the Charter.259

After the British and French vetoed the US resolution demanding that Israel withdraw and others stay out of Egypt, in a supreme irony, the former Soviet satellite Yugoslavia invoked the Uniting for Peace process to refer the issue to the General Assembly. When the matter was debated in the Assembly, Secretary of State Dulles, speaking with a 'heavy heart', submitted a resolution to the Assembly demanding the withdrawal of all forces from Egypt.260 Unable to withstand the combined pressure from the United Nations (speaking through the Assembly) and the United States, the British and French withdrew from Egypt within a week.261 Only Australia and New Zealand joined Britain, France and Israel in voting against the resolution. During the debate, the Canadian representative, Lester 'Mike' Pearson, proposed that a UN military force take the place of the departing British, French and Israeli forces. The General Assembly agreed, and on 7 November 1956 instructed UN Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld to proceed with the establishment of the UN Emergency Force, the first peacekeeping operation in UN history.

The Security Council was rendered impotent in the Suez Crisis not by the Soviet veto but by the veto of the British and French. Nevertheless, the principles of the UN Charter triumphed when the United States was able to rally world opinion against its allies, the British and the French, through the General Assembly. Solving the Suez Crisis proved to be 'one of the most spectacular single achievements of the U.N. during its first fifty years'.262 The United Nations was less successful when the Soviet Union invaded Hungary during the same year. The Soviet veto prevented Security Council involvement in the issue and the Soviet Union simply ignored a General Assembly resolution calling on it to withdraw its forces from Hungary. Taken together, the lessons of the Suez and Hungarian crises were that during the 1950s and 1960s, the United Nations could only act against aggression if the United States and the Soviet Union agreed, or if one of them was indifferent; and that, of the five permanent members of the Security Council, the views of the Soviet Union and the United States were decisive.263

The Security Council during the Cold War: 1960–1984

While Australia would not be a member of the Council in the 1960s, it did seek to influence the Council's decisions in areas where its interests were affected. One case worthy of particular mention in the 1960s is the dispute known as the 'confrontation' between Indonesia and the Malaysian Federation between 1963 and 1966. By 1964 the dispute had escalated, and involved Indonesian incursions on Malaysian soil. The Australian government provided behind-the-scenes assistance to the Malaysian delegation to the United Nations and supported the Malaysian case in the capitals of other members of the United Nations, bearing in mind that too strong a censure of Indonesia would attract the Soviet veto. The resulting Security Council resolution on 17 November 1964 was a compromise, calling on the parties to desist from the use of armed force but not imposing any obligation on Indonesia beyond moral pressure to abide by its terms.264 It was through a process of regional, rather than UN, mediation that the dispute was finally resolved in 1965–66. Experiences such as this prompted Australian Minister for External Affairs Paul Hasluck to describe, in realist terms, the collective security system as a political rather than a legal arrangement. Hasluck had worked closely with Evatt on collective security matters at the San Francisco Conference and more than twenty years later, in 1968, remarked:

In saying that this is a political system I mean that the decisions that lead to any action related to security are made by representatives of nations serving the policies of each nation; they are arrived at by political debate and political compromise and they are put into effect in political situations. The law of the Charter may be quoted–and let us assume charitably that it is never quoted except to serve legalist ideals–but the decision whether or not that legal argument should be accepted is not a legal but a political decision. What the Security Council does or what it refuses to do does not derive from some higher authority whose will is imposed on members of the Council but derives either from what those members themselves are able to agree they should do or from the fact that they are unable to agree.265

In the meantime, the General Assembly had accepted a recommendation of the Special Political Committee to increase the size of the Security Council from eleven to fifteen members and the number of affirmative votes necessary to pass a resolution from seven to nine. Henceforth, Australia became a member of the Western European and Others Group (WEOG). These reforms, which are discussed extensively in Chapter 11, came into force on 31 August 1965.

During the 1960s, many more developing countries became members of the United Nations. By 1971, African countries had one-third of the votes in the General Assembly although they made up less than one-tenth of the global population and contributed less than 2 per cent of the UN budget. Two-thirds of the total membership contributed less than 5 per cent of the budget, while the Western countries (including Australia), with only twenty-two votes, contributed about 60 per cent of the budget. The increased representation of developing countries on the Council limited the ability of the great powers to control the agenda. The situation had helped make Australia what a 1971 Department of Foreign Affairs policy planning paper described as a 'permanent minority' in the organisation's deliberations.266 This paper was an internal reflection by the department on policy and policy options rather than a basis for future government policy. Nevertheless, its assessments and conclusions provide some insight into the considerations shaping Australia's approach to engagement with the United Nations at the time. The Security Council, the policy planning paper argued, had declined in several ways: there had been a deterioration in the quality of its membership; there were no great debates any longer; most speeches took the form of set pieces; and decisions were usually made by consultations outside the Council. The paper urged that Australia should avoid membership of the Security Council and concentrate its efforts on the UN's economic, scientific and technical activities.267

The paper drew a critical rejoinder from Australia's Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Sir Laurence McIntyre, who argued that a policy of opting out of representation on the Security Council or out of the bureaux of the General Assembly did 'no good to a country's image'. McIntyre accepted much of what was said about the Council but argued that it had helped freeze a number of disputes and had acted as a safety valve for emotions over quarrels which might otherwise have broken out into conflict. He added that in 1972 it would come the turn of the 'others' in WEOG to provide a candidate for election and that, on a rotational basis, the position would fall to Australia, which would come under pressure from others in the group to stand. He concluded:

it is no exaggeration to say that Australia's standing in the United Nations is almost bound to decline if we are to go on dodging responsibilities in its main organs defined in the Charter, which are still commonly regarded, mistakenly or not, as the real stuff of the Organisation.268

The Australian Prime Minister, William McMahon, was attracted to McIntyre's advice, and announced, in December 1971, the government's decision to seek another term on the Security Council, for the period 1973 to 1974.269 By that time, two factors were working to enhance Australia's standing in the United Nations: one was Australia's more progressive policies towards Papua New Guinea introduced in the 1960s (see Chapter 4), and the other was a decision taken by Australia in the 1971 General Assembly to adopt a more flexible and less legalistic position when voting on General Assembly resolutions. Consequently, Australia voted in that year for six of ten resolutions passed about apartheid, one criticising Portugal's rule in its colonies, and another criticising US purchases of chrome from Rhodesia in defiance of UN sanctions. Where the general tenor of a resolution did not conflict with government policy, Australia's policy from 1971 was to support it; in the past, the delegate would have opposed it on legalistic grounds.270

To be elected to the Council in 1972 Australia needed 88 affirmative votes from the then 132 members of the United Nations. On 9 May 1972 the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Nigel Bowen, announced that Australia would be seeking election and secured formal endorsement of WEOG for one of the two vacancies allocated to that group.271 On 20 October 1972 Australia was elected with 109 votes.272

In December 1972 the Australian Labor Party, led by Gough Whitlam, gained power at the federal level after twenty-two years in opposition. Whitlam had entered the House of Representatives in 1952, when Evatt was leader of the opposition, and shared his enthusiastic support of the United Nations. After being commissioned by the Governor-General, Whitlam assumed the foreign affairs portfolio; he held it until 6 November 1973. One of his first acts as Minister for Foreign Affairs was to recognise the People's Republic of China, the new occupant of the China seat in the United Nations.

Early in 1973 Whitlam discussed UN matters with McIntyre at Kirribilli House, the prime minister's Sydney residence.273 Whitlam indicated to McIntyre that in broad terms Australia's approach on questions pertaining to decolonisation in Africa should be to vote against South Africa and Portugal. In the 1960s and early 1970s Australian governments had dismantled Australia's restrictive immigration policy, the White Australia policy, and Whitlam was determined that 'Australia must be absolutely strict in avoiding giving the impression of racial discrimination'. Although he recognised that the memory of the White Australia policy would result in some continuing suspicion of Australia, he was determined to take an activist stance on UN matters and particularly on the issue of racial discrimination.274 These changes resulted in Australia voting for all forty-five draft resolutions brought to a vote in its term from 1973 to 1974–the United States vetoed two and abstained on six and the United Kingdom vetoed one and abstained on five.275

One of the continuing preoccupations of the Security Council in 1973 to 1974 was the Middle East, a region unsettled by the Six-Day War of 1967 between Israel and the neighbouring states of Egypt, Jordan and Syria.276 The Security Council worked hard to frame a resolution which might lead to peace in the Middle East, and so arrived at Resolution 242 in November 1967. This called for the application of two principles: withdrawal of Israeli forces from territories occupied in the 1967 conflict, and acknowledgement of the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of every state in the area and each state's right to live within secure boundaries free from the threat of force.277

Despite the Council's best efforts, conflicting interpretations of Resolution 242 made it impossible to achieve a long-term peace settlement. Then on 6 October 1973, the first day of the Israeli national holiday, Yom Kippur, hostilities were renewed. Syria attacked the Golan Heights, territory which Israel had captured from it in 1967, while Egypt crossed the Suez Canal into Sinai in five places.278 The war posed grave risks of escalation, with the United States supporting Israel and the Soviet Union the Arab states. Whitlam reacted swiftly, with a public announcement on 7 October deploring the resumption of hostilities.279 A few days later the Department of Foreign Affairs advised Whitlam that:

[w]hatever the apparent prospects of an early ceasefire, it is important that there be continuing diplomatic activity, particularly among the Permanent Members of the Security Council, directed towards minimising intervention and achieving a ceasefire. Success will depend on securing the support of the Permanent Members of the Security Council particularly the United States and USSR whose influence on the protagonists would be decisive in any accommodation. Accordingly, Sir Laurence McIntyre … should continue to explore the possibilities of a ceasefire linked to negotiations.280

On the same day Whitlam joined UN Secretary-General Kurt Waldheim in calling for a ceasefire. Whitlam emphasised that '[t]he Security Council, as the United Nations organ charged with primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security, should be the major centre of this activity'.281

McIntyre presided over the Council in the crucially important month of October 1973. In a speech to the Council on 12 October the Australian permanent representative declared that:

We can all understand the frustrations that have increased during the past six years over the failure to build on the foundation provided by Resolution 242–frustrations which have inevitably helped to bring about the renewal of hostilities … My delegation can only hope that … the Council will grasp the responsibility that the members of the United Nations and ultimately the peoples whom we represent have conferred upon us and continue its efforts to end this tragic and dangerous war and to carry forward urgently the task of working towards a lasting peace in the region that has had far too little peace, not only in living memory but as a historical fact.282

All McIntyre's patience and diplomatic skills were tested by the passions evident in the Council during the crisis. On 22 October he was forced to suspend debate during an angry exchange between the Soviet Union and China, with Israel interjecting.283 Later in the day he successfully presided over a vote–passed by fourteen votes to none–for Resolution 338, which required a ceasefire within twelve hours of its adoption. Fighting continued despite the resolution. Aided by McIntyre's active role in the negotiations, the Security Council passed another resolution three days later, on 25 October. Resolution 340, sponsored by the non-aligned members of the Council, demanded full compliance with the ceasefire sought in Resolution 338 and approved the establishment of a UN emergency force in the Middle East, to be drawn from member states of the United Nations. The proposal to create a peacekeeping force under the direct control of the Council rather than the Secretary-General, though contentious, provided the platform on which the Soviet Union and the United States could climb down from their potentially dangerous positions.284 Whitlam instructed McIntyre, who was initially uncertain whether or not to vote for the resolution, to support it.285 Throughout the difficult and crucial month of October 1973 McIntyre gained plaudits for his tactful and patient handling of the Council.

In the middle of the decade, in 1975, an important regional issue came to the attention of the Council: Australia's neighbour, Indonesia, used force to incorporate Portuguese Timor. The UN General Assembly had placed Portuguese Timor on its list of non-self-governing territories in 1960, making it subject to the provisions of Chapter XI of the Charter, which dealt with non-self-governing territories and reflected an expectation that these territories would eventually achieve political independence. Despite this, Portugal maintained that Portuguese Timor and other Portuguese-administered territories were overseas provinces. This situation continued until 1974 when, after the overthrow of Marcello Caetano, a new Portuguese government acknowledged the right of its colonial territories to self-determination and the applicability of Chapter XI to them. In the following year Portugal announced its intention to establish a provisional government in East Timor and to constitute a popular assembly (under universal, secret and direct suffrage) that would determine the colony's eventual status. Before these plans could be implemented, civil war broke out between the principal political parties in East Timor: the Timorese Democratic Union, which favoured continued association with Portugal but some of whose leaders were under Indonesian influence; the Revolutionary Front for an Independent East Timor (FRETILIN), which was pressing for independence; and the Timorese Popular Democratic Association, which advocated integration with Indonesia. Following the withdrawal of the remaining Portuguese authorities in August, a covert Indonesian invasion of the border regions of East Timor began in October. FRETILIN responded by issuing a declaration of independence. In December 1975 Indonesia launched a direct invasion of East Timor.

These events placed the Whitlam government, which supported Indonesian incorporation in principle but not the use of force, in a dilemma. Duncan Campbell, Deputy Permanent Representative in New York, criticised the Indonesian use of force in the General Assembly on 11 December 1975, the day on which the Whitlam government, having been refused supply by the Senate, was dismissed.286 On 16 December 1975, Australia's Permanent Representative, Ralph Harry, announced that the Australian government, now led by Malcolm Fraser, supported a ceasefire and some form of UN presence in East Timor.287 Alan Renouf, Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs, advised the new Minister for Foreign Affairs, Andrew Peacock, that:

We should accept that incorporation of East Timor into Indonesia seems fast becoming an accomplished fact. Australia should not resist this trend and, indeed, should accept it as probably now the best solution. Otherwise we would have a running sore in the region poisoning relations between ourselves and the Indonesians for years to come.288

However, the norm of self-determination obliged the Australian government to support censure of Indonesia at the United Nations. On 22 December 1975, the Security Council called on Indonesian forces to withdraw from the territory and asked the UN Secretary-General to send a representative to facilitate self-determination. The Indonesian government, however, refused to cooperate with the Secretary-General's special representative, Vittorio Winspeare Guicciardi, and officially incorporated East Timor on 17 July 1976. Security Council resolutions adopted three months before, on 14 April 1976, continued to call for Indonesian withdrawal from East Timor. Although Australia was not a member of the Council, the Australian government was invited to the meeting and supported the main thrust of the resolutions, 'notably their call for a withdrawal of outside forces and a process by which the people of East Timor can determine their own future'.289 However, there was no significant international interest in backing up the resolutions with economic sanctions or other measures. Australia recognised the incorporation de facto in 1976 and de jure in 1978.

New world order: 1985–1993

The years from the mid-1980s to the mid-1990s were a period of significant change in world history. The Soviet Union collapsed and a non-communist Russia succeeded to the Soviet seat on the Council. The contemporaneous ending of the Cold War, which had involved more than four decades of antagonism between the United States and the Soviet Union, was accompanied by a search for a new kind of world order, and hopes that the Security Council would be reinvigorated by the lessening of tensions between the Permanent Five were raised. The period from the mid-1980s to 1993 was also an extraordinary chapter in the history of the Security Council: from the ending of the Cold War to the first Gulf War, it seemed that the operations of the Council might fully accord with the aims of the UN Charter and that it might have a central and decisive role in issues of war and peace.

A few years before the unfolding of these dramatic events, on 14 June 1983, with Australia once again having returned a Labor government federally, and with Bob Hawke the new prime minister, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Bill Hayden, announced that Australia would again seek election to the Security Council: for the two-year term of 1985 to 1986.290 On 22 September 1984, Australia was selected for one of the WEOG vacancies on the Security Council. Australia and Denmark expressed the hope that WEOG would agree on the two candidates that would run in the ballot.291 In response to this request, Italy, the only other WEOG country considering running, withdrew from the race and called on the other members of the group to support Australia and Denmark.292 Although its election was virtually guaranteed, the Australian government nevertheless waged an energetic campaign to secure the highest possible vote. In making its case, it called attention to Australia's participation in peacekeeping operations in Cyprus, the Middle East and India–Pakistan, and its willingness to continue making a contribution to the search for international peace and security, social progress, justice and understanding. Australia topped the poll with 146 out of the 157 votes cast. The satisfaction of the Australian Mission to the United Nations was tempered only by the warning of the British Permanent Representative: 'Welcome to the Bed of Nails'.293

Australia's fourth term on the Security Council began in January 1985 with several issues on the agenda: the continuing Arab–Israeli conflict and the situation in the occupied territories; the Iran–Iraq War that had been underway since 1980; the situation in war-torn Lebanon; and civil strife in Cambodia. The Iran–Iraq War had erupted when Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein sent troops to occupy territory on the Shatt al-Arab waterway, an area that both Iran and Iraq claimed as their own. The United States and the United Kingdom remained officially neutral in the ensuing war and the Security Council, still divided, initially took no effective action. From a position of strict neutrality on the Iran–Iraq War, Australia was, in Permanent Representative Richard Woolcott's view, able to play a constructive role in redressing what had previously been an imbalance in favour of Iraq and in encouraging Iran to accept the bona fides of the Council.294 Australia played a part in persuading the Council to vote unanimously for Resolution 582. This resolution, passed on 24 January 1986, was drafted by the non-permanent members, with Australia taking a leading role. It called on Iran and Iraq to cease hostilities and observe a ceasefire and requested the parties to submit all aspects of the dispute to the mediation of the UN Secretary-General. Woolcott later commented: 'When Iran and Iraq find the political will to end their bloody war, Security Council Resolution 582 of February 1986 will provide the framework.'295 In accordance with the resolution, UN Secretary-General Javier Pérez de Cuéllar, described by Woolcott as 'more prepared than any Secretary-General since Hammarskjöld to take initiatives', travelled to Tehran and Baghdad to try to mediate a settlement.296

One year later, in 1987, Pérez de Cuéllar had the bold idea of encouraging the Permanent Five ambassadors to meet periodically behind closed doors. This was a significant innovation which encouraged the Permanent Five–so often opposed to each other in the past–to value the strength they could muster by acting in unison. In July 1987 the now more cohesive Council unanimously passed a ceasefire resolution relating to the Iran–Iraq War: it ordered both countries to withdraw to prewar boundaries and called on them to cooperate with Pérez de Cuéllar in achieving a settlement.297 Significantly, the Council passed the resolution under Chapter VII, which would have allowed it to authorise the use of force if either country had ignored its demands. Hailing this new spirit of cooperation in the Council, US Secretary of State George Shultz declared that the Council 'as a whole has functioned in the collegial spirit envisioned by the founders of the United Nations at its creation'.298

Soon after the Iran–Iraq War ended on 2 August 1990, Saddam Hussein's forces invaded Kuwait, the oil-rich former British protectorate which had become an independent state in 1961. The Security Council reacted by unanimously passing a resolution, again under Chapter VII, demanding the immediate and unconditional withdrawal of Iraqi troops from Kuwait. Another resolution, Resolution 661, which passed on 6 August, embargoed all trade (except for basic food and medicine) with Iraq. In committing Australian naval forces to support UN sanctions, Australian Prime Minister Bob Hawke commented on 28 August that:

The world has changed a lot since 1945, but I think that the lessons of the 1930s which underpin the UN Charter still hold true today: that international disputes must not be settled by force; that national borders must be respected; and that those who use force must not be permitted to prevail.299

Then on 29 November 1990, US Secretary of State James Baker presided over a meeting of the Council which, in Resolution 678, authorised 'member states co-operating with Kuwait … to use all necessary means to uphold and implement' the 2 August resolution which had demanded the immediate and unconditional withdrawal of the Iraqi troops from Kuwait. Between January and March 1991 a US-led multinational force, including an Australian component, ejected the Iraqis from Kuwait, but stopped short of taking action to remove the offending Iraqi regime from power in Baghdad. On 22 January 1991, Hawke moved a motion in the Australian parliament affirming Australia's positive response to the Security Council and its support in implementing Resolution 678.300 For Baker:

[w]ith the Cold War behind us we now have a chance to build the world which was envisioned … by the founders of the United Nations. We have the chance to make the Security Council and the United Nations true instruments for peace and justice across the globe.301


Australia's diplomatic work in the Council in relation to the conflict in Cambodia in the 1980s and early 1990s was one of Australia's most important foreign policy achievements. Although not a member of the Council at that time, Australian influence on it, and particularly on its Permanent Five members, was critical to the transition of that country from war to peace. So was Australia's cooperation with the former colonial power, France. In 1978, Vietnam (reunified in 1976 under communist rule as one country) invaded neighbouring Cambodia, ousted the genocidal Democratic Kampuchea government of the Khmer Rouge and its leader, Pol Pot, and installed a pro-Vietnamese People's Republic of Kampuchea under Heng Samrin. The People's Republic of Kampuchea was subsequently named the State of Cambodia. In 1982, non-communist groups in Cambodia, including one led by the former Cambodian leader, Norodom Sihanouk, joined with the Khmer Rouge to oppose the pro-Vietnamese Cambodian government. A protracted and enervating civil war ensued involving numerous military engagements, guerrilla assaults and ambushes. This displaced many Cambodians, who then became refugees, under UN care, in the border zone with Thailand. This civil war was fuelled by great-power patrons, China supporting the Khmer Rouge and Sihanouk, the Soviet Union assisting the State of Cambodia, and the United States and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations backing the non-communist resistance groups.

A Peace Conference in Paris in 1989 had put forward a comprehensive peace plan but had failed to persuade the Cambodian parties to end the conflict. This was principally because of the opposition of the State of Cambodia and its international backers to allowing a place for the Khmer Rouge in interim and future governments for Cambodia. So later that year the Australian government launched its own plan to reinvigorate the Cambodian peace process. Its essence was to circumvent the problem of the Khmer Rouge being involved in a Cambodian transitional administration by proposing that the United Nations itself be responsible for civil administration in Cambodia during a transitional period. While the United Nations was very experienced in peacekeeping operations and in monitoring elections, it had not to that time had any role in the civil administration of one of its member states. The Australian peace plan thus involved a bold innovation. On the instructions of Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Gareth Evans, Australian senior official Michael Costello conducted thirty major meetings in thirteen countries over twenty-one days from December 1989 to January 1990 at which he presented the plan.302 In order to succeed, the plan would have to be endorsed by the UN Security Council and the General Assembly. The work of Evans and Costello saw the Australian idea transform into a detailed plan which responded to the UN Secretary-General's stipulation that the UN mandate in Cambodia should be 'well-defined, realistic and practicable'.303

In particular, the Australian government sought a consensus on Cambodia among the Permanent Five members of the Security Council, because each had 'unique ties with Cambodian factions'.304 Representatives of the Permanent Five agreed, in Paris in January 1990, to a set of sixteen principles which would form the basis of their future discussions.305 Later in the year the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade produced a series of working papers, collectively known as the Red Book from the colour of its binding, which were distributed to the Permanent Five. The concepts and suggestions in the book laid the basis for a process of consensus-building on the nature of the UN's role in Cambodia, particularly among the Permanent Five.306 In September of that year both the Security Council in its unanimous adoption of Resolution 668 and the General Assembly in Resolution 45/3 of 15 October endorsed the basic elements of the peace plan. They also welcomed the decision of the Cambodian parties to form a Supreme National Council (SNC) in Cambodia 'as the unique legitimate body and source of authority in which, throughout the transitional period, the independence, national unity and sovereignty of Cambodia is embodied' and noted that the SNC 'would designate its representatives to occupy the seat of Cambodia in the United Nations'. In 1991 some key agreements followed: an immediate and unconditional ceasefire, and acceptance that all Cambodian parties would stop receiving external assistance. The Security Council established a mission, the UN Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC), with an unprecedented mandate in terms of scale and time.307 With prophecies of failure widespread, UNTAC supervised an election in 1993 with minimal violence; it was embraced as a model for future similar tasks. While subsequent events, including the partial collapse of democratic process, somewhat modified the initial highly positive evaluation of UN involvement in Cambodia, it is still widely regarded as a success for the Security Council and one of Australia's most important diplomatic achievements.308

The Security Council after the Cold War: 1993–99

After 1993 the hopes of a new world order in which the Security Council would play a central role were challenged by growing discord within the Council, particularly among the Permanent Five members. The disagreement revolved around such issues as civil strife in Rwanda and the Balkans and the failure of the US-led UN peacekeeping operation in Somalia, which had been authorised by a unanimous vote in the Council on 3 December 1992.309

In 1994, Australia yet again decided to run for election to the Security Council for the term of 1997 to 1998. One guiding consideration of the Australian government was to try to maintain a pattern of representation for Australia at approximately twelve-yearly intervals. Foreign Minister Gareth Evans, buoyed by the success of his policy in Cambodia, and seeking to build an effective system of cooperative security after the Cold War, felt that Australian membership of the Security Council would be particularly opportune at this time. By the time of the election, in 1996, the Labor government in Australia had been replaced by a Liberal–National Party coalition led by John Howard, and Evans had been succeeded by Alexander Downer as foreign minister. In the first year of the Howard government three candidates–Australia, Sweden and Portugal–had emerged to contest two WEOG seats. Richard Butler, Australia's Permanent Representative to the United Nations in New York, believed he had firm commitments before the ballot, written and oral, of 132 of the 181 total votes available–enough to secure election. He was greatly surprised by the result of the first ballot: Australia secured only 91 votes, a slippage of more than 30 per cent, to Sweden's 153 and Portugal's 112. With Sweden elected to the Council, a second ballot for the remaining position saw Portugal elected with 124 votes to Australia's 57.310

In the late 1990s the Security Council's reputation was again affected by the failure to authorise force to prevent Serbian 'ethnic cleansing' of the largely Albanian population of Kosovo in 1999. Although the Council passed three resolutions aimed at putting an end to the violence in 1998 (Resolution 1160 of 31 March, Resolution 1199 of 23 September and Resolution 1203 of 24 October), all under Chapter VII, the Permanent Five were unable to agree on the use of force against the government in Belgrade. Filling the vacuum, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)–the United States, Canada and the Western European countries–instigated military action, a move that was later endorsed by UN Security Council Resolution 1244 of 10 June 1999.311 This added impetus to debate around what was later to become a new norm revolving around humanitarian intervention–the idea that sovereignty was not a privilege but a responsibility; that states had an obligation to protect their peoples from genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing; and that the international community had a responsibility to assist states failing in their responsibility to protect with military intervention against states which failed to do so a last resort. One of the most prominent advocates of this doctrine was former foreign minister Evans.312

East Timor

The history of East Timor from 1999 to 2002 underlined emphatically the enduring importance of the Security Council and UN processes for Australia and the region. Australia played a leading role in securing sustained and effective UN involvement in East Timor's transition to independence. In turn, the Security Council's response on East Timor helped to restore its reputation, which had been badly affected by recent failures in the Balkans and Somalia.

Despite the Indonesian incorporation of the territory, East Timor's status in the United Nations remained 'non-self-governing territory under Portuguese administration'.313 From 1975 to 1999 an East Timor guerrilla force, Falintil,314 waged a military campaign against Indonesian occupation of the territory, a campaign given greater international support by an Indonesian Army massacre of members of a pro-independence march in the capital, Dili, in November 1991.315 The fall of President Suharto seven years later, in May 1998, and his replacement by BJ Habibie triggered a process of political change which had a direct impact on East Timor. Pressed to act, Habibie announced that Indonesia was prepared to consider a 'special status' for East Timor. By this he meant autonomy for East Timor in all areas of government except defence, foreign policy and monetary policy. In June 1998 Indonesian Foreign Minister Ali Alatas presented this proposal to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who appointed Personal Representative Jamsheed Marker, to negotiate the proposal with Indonesia and Portugal. Tripartite talks involving Indonesia, Portugal and the United Nations in 1998 made some progress on the issue but foundered over differences on the question of self-determination.316

Meanwhile, tensions were rising in East Timor. Those favouring independence were given new hope, while pro-integrationists became fearful. By this time the Australian government had decided that dialogue between Indonesia and East Timor was the key to resolving the issue. On 19 November 1998 Prime Minister Howard wrote to Habibie confirming that Australia's support for Indonesia's sovereignty over East Timor was unchanged and arguing that the interests of Australia, East Timor and Indonesia were 'best served by East Timor remaining part of Indonesia'. After expressing his concern at the lack of progress of the tripartite talks, Howard suggested that there be direct negotiations between the Indonesian government and East Timorese leaders, rather than negotiations that also included Portugal. A large number of East Timorese people, he noted, favoured an act of self-determination. Howard went on to suggest that Habibie address this demand 'in a manner which avoids an early and final decision on the future status of the province'.317 One option would be to build into the autonomy package for East Timor a review mechanism in the hope that 'successful implementation of an autonomy package with a built-in review mechanism would allow time to convince the East Timorese of the benefits of autonomy within the Indonesian Republic'.318 Howard's letter, along with the general weakness of the Indonesian economy and pressure from the European Union and the US Congress, pushed Habibie into action, but along lines that went much further than the approach suggested by the Australian prime minister. Habibie made it clear to Australian Ambassador to Indonesia John McCarthy that he wanted the issue to be resolved swiftly.319 Accordingly, on 27 January the Indonesian government announced that there would be a ballot in East Timor in which the people of East Timor would choose between outright independence or autonomy within Indonesia.320

At this time, Australian policymakers felt that some form of UN confidence-building work, as opposed to a peacekeeping presence, would be desirable in East Timor. However, the Indonesian government held firm to the opinion that the United Nations would only have such a role if and when Indonesia withdrew.321 Despite this Indonesian resistance, Australian diplomacy helped lay the groundwork for UN involvement in East Timor, involvement that was short of a peacekeeping force.322 By agreement of Indonesia, Portugal and the United Nations, a UN mission would be established to organise the consultation process; moreover, if the people of East Timor voted for independence, authority in East Timor would be transferred to the United Nations. On 11 June 1999 the Security Council adopted Resolution 1246, establishing the UN Mission in East Timor (UNAMET).323

A decisive majority of East Timorese supported independence in the ballot on 30 August 1999, but armed violence by anti-independence militias, instigated by elements of the Indonesian Army, was unleashed on the territory.324 At the beginning of September 1999 the need for an impartial security force in East Timor that would stop the bloodshed became apparent. Australia, by virtue of its membership of the 'Core Group', took a leading part in discussions that negotiated the deployment of a peacekeeping force. The original members of this group, which had frequent meetings with UN Secretariat personnel, were Australia, the United States, Britain, Japan and New Zealand. (Portugal would later join the group as the focus shifted to managing the transition to independence.) The group had emerged in late 1998 and early 1999 and one of its main purposes was to support the Secretary-General on East Timor, including by taking measures nationally in support of the United Nations.325 As events developed, it was Australian Permanent Representative Penny Wensley who saw the group's potential to help manage the international response to the unfolding crisis.326

Although the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations had begun planning for the deployment of a peacekeeping force, that preparation would have taken several weeks to organise. Given the urgency of the situation in East Timor, Australia took the view that any multinational force would have to take the form of a 'coalition of the willing' that was raised quickly and financed by concerned nations. It would have a mandate from the Security Council; it would be deployed only in the short term for purposes of stabilisation before the deployment of UN peacekeepers; it would have a strong regional component; and it would have the consent of the Indonesian government.327 The Australian government and its diplomats abroad worked hard, especially in the Asian region, to secure international backing for a multinational force in East Timor based on these principles.328 Because of growing international concern over the situation, on 5 September 1999 the Council decided to send a mission to Jakarta and Dili to discuss 'concrete steps' to allow the peaceful implementation of the ballot result with the Indonesian government. The mission (8–12 September) was made up of the permanent representatives of Namibia, Malaysia, Slovenia and the United Kingdom, the Deputy Permanent Representative of the Netherlands and Francesc Vendrell, as the Deputy Personal Representative of the Secretary-General.329

Australia swiftly gained a crucial ally in US President Bill Clinton, whose presence at the summit meeting of the Asia–Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, held in Auckland from 10 to 13 September, was a major encouragement. Clinton had confirmed on 9 September that the United States would support an Australian-led peacekeeping force, and threatened the withdrawal of economic aid to Indonesia unless it accepted international help in restoring peace and stability in East Timor.330 On 11 September, fifty-one countries, including Australia, took part in an open debate in the Council, demonstrating the degree of international concern and shared conviction that international action had to be taken. Representing Australia, Wensley called on Indonesia to respect the result of the ballot and expedite the transfer of control of East Timor to the United Nations, to restore security immediately and to agree to a multinational security force to help it to do so.331 On the same day, the Security Council mission, then in Dili, encountered the first signs that the Indonesian military were beginning to accept an international presence in East Timor.332 On 12 September Habibie was swayed by US arguments and the moral pressure of the international community, expressed in open debate in the Council, and advised Secretary-General Kofi Annan that he would invite a peacekeeping force of 'friendly nations' to East Timor.

On 15 September 1999 the Security Council authorised the establishment of this force through the unanimous adoption of Resolution 1264. This resolution, again under Chapter VII of the Charter, gave it a mandate to restore peace and security in East Timor, to protect and support UNAMET, and to facilitate humanitarian assistance to the territory. Australia had helped craft the resolution and lobbied energetically for the mandate to be strong, authorising 'all necessary means' including 'peace enforcement'.333 In a statement in an open debate in the Council when the resolution was adopted, the Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs, Alexander Downer, declared:

At the Secretary-General's request, Australia is willing to accept the leadership of the multinational force, which has been authorised here today. We look forward to working with regional and other countries to build a genuinely multinational force that will, as an interim measure, help bring the tripartite process mandated by the United Nations back on track until such time as a United Nations peacekeeping operation can be deployed.334

Commanded by Australia's Major General Peter Cosgrove, the International Force for East Timor (INTERFET) fulfilled the Security Council's mandate by restoring peace and security to East Timor. After the completion of its mission, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan held up INTERFET as a positive example of humanitarian intervention, and the Australian-led and UN-mandated operation was broadly seen by UN member states as 'having helped to restore credibility and reinforce the authority of the Security Council'.335

The Security Council's Resolution 1272 of 25 October 1999 established a UN Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET) to provide interim civil administration until East Timor's independence in 2002.336 Resolution 1272 conferred on UNTAET overall responsibility for the administration of East Timor and empowered it to exercise all executive and legislative authority there, including the administration of justice. Like INTERFET, UNTAET had the power to take all necessary measures to fulfil its mandate. The passage of the resolution marked the transfer of authority over East Timor from Indonesia to the United Nations. Consistent with standard procedures, the Security Council provided UNTAET with an initial twelve-month mandate, further renewal being dependent on Council approval. The Australian government directed substantial diplomatic effort, in the process of formulating Resolution 1272, to ensuring that the mandate was appropriate to its needs.337

In the period between UNTAET's establishment on 25 October 1999 and East Timor's independence on 20 May 2002, the Australian government made determined efforts to retain the focus of the Security Council on East Timor and to ensure that UNTAET's mandate retained an adequate security component and continued to cover the complex range of responsibilities required for the authority to oversee all aspects of the transition to independence. As other issues came to the Council's attention in this period, there was a view among some members that responsibility for UNTAET's mandate should not continue to fall under Security Council control.338 Others, including the United States, were wary of decisions on East Timor setting precedents which would see the Security Council mandating and funding further ambitious transnational operations which were blurring the lines between peacekeeping and peacebuilding.339 Australia, along with other members of the Core Group, including Portugal, argued that a failure to provide such support would put the long-term prospects of stable independence for East Timor in jeopardy.

An important part of Australian diplomacy was ensuring that the Security Council renewed UNTAET's mandate without weakening its security components or reducing its budget. Australian diplomats made representations to the Permanent Five members that were also members of the Core Group (the United States and the United Kingdom) and Council members in New York and capitals ahead of each mandate discussion. By these means, Australia played an important role in persuading permanent and non-permanent members of the need to continue to provide East Timor with substantial support; support that went well beyond the sort of assistance usually provided to a developing country after independence. This reflected the unprecedented scale of the tasks faced by UNTAET and the East Timorese, particularly regarding physical reconstruction, the development of legal and political frameworks and East Timorese nation-building.340 Australia was assisted in this by UN Special Representative Sérgio Vieira de Mello, who was appointed head of the Transitional Administration on 25 October 1999. He repeatedly addressed the Council throughout the transition period on the situation in East Timor and highlighted the risks of the Council failing to manage the process up to independence. Vieira de Mello's efforts were supplemented by comprehensive reports from members of the UN Secretariat on the ground.341 UNTAET's mandate was renewed on 31 January 2001, extending the mission until 31 January 2002, on which date it was extended again until 20 May 2002. Although the mission's outcomes were not guaranteed, on each occasion the strength of UNTAET's mandate was undiminished.

The efforts of Australia and other members of the Core Group were greatly assisted by Singapore assuming membership of the Council in January 2001. Singapore was an advocate for a continuing Security Council focus on East Timor up to the point of independence and, as President of the Security Council, oversaw the passage of Resolution 1410 on 17 May 2002.342 This resolution established the United Nations Mission of Support in East Timor (UNMISET), the aim of which was to provide assistance in setting up core administrative structures critical to the viability and political stability of the new nation, Timor-Leste.

Australia's contributions to shaping the international response to the situation in East Timor in September 1999, its leadership of INTERFET and its subsequent role in maintaining a strong Security Council focus throughout the transition to independence played a key role in the resolution of a longstanding international issue. Australia's active and effective diplomacy, along with that of other members of the Core Group, demonstrated how UN member states that were not members of the Council could influence Council deliberations and ensure that issues of priority to them continued to receive attention and support, even when an immediate crisis had passed. More broadly, Australia's ability to rally and retain the support it needed throughout the transition to independence highlighted what could be achieved through the Security Council with the determined and targeted investment of diplomatic, political and financial resources by a non-member state.


Less than a year later there was a major division in the Security Council over how to deal with Iraq. Although Australia was not a member of the Council at the time, the Howard government took a robust position in this debate. The regime of Saddam Hussein, despite its defeat in the first Gulf War and the negotiation, on 28 February 1991, of a ceasefire between it and the UN-sanctioned allies, clung tenaciously to power. The UN Security Council had imposed economic sanctions on Iraq and, under Resolution 687 of 3 April 1991, had spelled out the detailed terms of the ceasefire, which covered such matters as demarcation of boundaries, a demilitarised zone and the renunciation of terrorism.

One of the most important terms was an obligation on Iraq to dismantle weapons of mass destruction (WMD) under international supervision. Resolution 687 established the United Nations Special Commission, a UN agency mandated to carry out inspections and destroy or remove Iraq's chemical and biological weapons and missiles. Iraq was also asked to abide by its obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and not to develop nuclear weapons. Over the next ten years, repeated Security Council resolutions condemned Iraq's refusal to comply with its ceasefire obligations. In a statement to Australia's parliament in 2002, Alexander Downer, referring to the strong stance Australia had historically taken on disarmament, complained of Iraq's record of noncompliance and obstruction of Security Council resolutions. 'Iraq', he declared, 'consistently refused to comply with nearly all of the obligations imposed upon it: that is, 23 out of 27 obligations contained in nine Security Council resolutions. It is a serial transgressor.'343

Iraq's policies had prompted the US Congress in 1998 to pass the Iraqi Liberation Act, which sought the removal of Saddam's regime and Iraq's transition to democracy. Notwithstanding the passage of this legislation and building doubt in the United States about whether there would be a successful outcome to the inspections process, there seemed little prospect of any radical change to the UN's approach to Iraq. This situation continued even with the transition in 2001 to the Republican administration of George W Bush, whose father had presided over the first Gulf War. This state of affairs changed on 11 September 2001 when al-Qaeda terrorists attacked the New York World Trade Center and the Pentagon (and failed in an attempt to attack a third target).344 The attacks produced a major shift in US strategic thinking, with President
George W Bush articulating a need to prevent regimes that sponsored terror from threatening the United States and its allies with WMD.345 In an address to the UN General Assembly on 12 September 2002, he formally made a case to the international community for an invasion of Iraq to remove the Saddam Hussein regime, which was believed to possess WMD.346 His administration decided to seek UN authorisation to remove the regime by force in the event of Iraqi noncompliance with an inspections regime. France and Russia were critical of the US plan, and sought to defer the authorisation of the use of force to a second resolution.347

The Security Council unanimously passed Resolution 1441 on 8 November 2002: it authorised the resumption of weapons inspections and threatened 'serious consequences' for noncompliance.348 While the initial US draft had authorised member states to use force in advance, in case of Iraqi noncompliance, the majority of the Council agreed with Russia and France and were not prepared to support such 'automaticity'. The resolution offered Iraq a final opportunity to comply with its disarmament obligations, and tasked the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission, under the direction of Hans Blix, and the International Atomic Energy Agency, under its Director-General, Mohamed ElBaradei, to conduct inspections. When Blix and ElBaradei reported to the Council on 27 January 2003, Blix made the critical assessment that:

Iraq appears not to have come to a genuine assessment–not even today–of the disarmament which was demanded of it and which it needs to carry out to win the confidence of the world and to live in peace.349

The reports of the UN weapons inspectors were cautious: both Blix and ElBaradei pressed for more time to conduct their investigations.350 On 5 February 2003, US Secretary of State Colin Powell presented the US administration's case to the United Nations: the United States was dissatisfied with Iraq's response to Resolution 1441 and with the response of the weapons inspectors, and sought to authorise the use of force, on two bases–that Iraq still had a capacity to manufacture WMD, and that it had not complied with Resolution 1441.351

Later in February the United States, the United Kingdom and Spain went to the Security Council seeking a vote in favour of the use of force in Iraq. Their draft resolution stated that the Council '[d]ecides that Iraq has failed to take the final opportunity afforded to it in Resolution 1441 (2002)'.352 While it did not specify what the consequences would be, legal advisers from the United States and the United Kingdom argued that this would revive the authorisation to use force provided by Security Council Resolution 678 of 29 November 1990. The governments of Germany, France and Russia were, however, adamantly opposed to the text, and the United States and the United Kingdom could not secure nine votes on the Council.353 Faced with a losing vote as well as a veto from France and Russia, President Bush, British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Spanish Prime Minister José María Aznar withdrew the draft resolution on 16 March.354

In this period of high international tension, the Howard government joined efforts to press Iraq to honour its obligations to the Security Council, which meant providing a full and complete declaration of its WMD programs, and cooperating unconditionally with UN weapons inspectors. On 18 February 2003, Australia's Permanent Representative in New York, John Dauth, declared to the Council during an open debate that Iraq was in breach of its obligations under Resolution 1441. He added that the 'Security Council has a fundamental responsibility to assert its authority. If it does not, it places in jeopardy not only the cause of Iraqi disarmament, but the very basis of our current collective security system.'355

The Security Council having reached an impasse, on 17 March President Bush announced:

Saddam Hussein and his sons must leave Iraq within 48 hours. Their refusal to do so will result in military conflict, commenced at a time of our choosing … The United Nations Security Council has not lived up to its responsibilities, so we will rise to ours.356

With this ultimatum the US government made clear its resolve to proceed by force against Saddam Hussein with the support of allies in a 'coalition of the willing'.357 In contrast to INTERFET, the 'coalition of the willing' mandated by Security Council Resolution 1264 of 15 September 1999, the authority for the coalition of the willing in Iraq was the subject of vigorous debate. The US government argued that a previous UN Security Council resolution, Resolution 678, continued to authorise the use of force to ensure Iraqi compliance with the first Gulf War ceasefire and, further, that Iraq posed an imminent threat to its neighbours, to the United States and to international peace and security.358 Making a domestically contentious decision, the Howard government decided to participate with the United States, the United Kingdom and other allies by making a modest military contribution to the invasion of Iraq. In a statement in the House of Representatives on 18 March 2003, Howard emphasised that the Australian government's concern was with Iraq's apparent continued possession of WMD in defiance of numerous resolutions of the Security Council. He added:

Over the last months, we have seen no evidence to suggest that Saddam Hussein is willing to comply with Resolution 1441. He has offered up minor concessions but he has not demonstrated that he is willing to declare or destroy Iraq's prohibited weapons programs. The government believes very strongly that Iraq's continued defiance of the community of nations presents a challenge which must be addressed.359

However, the Howard government's legal argument that existing Security Council resolutions authorised the use of force against Iraq in 2003 by a 'coalition of the willing' was the subject of considerable domestic debate. Some international lawyers supported the government's case; others vigorously criticised it.360

On 20 March 2003 the United States launched Operation Iraqi Freedom with its allies, notably the United Kingdom and Australia. Three weeks later American troops took control of the capital, Baghdad. The coalition's use of force in Iraq remained contentious after the speedy allied victory over conventional Iraqi military forces gave way to an enervating war of insurgency against the occupying powers. No WMD were found in Iraq. The Bush administration in the United States, the government led by Tony Blair in the United Kingdom and the Howard government in Australia all continued to argue that the war in Iraq was an effort to enforce Security Council resolutions. Others contended that the use of force without a further mandate from the Security Council after Resolution 1441 was inconsistent with the UN Charter and that the Council had in fact been sidelined.361 In Australia, for example, the leader of the opposition, Simon Crean, in the debate that followed Howard's statement on Iraq in parliament on 18 March, stated that the 'Labor Party have consistently agreed with the view that Saddam Hussein had to be disarmed, but we say that he has to be disarmed through the processes of the UN, and so does resolution 1441'.362

The divisions in the Council of 2003 gradually healed. On 22 May the Security Council passed Resolution 1483. This was a compromise between the United States and the United Kingdom (supported by Australia), who sought a UN mandate recalling Security Council Resolution 687, and the French, Russians and Chinese, 'who were eager to avoid repeating the post facto validation that was widely seen as characterizing SCR 1244 in the wake of NATO's Kosovo intervention'.363 Resolution 1483 affirmed that the postwar reconstruction of Iraq was essentially an Anglo-American operation, rather than a UN-sanctioned one. At the same time it gave the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) in Iraq a major role in the political and constitutional shaping of Iraq while also establishing a role for the United Nations by creating a special representative of the Secretary-General to help 'the restoration and establishment of national and local institutions for representative governance'.364 The special representative was further mandated to coordinate action in such areas as humanitarian relief, human rights, the return of refugees and infrastructure rehabilitation. Sérgio Vieira de Mello filled the position until his death in a terrorist attack in Baghdad in August 2003. Following the disbanding of the CPA on 28 June 2004, Security Council Resolution 1546 (of 6 August) endorsed the handover of power to an Iraqi interim government and looked forward to the eventual assumption of responsibility by a fully sovereign and independent Iraq. In December 2008 Security Council Resolution 1790, mandating the presence of multinational forces in Iraq, expired. A few months before, in June, the Australian government withdrew Australian combat troops from Overwatch Battle Group (West) in Iraq and, in December of that year, redeployed naval and air elements.

In the early years of the twenty-first century the Australian government also gave thought to launching a bid for a non-permanent seat on the Security Council for 2007 to 2008. Australia had not served on the Council since 1986, whereas Canada had served twice since then (in 1989–90 and 1999–2000) and New Zealand once (in 1993–94). Although Australia had been defeated for the second WEOG seat in 1996 by Portugal, Australia's role in securing the independence of East Timor may have placed it in a strong position for a vote in 2006. In 2000 Penny Wensley had argued that Australia 'should be thinking about trying again' for a Security Council seat.365 Because of arrangements with Canada and New Zealand, the next opportunity for Australia to serve might have occurred in 2007 to 2008. However, the Howard government decided on 18 December 2003 not to proceed with an Australian bid.366 It was not until 2008 that Prime Minister Kevin Rudd decided that Australia would seek a fifth term for 2013 to 2014, observing that 'I think 30 years is a fair enough old wait between drinks and I think it's time we actually got cracking'.367 Australia's campaign for a fifth term was grounded, among other things, on its strong historical record in helping to maintain international peace and security, notably its major contribution to the Cambodian peace settlement, and its leading role in regional peacekeeping operations including Timor-Leste (East Timor), the Solomon Islands and Bougainville.368

Despite the high hopes of its founders, the United Nations has had mixed success in providing for collective security on a worldwide basis for much of its history. This was a consequence of the rupture, during the Cold War, of the wartime alliance which had successfully fought the war against Germany and Japan. In this period, the coercive powers of the Council were blunted by the great-power veto, and the military structure contained in Chapter VII of the Charter quickly became a dead letter. Nonetheless, even in the early years of the Cold War, Australia, which was first elected to the Security Council in 1946, made an essential contribution to the Council's first major success: its involvement in the decolonisation of Indonesia. Then, in the early 1950s, the Soviet boycott of the Security Council and the use of the Uniting for Peace procedure allowed the United Nations (supported by Australia) to participate in the defence of South Korea against North Korean aggression. Despite the use of the veto by Britain and France in 1956, the United Nations as a whole achieved one of its 'most spectacular single achievements' in settling the Suez Crisis and establishing one of the UN's most successful roles, namely the deployment of unarmed or lightly armed military personnel to areas where warring parties were in need of a neutral party to observe the peace process.369 Australia would henceforth be an active contributor to peacekeeping operations authorised by the Council and served on the Council a third time in 1973 to 1974, at that time playing a constructive role in the resolution of the Yom Kippur War.

From the mid-1980s to 1993, a period of greater cooperation among the Permanent Five on the Security Council, Australia supported the efforts of a more activist Council, protecting Kuwait from Iraqi aggression and, most successfully, establishing the peace process in Cambodia. In the period after 1993, disputes in the Council over whether to use force, notably in Kosovo and in the Second Gulf War, and the unilateral deployment of force by NATO in Kosovo and the US-led Coalition in Iraq, were undoubtedly temporary blows to its standing. For Australia, though, the continuing importance of the Security Council was emphatically demonstrated during East Timor's bloody transition to independence. For a small country–it has grown from a mere seven million people in 1945 to a little over twenty million in 2012–Australia has had an active role in the Council, serving four terms, twice in the British Commonwealth seat and twice in one of the WEOG seats, and has also played an important role in helping the Council maintain peace and security in Australia's region in three key regional conflicts (Indonesia, 1947–49; Cambodia, 1988–1993; and East Timor, 1999–2002).


The Australian Minister for Navy and leader of the Australian delegation, NJO Makin (right), presides during the first Session of the UN Security Council, London, 17 January 1946. To his left: Executive Secretary of the United Nations, Gladwyn Jebb; Edward Stettinius, Jr, (United States); and Ernest Bevin (United Kingdom). [UN Photo/Marcel Bolomey]

The Australian Minister for Navy and leader of the Australian delegation, NJO Makin (right), presides during the first Session of the UN Security Council, London, 17 January 1946. To his left: Executive Secretary of the United Nations, Gladwyn Jebb; Edward Stettinius, Jr, (United States); and Ernest Bevin (United Kingdom). [UN Photo/Marcel Bolomey]


The Netherlands representative, Dr Elco N van Kleffens (right), addresses the UN Security Council during discussion on the Indonesian question, New York, 31 July 1947. Left to right: Andrei A Gromyko (Soviet Union); VG Lawford (United Kingdom); Herschel V Johnson (United States); and WR Hodgson (Australia). [UN Photo]

The Netherlands representative, Dr Elco N van Kleffens (right), addresses the UN Security Council during discussion on the Indonesian question, New York, 31 July 1947. Left to right: Andrei A Gromyko (Soviet Union); VG Lawford (United Kingdom); Herschel V Johnson (United States); and WR Hodgson (Australia). [UN Photo]


The members of the UN Commission for Indonesia sign the final documents formalising the agreements reached in relation to the right of self-determination for the Republik Indonesia Serikat (United Republic of Indonesia), The Hague, 2 November 1949. Left to right: Merle H Cochran (United States); Raymond Herremans (Belgium); and Thomas K Critchley (Australia). [UN Photo]

The members of the UN Commission for Indonesia sign the final documents formalising the agreements reached in relation to the right of self-determination for the Republik Indonesia Serikat (United Republic of Indonesia), The Hague, 2 November 1949. Left to right: Merle H Cochran (United States); Raymond Herremans (Belgium); and Thomas K Critchley (Australia). [UN Photo]


The Australian Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Dr E Ronald Walker, speaks during the Suez debate in the UN Security Council, New York, 8 November 1956. [UN Photo/AF]

The Australian Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Dr E Ronald Walker, speaks during the Suez debate in the UN Security Council, New York, 8 November 1956. [UN Photo/AF]


The Australian Permanent Representative to the United Nations and President of the UN Security Council for October, Sir Laurence McIntyre (centre), talks with officers of the Australian permanent mission to the United Nations, Duncan Campbell (left) and Charles Mott (right), during the debate on the Middle East following the Arab–Israeli war, New York, c. 22 to 26 October 1973. [UN Photo/Max Machol]

The Australian Permanent Representative to the United Nations and President of the UN Security Council for October, Sir Laurence McIntyre (centre), talks with officers of the Australian permanent mission to the United Nations, Duncan Campbell (left) and Charles Mott (right), during the debate on the Middle East following the Arab–Israeli war, New York, c. 22 to 26 October 1973. [UN Photo/Max Machol]


The Australian Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Ralph L Harry (centre), presents Australia's statement during the UN Security Council consideration of question of Portuguese Timor, New York, 16 December 1975. Left, Chaidir Anwar Sani (Indonesia); and right, Rashleigh Esmond Jackson (Guyana). [UN Photo/T Chen]

The Australian Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Ralph L Harry (centre), presents Australia's statement during the UN Security Council consideration of question of Portuguese Timor, New York, 16 December 1975. Left, Chaidir Anwar Sani (Indonesia); and right, Rashleigh Esmond Jackson (Guyana). [UN Photo/T Chen]


The Australian Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Richard A Woolcott (right), presides in the UN Security Council as UN officials (lower right) oversee voting, New York, 15 November 1985. Seated (left to right): Guennadi I Oudovenko (Ukrainian SSR); Oleg A Troyanovsky (Soviet Union); Sir John Thomson (United Kingdom); Herbert S Okun (United States); and UN Secretary-General Javier Pérez de Cuéllar. [UN Photo/Milton Grant]

The Australian Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Richard A Woolcott (right), presides in the UN Security Council as UN officials (lower right) oversee voting, New York, 15 November 1985. Seated (left to right): Guennadi I Oudovenko (Ukrainian SSR); Oleg A Troyanovsky (Soviet Union); Sir John Thomson (United Kingdom); Herbert S Okun (United States); and UN Secretary-General Javier Pérez de Cuéllar. [UN Photo/Milton Grant]


The Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs, Senator Gareth J Evans (right), with the then acting Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Michael J Costello (centre), New York, 4 October 1988. [UN Photo/Yutaka Nagata]

The Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs, Senator Gareth J Evans (right), with the then acting Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Michael J Costello (centre), New York, 4 October 1988. [UN Photo/Yutaka Nagata]


The Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs, Alexander Downer (centre), accompanied by the Australian Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Penny A Wensley (left), addresses the UN Security Council during its authorisation of a multinational force under a unified command structure in East Timor, New York, 15 September 1999. [UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe]

The Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs, Alexander Downer (centre), accompanied by the Australian Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Penny A Wensley (left), addresses the UN Security Council during its authorisation of a multinational force under a unified command structure in East Timor, New York, 15 September 1999. [UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe]


The UN Security Council unanimously adopts Resolution 1272, establishing the UN Transitional Administration in East Timor, 25 October 1999. [UN Photo/Susan Markisz]

The UN Security Council unanimously adopts Resolution 1272, establishing the UN Transitional Administration in East Timor, 25 October 1999. [UN Photo/Susan Markisz]


The Australian Permanent Representative to the United Nations, John C Dauth, addresses the UN Security Council, New York, 20 February 2003. [UN Photo/Mark Garten]

The Australian Permanent Representative to the United Nations, John C Dauth, addresses the UN Security Council, New York, 20 February 2003. [UN Photo/Mark Garten]


The Australian Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, meets with Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, prior to his announcement of Australia's candidacy for Security Council membership, New York, 29 March 2008. [UN Photo/Mark Garten]

The Australian Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, meets with Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, prior to his announcement of Australia's candidacy for Security Council membership, New York, 29 March 2008. [UN Photo/Mark Garten]

4. Decolonisation

Matthew Jordan

Decolonisation and the attainment of independence and nationhood by previously subject peoples in Asia, the Middle East, Africa and the Pacific was one of the great transformative movements of the twentieth century. By the time this process was all but over, in the late 1980s and early 1990s, the international political landscape looked radically different from that of the post–World War II era. In 1993, there were 184 independent nations in the United Nations, almost half of them former dependencies, in contrast to the fifty foundation member states which established the world body in 1945.

Australia's role in this remarkably rapid process was mainly conditioned by its concerns over the status of the contiguous territories of Papua and New Guinea, which had been administered by Australia since the early twentieth century. Papua was a Crown colony, acquired by the British in 1884 under Australian pressure and administered by the Commonwealth government since 1906, while New Guinea, along with Nauru, had been mandated to Australia under the supervision of the League of Nations following Germany's defeat in World War I. The mandates sat uncomfortably with Prime Minister Billy Hughes, who had wanted to acquire the island territories to Australia's north–especially New Guinea–through outright annexation. But as a result of strong opposition from the liberal internationalist US President, Woodrow Wilson, Hughes had been forced to accept 'Class C' mandates, which, though officially under the auspices of the League and its Permanent Mandates Commission, conferred wide-ranging powers on Australia as the administering authority.370 Having secured these territories, Australia, still a young nation preoccupied with its own economic and material development, assumed only limited objectives for the advancement of Papua and New Guinea during the 1920s and 1930s. An official parliamentary report of 1924 noted 'an absence of any constructive policy' in New Guinea, and this applied equally to Australia's record in the adjacent territory of Papua.371

While Australia's 'non-policy' in the mandated territories became the subject of frequent criticism in the Permanent Mandates Commission, the main purpose of possession in both Papua and New Guinea was to stop a potential enemy–and here the Australians had Japan firmly in mind–from using the islands as a base from which to attack the Australian mainland.372 With these concerns in mind, Hughes, by now Minister for Territories, said during a visit to New Guinea in 1938: 'We have got our mandate on this rock. We have built our church and all hell is not going to take it away. What we have we hold'.373 This mentality would soften over later decades, especially under the administration of External Territories Minister Paul Hasluck (1951–1963). Nevertheless, the continuing primacy of strategic denial shaped Australia's basic attitude to trusteeship matters in the United Nations throughout the 1940s and 1950s, this position then changing as a result of shifts in the international system and the progressive acceptance by the old European imperial powers that the colonial period was coming to an end.

Principle and practice: 1945–49

As World War II entered its third year, the Allied powers began to negotiate the terms of the peace. From December 1941 to January 1942, the leaders of the 'Big Three'–the United Kingdom, the United States and the Soviet Union–met to hammer out a series of agreements which would both secure their national economic and strategic interests, and establish the moral foundations of the postwar world. One issue which received occasional attention in this latter category was self-determination for dependent peoples, a principle which appealed to the liberal internationalism of Dr Herbert Vere Evatt, then Minister for External Affairs in the Labor government of John Curtin (see Chapter 2). As early as 1942, the energetic and conscientious Evatt, taking his cue from the Atlantic Charter of the previous year, declared that the age of unfair exploitation had passed, that the 'United Nations'–a term then used to refer generally to the anti-fascist alliance–should regulate this process and that 'we must found future Pacific policy on the doctrine of trusteeship for the benefit of all Pacific peoples'.374 The same enthusiasm for these high-minded principles was evident during the negotiation of the Canberra Agreement in January 1944. Although largely motivated by and preoccupied with Australasian security concerns in the Pacific, the agreement contained a substantial section on the 'Welfare and Advancement of Native Peoples in the Pacific'. This section, which, like most of the agreement, had been closely drafted by Evatt, was fundamentally altruistic in its calls for a trusteeship system for 'all colonial territories in the Pacific and elsewhere', the main purpose of which would be 'the welfare of native peoples and their social, economic and political development'. To this end, he called for the creation of a South Seas Regional Commission that, among other things, would:

recommend arrangements for the participation of natives in administration in increasing measure with a view to promoting the ultimate attainment of self-government in the form most suited to the circumstances of the native peoples concerned.375

When the victor nations met in San Francisco in April to May 1945 to draft the UN Charter, Evatt pushed hard for the concept of a 'universal' trusteeship agreement. Under such an arrangement, he explained, powers responsible for administering both colonies–or, in the UN's terminology, 'non-self-governing territories'–and former and newly acquired League of Nations mandates (including New Guinea and Nauru) would have to either freely accept an international system of accountability or have one imposed upon them. Against the wishes of Britain, which had already resisted all efforts to introduce any system that involved compulsion, Evatt on 10 May 1945 rejected the principle of voluntary submission and, when challenged on the matter, stated emphatically that 'the good faith of this conference and the United Nations would be questioned if we adopted any artificial distinction' between mandates and non-self-governing territories. With this in mind, he said, 'let the Assembly … state in what territories reports should be required, if that territory has not already been brought voluntarily under the system'.376 The UK delegation, fearing the inevitable loss of British imperial prestige under such an arrangement, politely indicated that its government was unable to accept 'the principle of compulsion which finds a place in the Australian proposal'.377

In Australia, these events prompted an outpouring of criticism from the Liberal–Country Party opposition and the mainstream press. The Sydney Morning Herald, for example, accused Evatt and the Australian delegation of being more concerned with 'giving its humanitarian impulses an airing … than with offering a united front to nations which are all too ready to denounce British "imperialism" '.378 The hostility of this response, along with the unwillingness of the great powers to embrace a system of universal trusteeship, prompted Evatt to back down. At the same time, he himself expressed strong reservations over the creation of any precedent which would allow the United Nations to meddle in the internal affairs of sovereign states. Concerned especially with the potential threat to Australia's racially discriminatory immigration policy–the White Australia policy–Evatt fought tenaciously for a provision prohibiting the United Nations from interfering in the domestic affairs of member states; he, more than any other delegate at San Francisco, was thus responsible for the strict interpretation of domestic jurisdiction subsequently written into Article 2(7) of the Charter.379 This was 'a matter of fundamental principle', he told Prime Minister Ben Chifley on 18 May 1945, 'and we cannot compromise on it'. In accordance with this position, the spirit of which was at odds with the views on compulsory submission he had expressed only a week earlier, Evatt now reassured the Department of External Affairs (DEA) that the United Nations was explicitly prevented from making unilateral decisions on trusteeship matters. 'There can be no change in the terms of any mandate', he explained, seemingly anticipating a less controlling role for the United Nations, 'without the full consent of the Mandatory Power'. Significantly, in making this point, Evatt referred specifically to the need to 'fully protect our rights in New Guinea'.380

The Charter in its final form, therefore, explicitly disavowed the principle of compulsion and anticipated the creation of a dual trusteeship system. The relevant sections of the Charter were accordingly divided into a 'declaration' supporting the objective of 'political, economic, social and educational advancement' in non-self-governing territories on the one hand (Chapter XI) and, on the other, the creation of a formal trusteeship system incorporating all new and old mandates under UN auspices and committing the administering powers to the specific objective of promoting 'the … progressive development [of] self-government or independence' in the territories for which they were accountable (Chapter XII). To accommodate the objectives of Chapter XII in particular, a Trusteeship Council was established, under the authority of the General Assembly, which gathered and interpreted data on relevant trusteeship territories (Chapters XII and XIII).381 As a concession to Evatt, however, whose original hopes for a universal and compulsory trusteeship system were thus dashed, the great powers agreed to introduce a new provision–Article 73(e)–which required administering powers to provide the UN Secretary-General with 'statistical and other information of a technical nature relating to economic, social and educational conditions' in their non-self-governing territories. From 1947, this information was reported to an ad hoc committee which, in due course, became a semi-permanent body of the Fourth Committee known as the Committee on Information from Non-Self-Governing Territories (hereafter referred to as the Information Committee). Article 73(e), like the general declaration supporting decolonisation, was 'a step forward', according to Evatt. Both provisions, he added, 'can rightly be claimed to be due mainly to Australian initiative'.382

Evatt's role in securing this important concession reflected his sympathy for the colonised nations. This was most conspicuous during the Dutch–Indonesian dispute of the late 1940s. Although Evatt was initially loath to involve Australia in the dispute, he increasingly feared that sustained fighting between returning Dutch forces and the Indonesian nationalist movement would undermine regional–and by extension, Australian–security. When, in July 1947, a short-lived rapprochement between the combatants broke down and Dutch forces initiated their first 'police action' against the Indonesians, the Australian government–at Evatt's behest and despite the contrary opinions of its great-power protectors–referred the matter to the UN Security Council.383 The most vocal advocate in the United Nations of the sanctity of domestic jurisdiction, Evatt nevertheless rejected Dutch claims that the dispute was an internal matter and insisted that the 'Security Council has the right and duty to investigate the situation and recommend adjustment'.384 Following a second 'police action' by Dutch forces in December 1948, Evatt increasingly argued his case in terms of high principle. Expressing strong support for the Indonesian nationalist cause, Evatt claimed that the situation was an opportunity to 'defend the prestige of [the] United Nations and to show the Dutch that the old time imperialistic methods are detestable not only to Australia but to the whole of South East Asia'.385

The confluence of Evatt's politics and principles during the latter stages of the Dutch–Indonesian dispute was exceptional; no other single issue allowed him simultaneously to defend what he regarded as Australia's national security interests and his strong bent for justice. In the case of trusteeship, by contrast, there was no way to accommodate these competing and contrary demands once the unbounded idealism of San Francisco subsided and countries that had very different perceptions of the UN's relevant functions and responsibilities confronted the realities of administering the new system. By March 1948, when Evatt reported to parliament on Australian activities in the United Nations, his transmutation was complete. For all his sincere intentions at San Francisco, Evatt now rejected any direct or active role for the Trusteeship Council in the decolonisation process. In contrast to his earlier demands for a system that would embrace all dependent territories–both trusteeships and non-self-governing territories–Evatt defended the right of administering powers to view Chapter XI as merely 'a "declaration of trust", i.e. a statement of the policies to which they have voluntarily subscribed and intend of their own volition to pursue'. Though largely responsible for Article 73(e), he now claimed that this provision 'in no sense [constituted] a series of specific undertakings to the United Nations' and, at any rate, 'the "accountability" of the states responsible is … of a general nature' and the administering powers 'have never placed these territories and their administration under the supervision of the United Nations'. Even in those territories specifically required to be administered by the United Nations under Chapters XII and XIII, he said, again invoking the principle of non-intervention, 'the Colonial Powers … regard [their] administration … as matters of domestic jurisdiction'.386

This about-face on Evatt's part was consistent with a discernible shift in the tone of the United Nations on trusteeship matters beginning in late 1946, several months before the Trusteeship Council was even established. In December that year, while rules and procedures for the Trusteeship Council were still being negotiated, the attending DEA representative, WD (Bill) Forsyth, noted a conspicuous 'cleavage' of opinion as administering powers promoted a policy of gradualism while their non-administering counterparts–the most vocal of which were former non-European colonies and Soviet-aligned states–pushed hard for rapid decolonisation.387 A year later, when the council began substantive work–'the First Session having necessarily been devoted principally to matters of machinery and procedure'–Forsyth reported more fully on these contrary expectations. While acknowledging that there was 'much genuine idealism' among non-administering powers, Forsyth was nevertheless increasingly disturbed by what he called their 'hyper-critical and hostile attitude'. There was, he complained, a 'bland indifference' to the expense, toil and obligations 'which have been freely assumed by the administering powers', and a preoccupation with 'discovering new sources of income from which the rapid rate of progress they desire could be financed'. Forsyth found it especially galling to listen through 'meeting after meeting to charges and imputations of oppression and denial of human rights and of advanced standards of living, coming from representatives of countries in which conditions in these matters are certainly not above reproach'.388

The apparent unwillingness of non-administering powers to play a docile role in the process of decolonisation, combined with their ever-increasing demands for rapid self-government or independence in trust territories, came as something of a surprise to Australia. Indeed, Evatt had anticipated–and hoped–that the European colonial powers displaced by the Japanese during World War II would quickly return to Southeast Asia and resume control over their far-flung empires. Many dependent peoples, he said at San Francisco, citing the League of Nations Charter, 'are clearly "not yet able to stand by themselves under the strenuous conditions of the modern world" '. They would 'need help and guidance for their material and moral rehabilitation', but in receiving this from 'their former rulers', dependent peoples should be given 'a solemn pledge that the purpose of [colonial] administration will be their welfare and advancement'. In taking this position, Evatt, ever attuned to Australian strategic interests, focused heavily on the function of trusteeship as 'maintaining security' and on the need to avoid creating 'a strategic vacuum' in the Pacific.389 He found, however, that instead of welcoming back their former European imperial masters, the newly independent Asian nations–led most notably by India–had a deep-seated hostility to colonialism and therefore rejected Evatt's implied policy of gradualism. In 1948, Indian Prime Minister Pandit Nehru, addressing the General Assembly, expressed astonishment that 'any country should still venture to hold and to set forth this doctrine of colonialism'. Speaking for India, he pledged that there would be 'no mere objection to that [doctrine], but active objection, an active struggle against any and every form of colonialism in any part of the world'.390

The early manifestation of this position at the United Nations posed a direct threat to Australia's vision of postwar regional security–a vision which, as Evatt explained, was underwritten by the expectation of a strong Western presence in the Asia–Pacific region. While Evatt's principles undoubtedly convinced him of the rightness of supporting decolonisation after World War II, he could not accept the granting of immediate self-government to trust territories, as vocal sections of the anti-colonial bloc in the United Nations demanded, given Australia's historical conflation of its vital security interests with control over the territories of Papua and New Guinea. The experience of World War II, when Japan had invaded the island with the intent of launching a full-scale attack on the Australian mainland, had convinced many Australians, as John Andrews observed in the early 1950s, that the strategic importance they traditionally attached to both territories was 'abundantly justified'–New Guinea in particular 'became plainly the last rampart protecting the Australian mainland from invasion'.391 The convergence of this established orthodoxy with Australia's concerns over the early emergence and consolidation of anti-colonial activity in the United Nations, more than any other factor, explains Evatt's support for gradualism, his inconsistent application of domestic jurisdiction and his retreat from the principles he had enunciated at San Francisco. It fundamentally hardened Australian attitudes to trusteeship matters in the United Nations. Prime Minister Chifley, when explaining the nature of Australia's future administrative role in the territory to parliament in August 1946, focused heavily on this aspect of the question:

The Territory … in which so many of our men died in battle against the Japanese, is of such importance to the safety of this country that nothing but absolute control could be accepted by any Australian government … The Government, moreover, intends to go farther and to ensure that its complete administrative authority will be utilised to the full in providing, where necessary, for naval, military and air bases in New Guinea and for the erection of fortifications … [S]uch comprehensive defence measures were not possible under the old mandate. By bringing the mandated territory under the trusteeship system we are permitted to plan and carry out measures directly relevant to the security of Australia itself.

Chifley, like Evatt, acknowledged Australia's 'general duty', as 'laid down by the Charter', to promote 'the welfare and advancement of the inhabitants' of the territory. And yet, having noted these obligations, he insisted that Australia 'must have full powers of legislation, administration and jurisdiction over the territory', and more than that, that Australia would brook no interference from the United Nations on matters which touched upon the security of the territory. 'No agreement', Chifley thus asserted, 'would be considered by us which restricted in any way our right to provide for the defence of New Guinea and consequently for the safety of Australia'.392

Australia's determination to maintain complete authority over its neighbouring external territories, and the ramifications of this for Australian attitudes towards trusteeship in the United Nations, was first manifested several months after Chifley's statement. In December 1946, when Australia officially submitted its application for a trusteeship agreement covering the former League of Nations mandated territory of New Guinea, several non-Western delegations demanded a number of changes, the most notable of which was the Soviet Union's insistence that Australia modify a reference to the territory as 'an integral part' of the Commonwealth. In response, Evatt himself 'expressly instructed' the leader of the Australian delegation, Professor Kenneth Bailey, 'not to consider modifications of any kind except as a last resort and then only to make declaration by way of addition expressly indicating continuance by Australia of established existing policy'.393 During the ensuing debate in the Fourth Committee, Bailey and other members of the Australian delegation, in accordance with these instructions, refused to make any but the most cosmetic of changes, advising that the Australian draft had already been 'carefully considered'. There was a quiet 'emphasis on the terms of the Charter and the supervision [role] of the Trusteeship Council'.394 When negotiations faltered, the Australians delivered what amounted to an ultimatum: an agreement on Australian terms or none at all. On 13 December 1946, the General Assembly approved the Trusteeship Agreement for New Guinea 'exactly as submitted', as the Australian delegation reported approvingly.395 A similar process characterised subsequent discussions in the Trusteeship Council over the mandated territory of Nauru.396

The same approach was conspicuous–and more forcefully articulated–in December 1947, when Australia informed the council of its plans to form an administrative union between the trust territory of New Guinea and the colony of Papua. The reason for union was straightforward: it would increase economy and efficiency, and at any rate, according to Forsyth, it 'was already in existence as a provisional and temporary measure'. The Chinese delegation, however, feared that such a move might make it difficult for the separate territories to develop and maintain distinctive identities of their own. The US representative expressed similar concerns and suggested that the Australian government seek the Trusteeship Council's advice prior to any implementation of the scheme. Forsyth, in a statement that would become the constant refrain for Australian delegates at the United Nations in subsequent years, responded by pointing out that the establishment of such a union was entirely within the power of the administering authority. The Trusteeship Council, by contrast:

should be regarded as a body supervising the exercise of a trust, and its action should be confined to supervision and review of action taken by the administering authority, and it should not be in a position to dictate the policy of that authority in advance … The administration is entrusted to the administering authority and not to the Trusteeship Council.397

Forsyth maintained this position into 1948, telling DEA Secretary Dr John Burton in April that the principle at stake was one of 'very high importance since it goes to the root of the whole problem of [the] government of dependent peoples under the trusteeship system i.e., the question of responsibility'. While conceding that it would 'not be tactful' to push too hard on the issue, Forsyth nevertheless felt that Australia must hold fast or there would be continuing confusion 'as to where the responsibilities of the Trusteeship Council and the administering authority begin and end'.398 The Australian government, for its part, decided to proceed with an administrative union regardless of opinion in the United Nations. The most it was willing to concede, when the relevant legislation passed through parliament in July 1949, was a non-committal assurance that 'the identity and status of the Territory of Papua as a Possession of the Crown and the identity and status of the Territory of New Guinea as a Trust Territory shall continue to be maintained'.399

Holding the line: The 1950s

This legalistic approach to trusteeship questions in the United Nations set the tone for the next decade. The reflex invocation of the letter of the Charter–especially in terms of the sanctity of domestic jurisdiction and the professed non-competence of the United Nations to dictate terms to the administering powers–became the bedrock of Australian policy and was pursued with even more vigour after Chifley's Labor government was replaced by the Liberal–Country Party coalition of Robert Menzies in December 1949. The new prime minister 'lacked enthusiasm' for the United Nations, as KCO (Mick) Shann, acting Australian Minister to the United Nations in 1950 to 1951, recalled–'and that is putting it mildly'. On one occasion, Shann remembered, he led a discussion in Menzies' presence on the changing composition of the United Nations, advising that the emergence of new–largely Asian and African–states in the world body should not provide the occasion for Australia to 'take our bat [and go] home', but that 'we should co-operate with all the new members and watch them'. 'Young man,' the prime minister reportedly replied:

I admire your conclusions but I despise your analysis. If it were constitutionally possible for me to have an Assistant Minister for UN affairs I would do so. It would not be in order to co-operate with the UN, but to protect Australia from it. I will not have the citizens of Australia dictated to by the burghers of the Chad and the Upper Volta.400

While this position contrasted strongly with Evatt's hopes and expectations for the United Nations, nevertheless, there was a continuity of policy and practice between the two governments in terms of Australia's trusteeship responsibilities. The most obvious evidence of this was the continuing axiomatic belief in the strategic importance of Papua and New Guinea and the new government's determination to maintain absolute control over the territory. In March 1950, Percy Spender, in his first major speech as Minister for External Affairs, devoted considerable attention to Australian security in the context of recent profound changes in its region–especially the success of the communists in China in December 1949 and the strategic implications of this event for the countries of the Asia–Pacific region. 'No nation can escape its geography,' Spender counselled, and, he added, the coming of the Cold War to Asia had helped to 'shift the centre of gravity of world affairs more and more to this area'. Protecting itself against this threat of communist aggression would become the cornerstone of Australia's foreign policy program under the Menzies government. This required, first and foremost, consolidating Australia's ties with its great-power protectors, culminating in the signing of the ANZUS Treaty in September 1951, but also the promotion of regional pacts and adherence to a 'fortress Australia' mentality in which Papua and New Guinea–'an absolutely essential link in the chain of Australian defence'–occupied a central place.401 Making the same point in 1957, Spender, by then Ambassador to the United States, told the General Assembly that the whole of New Guinea 'represented the very key to Australia's defence'.402

During the early 1950s, the new government maintained the approach that, with respect to anti-colonial initiatives, the United Nations had neither the competence nor the authority to intervene in what were fundamentally 'internal' matters. When, in an effort to circumvent the rigid legalism of the administering powers, the so-called Arab–Asian bloc shifted tactics and referred a series of cases on the French North African territories to the General Assembly on the pretext that events in these places posed 'a threat to peace'–thus making UN intervention obligatory–Australia maintained its established position. Beginning in 1951, a number of Arab and Asian countries employed this tactic to promote discussion in the General Assembly of the question of independence for Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria. Australia consistently voted with France against intervention, arguing that such action was prohibited under Article 2(7) of the Charter. Even after the French themselves agreed to hold talks with Morocco and Tunisia to discuss independence, in 1954, Australia, unwilling to countenance UN involvement, abstained on resolutions that did no more than postpone consideration of these items by the United Nations. The following year, Australia again abstained on a resolution which merely welcomed a French–Moroccan statement announcing that talks had been arranged to negotiate full independence for Morocco. Spender 'applauded the motives of the sponsor', but nevertheless withheld his country's support because, he said, 'the General Assembly was not competent to deal with the matter'.403 Likewise, when in 1956 France grudgingly accepted the UN's competence to discuss Algeria, forcing Australia to adopt a similar line in the United Nations, DEA Secretary Arthur Tange censured the French for modifying their voting practices–that is, for taking a less strident position on their territories than Australia. 'In our view,' Tange told the French Ambassador the following year, 'states should not abrogate their responsibilities for maintaining respect for Article 2(7) of the Charter.' And, he added, perhaps casting his mind towards Australia's own Pacific territories, 'once the barrier of domestic jurisdiction was partly lowered … there would be no end to the questions referred to the UN for consideration'.404

Australia's position was the more extraordinary because few of the major anti-colonial attacks in the United Nations–which were focused almost exclusively on northern Africa–impinged in any direct sense upon Australia's control or administration of its own trust territories. As one British official observed in September 1952, 'Australia and her policies are, if the truth must be stated, of no great interest to the anti-colonials'.405 Certainly, there was occasional criticism for the slowness of political and economic progress in Papua and New Guinea and Nauru, but on balance the Trusteeship Council commented favourably on Australian policies and practices in the territories for which it was responsible. UN visiting missions to the Pacific territories in 1950, 1953 and 1956 noted a less-than-satisfactory level of development in areas such as road-building, the stimulation of private enterprise, educational advancement (1950), the creation and consolidation of indigenous courts, public health, the elimination of pidgin English (1953) and the extension of village councils (1956). And yet, all three missions basically sympathised with Australian objectives and efforts.406 The 1950 mission, for example, claimed to be 'deeply impressed by the devotion to duty displayed by the Administration officers it met during its visit in New Guinea, their understanding of the population and its needs, and their knowledge of local conditions'.407

The overwhelmingly positive tone of UN mission reports, far from declining over the course of the next decade, became even stronger. In July 1956, the DEA's Dependent Territories Section informed Minister for External Affairs Richard Casey that the most recent mission report on New Guinea was 'extremely fair throughout' and 'quite sympathetic to the efforts of the Administration'. The report on Nauru was likewise 'reasonable and constructively critical'.408 The mission leader, John Macpherson, a former colonial administrator in Nigeria, went so far as to write to Casey personally and congratulate him for 'the fine work your people are doing in New Guinea (and also in Nauru)'.409

So unaccustomed were Australians to the kind of severe criticism usually reserved for the European imperial powers that they were somewhat taken aback when, in June 1954, the Indian delegation to the United Nations, led by Krishna Menon, criticised Australia for its record as an administering power. In a first shot, on 23 June, Menon urged the Australians to rehabilitate Nauru's depleted agricultural resources by shipping large quantities of soil and manure to the island to grow 'sugar cane and bananas'–a 'fatuous' proposal which represented 'the finest excursion into Cloud Cuckoo Land' since the formation of the United Nations, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.410 A week later, while the Trusteeship Council was examining Australia's annual report on New Guinea, Menon was more strident in his criticism. Comparing a 1929 report on education with a similar recent document by the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, he claimed that 'there was no room for congratulations' on Australia's part given the continuing high rates of illiteracy in the territory. Menon further reproved the Australian authorities for creating in Papua and New Guinea 'a bureaucracy where the Europeans held the responsible posts and the natives the lesser posts'.411

The Australians had already anticipated the possibility that India–which joined the Trusteeship Council as a non-administering power in late 1953–might become 'a thorn in our side', as Patrick Shaw, assistant secretary in the department's UN Division, explained to Casey in March 1954, especially given the likelihood of Menon leading the Indian delegation. Shaw, on the recommendation of the Australian High Commissioner in India, Walter Crocker, felt that Australia 'should take every possible step to induce the Indian representative to adopt as constructive and helpful an attitude as possible'. This tactic, which Casey approved, would involve Crocker sharing limited information on Australia's territories with the Indians prior to any discussion in the Trusteeship Council.412 Following Menon's outburst, however, there was a sense within the DEA that this approach had 'sadly misfired'. Crocker, a former chief of the Africa Section in the UN Secretariat, did not feel that Menon's statements, in the context of other anti-colonial attacks in the United Nations, were 'particularly shocking'; he thought the Australian government would do well to shed some of its 'undue touchiness'.413

Nevertheless, this incident and several subsequent criticisms by the Indians in the Trusteeship Council throughout 1954 and 1955 helped to convince Australia that the time was fast approaching when their own trust territories would receive a greater share of anti-colonial scrutiny and animosity. This prospect was reinforced by the ever-increasing number of mostly Asian and North African countries joining the United Nations–six in 1955 and seven in 1956 to 1958–and especially the efforts of the 'Afro-Asian bloc', as it was now calling itself, to coordinate and hasten the decolonisation process. In April 1955, at Bandung in Indonesia, twenty-nine African and Asian countries assembled to discuss various issues affecting newly emergent former colonies; they resolved, among other things, that 'colonialism in all its manifestations is evil' and that 'the subjection of peoples to alien subjugation … constitutes a denial of fundamental human rights'.414 Writing in 1957, the counsellor in the Australian mission to the United Nations, Kevin Kelly, predicted that Africa, for the foreseeable future at least, would remain 'the magnet attracting the attention of the Afro-Asians and the "anti-colonialists"'. But 'sooner or later', he said, as the anti-colonial bloc achieved its objectives in Africa, they would turn their attentions to the Pacific 'and in particular the Trust Territory of New Guinea'. There would be increasing demands for more rapid political development in the territory, according to Kelly, as the anti-colonial countries 'bend their energies at the earliest possible opportunity to ending European hegemony over indigenous peoples wherever they can'.415

And yet, as its attitude to the French North African territories demonstrated, Australia refused to change tactics during the second half of the 1950s. When, in 1956, Australia's great-power allies began to concede ground to the decade-long clamour from Afro-Asian countries for administering powers to fix target dates for the attainment of self-government in trust territories, the Australians were faced with either modifying their adherence to legalistic arguments or further isolating themselves from world opinion. The United States, motivated largely by the Cold War urge to win 'hearts and minds' in the emerging nations in the Middle East especially, but also Africa, agreed in 1956 to set short-term target dates for self-government. In doing so, it broke ranks with the other administering powers and unsettled Australia, which, as Ambassador to the United Nations Dr E Ronald Walker reported to Tange in October 1956, had hitherto 'opposed, root and branch and with more vigour than other Administering delegations, all resolutions embodying in any way the theory of time limits or target dates (final or intermediate)'.416 But when in 1957 the British and French yielded to US pressure and agreed to abstain from, rather than oppose 'attainment' resolutions, Australia's stand became more conspicuous. As Bruce Woodberry, acting head of the Dependent Territories Section of the DEA's UN Branch, noted in April 1958, the British and French policy reversal had, more than anything else, 'served to emphasise the isolation of Australia and Belgium as the two consistent opponents of the intermediate target date approach'. Walker himself favoured a more liberal approach, but Woodberry demurred on the grounds that any concession would 'compromise our stand on this issue as a matter of principle'.417

Accordingly, in June 1958, the DEA advised that it was still 'strongly opposed' to a change of policy and instructed the Australian delegation to hold the established line 'even when "attainment" resolutions are acceptable to or not opposed by the Administering powers concerned'. Significantly, the DEA, in arguing its case, reiterated the conventional wisdom that Australia must maintain continuing exclusive control over Papua and New Guinea. The position in the territory was 'very different from that in regard to [the] advanced territories approaching emergence from tutelage'. That stage, for Papua and New Guinea at least, 'is very far off'. Australia was not in a position to avail itself of the same 'easy exit' as its great-power friends whose territories were closer to achieving the status of self-government. Consequently, 'our positions and voting cannot be very flexible'.418

The continuity of Australia's policy, even as its great-power allies abandoned these increasingly tired legal positions, was manifested during the Dutch–Indonesian dispute over West New Guinea (also known as Netherlands New Guinea to the Dutch and West Irian to the Indonesians). The final territorial status of West New Guinea had remained undefined despite all other former Dutch territories of the Netherlands East Indies attaining independence as the Republic of Indonesia in 1949, with strong Australian encouragement. At that time the Netherlands had claimed to retain the right to 'long-term' administration over West New Guinea.419 The Dutch position was supported by Evatt and (particularly) Burton, mainly on security grounds, but also as a result of the influence of officials in the Pacific Division of the DEA, who acknowledged the territory's strategic importance but also argued that it was ethnically distinct and that a trusteeship arrangement would better protect the interests of its inhabitants.420 The Coalition government was equally hostile to the prospect of Indonesian control over West New Guinea and the matter went into 'cold storage'. In 1954, however, Indonesia's President Sukarno, emboldened by the increasing power of the Afro-Asian bloc and its in-principle support for an Indonesian takeover of West New Guinea, submitted a draft resolution to the United Nations claiming that the unresolved status of the territory posed a threat to peace and regional security. Minister for External Affairs Casey, not surprisingly, voted against the item's inclusion on the UN agenda on legal grounds, arguing that 'the question of Dutch New Guinea in no way falls within the effective jurisdiction of the United Nations'. Australia, he said, was 'emphatic' on this point and 'will fight it all along the line'.421

Following three further unsuccessful appeals to the United Nations, between 1955 and 1957, Sukarno began prosecuting his West New Guinea campaign with a mix of diplomacy and threats of military force, prompting a scramble for an internationally acceptable solution that, in the eyes of Australian officials at least, almost always neglected Australian regional security concerns.422 In Canberra, fears grew that Australia's great-power allies were prepared to sacrifice its vital interests in return for a speedy settlement to the dispute. The Americans, whose hostility towards Sukarno was somewhat mitigated during 1958 as the State Department finally accepted the view that it was preferable to work with his government than to allow Indonesia to fall into the communist camp, showed an ever-decreasing sympathy for the Australian position. As John Foster Dulles, US Secretary of State, explained to Casey in October 1958, 'the West had a big stake in Indonesia, and it would not be much help if we saved Dutch New Guinea while at the same time Indonesia itself went Communist'.423 Australia had no alternative but to take a restrained approach to the question of West New Guinea in public while privately, as Tange put it in January 1960, 'counting on the Dutch sweating it out and the Indonesians refraining from force'.424

But by 1961, even the Dutch seemed keen for a solution. In August that year, in an effort to overcome the deadlock, the Netherlands government secretly broached the idea of taking a proposal to the United Nations that envisaged Dutch withdrawal from West New Guinea and the creation of a 'member state study commission' under UN supervision–from which Indonesia would be explicitly excluded. Australia advised against such an initiative, believing it might result in 'restrictions on Dutch freedom of action' or the 'possibility of [the] Assembly calling for precipitate indepen[de]nce if not transfer to Indonesia'.425 In the event, the Dutch submitted the proposal to the United Nations in September 1961, but the 'Luns Plan'–as it became known–failed to receive the necessary support in the General Assembly. The United States, for its part, interpreted the Dutch move as an effort to extricate the Netherlands from the situation without undue loss of face.426 So in December 1961, when Sukarno called for the total mobilisation of the Indonesian people to 'liberate' West New Guinea, American officials abandoned their former strategy of bringing the Australians around gently and spoke quite plainly. On 19 December, Australian Ambassador to the United States, Sir Howard Beale, told Menzies of 'some very forthright and significant remarks' made to him by senior members of the US State Department. According to Beale, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs John Steeves, after reiterating the US government's 'deep commitment to Australia's security' and 'apologising for his frankness', nevertheless explained that the:

United States was convinced that by force or pressure Sukarno would get Netherlands New Guinea. Therefore, although [the] United States would not presume to tell Australia its own business, did not Australia feel that as Indonesia's closest neighbour it should re-assess its policy … by settling this 'relatively unimportant territorial question'?

Steeves then counselled that 'Australia might be well advised to consider its best interests and secure Indonesian gratitude rather than animosity by adopting a stand which would not obstruct this process'.427

Taking the hint, new Minister for External Affairs Sir Garfield Barwick advised Menzies in January 1962 that neither the United States nor the United Kingdom would intervene on behalf of the Dutch; Australia, therefore, would be wise to rethink its position. The prime minister and Cabinet reluctantly accepted these arguments and, on 15 January, Barwick explained to Beale that 'we have been obliged to conclude, from the past response of the United States and from our knowledge of the probability that the United States will not give military assistance to the Dutch under attack, that Dutch withdrawal largely on Indonesian terms is inevitable'.428

Following protracted and frequently tense negotiations, the Netherlands in August 1962 agreed to the immediate transfer of West New Guinea to the United Nations, which, in turn, would cede authority to Indonesia in May 1963 on the condition that a plebiscite be held in 1969 under UN auspices. The Australian government, having fought so hard to prevent an Indonesian takeover of West New Guinea, now accepted the realities of hard-headed politics. In response to criticism from members of the Labor opposition that the agreement had only been reached through 'power blocs and log-rolling campaigns by interested parties', Prime Minister Menzies bluntly and unapologetically conceded the point. Clearly frustrated with the United Nations, whose refusal to pay little more than lip service to the principle of self-determination for the West Papuans had resulted in Sukarno's success, Menzies reiterated that:

we desire a peaceful settlement, that Australia is not a party principal and that we will respect an agreement made freely and not under threat of war. But above all things, we stand for the principle of self-determination for the future of the Papuan people …

These views, he added, 'have been stated by us here, in the press and in the United Nations. They have been debated around the world.' If in the event, he seemed to be asking, these efforts produced a less-than-perfect result, what were the alternatives? 'This idea of transferring your burden to the United Nations', he said, 'is no policy at all'; when it came down to it, when Australia's self-interest required hard decisions, when, indeed, the matter was one of 'peace or war in this part of the world', Menzies reasoned, 'where Great Britain and the United States stand is of vital moment to this country'.429

Decade of change: The 1960s

The rise of anti-colonialism in the United Nations during the 1950s and 1960s made it increasingly difficult for Australia to sustain the belief that it could administer its territories according to its own pace and expectations. In 1960, sixteen African nations gained independence from colonial rule and took their place in the United Nations. They brought with them the same strong antagonism to colonialism harboured by other former dependencies.430

Kelly's earlier fears that decolonisation in Africa would focus attention on Australia's trust territories–especially Papua and New Guinea–now became a foregone conclusion for many senior policymakers. In June 1960, Minister for External Territories Paul Hasluck warned Prime Minister Menzies that the ever-increasing number of anti-colonial powers in the United Nations would be seeking 'new necks for the chopping block'. Under these circumstances, he said, 'the focus of interest in the Trusteeship Council and the Fourth Committee of the General Assembly of the United Nations will shift to the Pacific and the Trust Territory of New Guinea' and to 'those non-self-governing territories, such as Papua, on which the administering powers have accepted an obligation to report annually'.431 Tange agreed, stipulating that Australia's primary task was to maintain its interests in Papua and New Guinea and Nauru while promoting in the United Nations 'a more objective attitude towards Australian policies in our territories'. Denying the existence of Australian colonialism, he wrote, was no answer:

Indeed, we are a colonial power. The task of the coming years will be to convince the world that we have not assumed the attitudes, nor allowed ourselves to be moved by the motives, which many countries attribute to the traditional European colonial powers. We begin in the fortunate situation that many countries do regard us in a light different from that in which they have seen France, Great Britain and Holland. But henceforth our task will be to prove that we do not have 'colonial attitudes'.432

The urgency of this already difficult task was accentuated in December 1960, when, on a Soviet initiative, the General Assembly passed the 'Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples'. In calling for 'a speedy and unconditional end' to colonialism in all its forms, the resolution, which received overwhelming support, directed that 'immediate steps … be taken, in Trust and Non-Self-Governing territories which have not yet attained independence, to transfer all powers to the peoples of these territories, without any conditions or reservations'.433

The likelihood of increased scrutiny by the Afro-Asian bloc was only one of a number of factors shaping Australia's thinking on colonial policies at this time. A more pertinent concern for Australia was the ever-diminishing number of fellow administering countries–especially its Western friends and allies–willing to resist the 'wind of change', the phrase British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan used to refer to the irrepressible nature of the decolonisation process. In March 1959, following the DEA's refusal a year earlier to concede on the question of targets, Kelly wrote to the department warning that Belgium was now showing signs of weakening with respect to its central African colonies and that Australia's failure to set a target for Papua and New Guinea could bring it 'under fairly heavy fire' in the United Nations. Forsyth, in reiterating Kelly's concerns, advised Casey that the other administering powers had experienced 'quite a substantial change of attitude' and that Australia, by refusing to set intermediate target dates despite the adoption of these benchmarks by its Western allies–including the United States–'may well find herself in a position of rather embarrassing isolation'. He quietly suggested 'a possible reappraisal or reformulation of our own policy on the subject'.434 Two weeks later, Tange accepted this advice. The Australian mission in New York was accordingly instructed to abstain on, rather than oppose, a resolution on target dates for the British territory of Tanganyika (later subsumed into the United Republic of Tanzania). Australia's decision to abstain on the resolution rather than support it, he added, might be explained 'as deriving from doubt as to the–wisdom? propriety? efficacy?–of T[rusteeship] C[ouncil] recommendations to Admin[istrative] Powers to lay down targets–even tentative and conditional'.435

Despite Tange's ostensible reversion to the earlier Australian position, the DEA was increasingly convinced that the growing pressure from both non-administering and administering powers required a serious re-examination of Australian policy. In February 1960, the department welcomed a visit from the British representative on the Trusteeship Council, Sir Andrew Cohen, to discuss tactics in the context of the UN's increasingly hostile climate. As historian David Goldsworthy has convincingly shown, the talks between Cohen and External Affairs and Territories officials were a considerable success: '[K]ey officials in Canberra were in a mood to make changes, and the talks with Cohen probably helped this process along.'436 Over the course of three days, Cohen pressed upon the Australians the wisdom of making 'constructive speeches' in the Trusteeship Council and taking a 'positive approach' to its work. Tange generally accepted the spirit of Cohen's suggestions, acknowledging that, 'at the official level, there appeared to be a good case for the Australian position to be relaxed somewhat, with the exception of several common "sticking points" '. Included in the latter category was the issue of reporting on political targets in dependent territories, a requirement to which Australia remained categorically opposed. Cohen, in reply, was at pains to emphasise that 'it was a question of tactics'–he understood 'the inexorable facts of the situation in New Guinea; but he suggested that a change in method of presentation even without a change in position might be useful'.437

In accordance with this suggested approach, which in April 1960 was approved by Barwick, then acting Minister for External Affairs, the department drafted a comprehensive guidance telegram for overseas posts explaining the 'New Look' policy. As the United Nations increasingly focused its attention on the territories of Papua and New Guinea and Nauru, it was averred, the Australian government would need to deflect potential criticism by adopting 'a more "relaxed" and "cooperative" approach on less vital points'. These 'new experimental tactics' would, it was hoped, avoid 'stiff "legalistic" positions' and demonstrate due 'deference' to the Trusteeship Council. Nevertheless, the department made it clear that these were modifications of 'emphasis in presentation' and would 'NOT … involve significant changes in Australian policies which are being developed on established lines'.438 This shift, which was also helped by the appointment of James Plimsoll as Ambassador to the United Nations the previous year, was noted by contemporary observers. According to political scientist Brian Beddie, there was from this time 'a finesse and moderation not evident in the 1950s'.439

In terms of voting patterns, the shift was reflected in Australia's attitude to two highly contentious issues: South Africa's continuing unilateral administration of South West Africa and Portugal's refusal to submit its non-self-governing territories to the trusteeship system. Australia had previously defended both countries on conventional legal grounds, but in 1960, in accordance with its deliberate efforts to take a more 'relaxed' and less 'legalistic' approach to colonial questions, the Australian delegation merely abstained on a resolution urging Portugal to report on its non-self-governing territories. Likewise, during General Assembly discussions of South Africa's policies in South West Africa, Australia, in contrast to its earlier support for its sister dominion, again abstained on a resolution that criticised South Africa for its application of apartheid in the territory and its 'terrorisation' of the indigenous people.440

These changes, as the DEA was at pains to convey to posts, were largely tactical and experimental. Their primary purpose, as Tange explained to Menzies in April 1960, was 'no more than a dressing up of information of the type already given by Australia' to the United Nations.441 However, in the context of Australia's previous position, they represented an important break with the old assumptions about legal propriety. They also spurred on more ambitious policymakers who regarded these 'dressing up' tactics as inadequate for the purposes at hand. The growing currency of this more constructive view was reflected in its increasing acceptance by senior officials and policymakers. In June 1960, Menzies, in a statement which was remarkable not only for its substance but also because the sentiments he expressed seemed out of step with his well-known and longstanding imperial sympathies, told a Sydney press conference that:

whereas at one time many of us might have thought that it was better to go slowly in granting independence so that all the conditions existed for a wise exercise of self-government, I think the prevailing school of thought today is that if in doubt you should go sooner rather than later. I belong to that school of thought myself now, though I didn't once …442

Menzies, who was also Minister for External Affairs at the time, was almost certainly influenced by the fertile climate in which opinion and policy were being formulated and reconfigured in the DEA. As was so frequently the case, however, a more pertinent influence on Menzies was the changing attitudes and policies of Australia's great-power allies. Indeed, the 'sooner rather than later' statement was delivered at Sydney Airport shortly after Menzies returned to Australia from London, where he had attended a Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference. As Goldsworthy has shown, Menzies was involved in numerous discussions with British officials about decolonisation while he was there. In a meeting attended by three other Commonwealth prime ministers, Menzies reportedly accepted that 'political independence is arriving or about to arrive in many States. It is a fact of life that they must be given their independence.'443

Another influence on Menzies was undoubtedly his Territories minister, who accompanied him on his trip to London and who must have enjoyed having the prime minister's ear for more than three weeks. Since taking up the Territories portfolio in 1951, Hasluck had worked hard to instil a greater sense of urgency and direction in the government's administration of Papua and New Guinea. Australia's 'overriding purpose', he said in 1958, was 'the advancement of the natives', and this would be 'the measuring stick which we must apply to all our major problems' in the territory.444 With this objective in mind, Hasluck initiated a program of unprecedented growth in Papua and New Guinea and succeeded in having the Commonwealth grant increased from A£5.5 million to A£25.3 million during his tenure. By his own account, Hasluck had been pressing the prime minister on the issue of initiating a policy of more rapid development in Papua and New Guinea since at least 1959; he found that Menzies, from that time, 'began to respect more than he had done originally … and to appreciate more fully both the intricacies and the value of doing the right thing in Papua and New Guinea'.445 Menzies's landmark June 1960 statement provided the minister with a further opportunity. Less than a week after the prime minister's statement, Hasluck, himself increasingly concerned about the international implications of Australia's colonial policies, issued a press release in which he pledged to 'give immediate and realistic target dates for various stages in educational, social and economic advancement'. He still refused to set political targets, though a considerable amount of space–about three-quarters of the statement–was devoted to constitutional developments in the territory.446

In May 1961, in a comprehensive and forthright paper, Hasluck reiterated Australia's traditional line that 'social and economic advancement is the only sound foundation for political advancement'. However, world opinion was rendering a gradual approach impossible, and although he still felt that self-government in Papua and New Guinea was at least thirty years away, Hasluck predicted that from now on Australia would 'be perpetually fighting for time and perpetually being called on to justify our actions'.447 The increasing urgency of 'doing the right thing' in Papua and New Guinea fell on deaf ears in Treasury. When, in October 1961, Hasluck's calls for a larger grant were rejected, he therefore wrote to Menzies directly and complained that the amount allocated was 'pitiably inadequate' given the magnitude of the task. Furthermore, 'the pressure for the announcement of target dates is bound to increase and I feel it my duty to let you know, as Prime Minister and Minister for External Affairs, that the statement prepared by my department shows targets so low that the announcement of them will be an occasion of renewed criticism of Australia'.448

Hasluck's concerns were shared by senior British colonial officials. In March 1962, Sir Hugh Foot, a former British colonial governor of Nigeria, Jamaica and (most recently) Cyprus who was also a passionate advocate for decolonisation, visited Australia prior to leading the UN visiting mission to Papua and New Guinea and Nauru. Tange, reporting the substance of preliminary discussions with the mission leader in Canberra, said that in Foot's opinion, Australia was:

heading for a serious crisis in the United Nations over … our position (unlike that of any other administering power anywhere in the world) that we have a great deal of time during which to prepare the Papuans for self-government and before we give them independence.

There were, Foot felt, 'plenty of pegs' on which to hang an attack on Australia in the United Nations and he urged that the government 'initiate small concessions–not waiting to have larger ones imposed upon the administering power'.449 Ironically, of course, senior policymakers in Canberra–most notably Hasluck–were already convinced on these points. Indeed, when the UN mission's report was published several months later, two of its three key proposals–the extension of an invitation to the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development to conduct a detailed economic survey of Papua and New Guinea, and the provision of university-level courses for the increasing number of indigenous secondary students–had been anticipated by Hasluck and already acted upon. Consideration of the third and most significant proposal–the creation of 'a truly representative parliament' of one hundred members–was postponed pending a Select Committee report on constitutional development in the territory.450

Ultimately, Foot's report and recommendations, while not directly responsible for Australia's growing acceptance of the need for an accelerated rate of change in Papua and New Guinea in particular, further convinced the government that maintaining the established policy would only invite criticism in the United Nations and, more importantly, alienate Australia from its great-power allies. This sense of isolation was most painfully felt during the West New Guinea dispute, as the Western bloc in the United Nations, increasingly fearful that Indonesia would be lost to communism, accepted Sukarno's claims to the territory. It mattered not that the Indonesian president's demands contained heavy suggestions of the same 'neo-colonialism' he himself so vehemently derided on the international stage, nor that the Dutch by the late 1950s were making strenuous efforts to prepare the West Papuans for independence. Indeed, even this more benign, if not positive, aspect of the West New Guinea dispute caused Australia a degree of consternation. Forsyth, now in charge of the DEA's UN Section, commented that Dutch success in West New Guinea would only serve to 'call international attention to the situation in Australian New Guinea–to our embarrassment if we do not have something comparable'.451 This in itself was cause for Australia to re-examine aspects of its policy in Papua and New Guinea. But when its chief allies–and especially the United States–abandoned the Dutch 'imperialists' in support of the 'anti-colonial' Indonesians, the message was clear: Australia could not automatically assume their support on colonial matters, including its administration of Papua and New Guinea. The Australian government did not want a 'solution' for Papua and New Guinea forced upon it by the great powers, following the West New Guinea precedent. There would have to be change–and rapid change–in its own territories to avoid such an unthinkable scenario. Labor stalwart Kim E Beazley referred explicitly to the West New Guinea situation when telling the House of Representatives in 1963 that Australia's policies in Papua and New Guinea must 'be completely defensible internationally'. Late in time, he said, 'the Dutch set up an excellent governmental system … but … it came so late that the settled prejudice of the General Assembly was against the Dutch for providing no means of self-rule'.452

The result of these developments was a fundamental shift in the way the Australian government understood its role, purpose and, most importantly, the limits of its welcome in Papua and New Guinea. By the early 1960s there was an acceptance that Australia's departure from the territory was not only inevitable but also imminent. This shift of the collective mindset was reflected most profoundly in the Australian media's response to Foot's recommendations and the subsequent discussion of his report in the Trusteeship Council. The proposals pertaining to political development in Papua and New Guinea were, according to most commentators, 'wildly unrealistic', 'sheer nonsense' and, as the Adelaide Advertiser put it, 'staggering. There is no other word for it.'453 And yet almost all agreed that Australia must pay heed to international opinion and–despite the presumed rightness of its approach and intentions–resign itself to an early exit from the territory. The Melbourne Age, while emphasising Australia's duty to 'protect the Papuans from the heady demands of some of their self-appointed champions', exhorted the government to do more: 'Much as we have hastened our work in New Guinea we shall inevitably be forced to hasten it still further …'454 Australia's race against time in Papua and New Guinea, the Hobart Mercury reported on 2 July 1962, might turn into a 'stampede'. With events outpacing Australia's efforts in Papua and New Guinea, 'the date for New Guinea's independence will rest finally with the United Nations'.455

Having thus accepted that its tenure in Papua and New Guinea would end sooner than originally expected, Australia now showed a conspicuously more relaxed approach to decolonisation issues in the United Nations. Although abstaining on the Declaration on Colonialism in 1960, Australia in the following session, after years of denying that the Information Committee should be granted anything more than a merely temporary status, voted in favour of establishing a special committee of seventeen members to 'make suggestions and recommendations on the progress and extent of the implementation of the Declaration' with regard to non-self-governing territories in particular. Australia was a founding member of the Committee of Seventeen. Significantly, in 1962, when the committee visited Africa, Australia was the only Western member to send its permanent representative. The same year, after the Afro-Asian countries lobbied for an increase in the size of the committee so that it would more fully represent their interests, Australia voted in favour of a resolution expanding its membership to twenty-four and enlarging its mandate (the committee was from that time commonly known as the Committee of Twenty-Four).456 This change in Australia's attitude was noted not only by Afro-Asian nations but also by those very countries–especially the United Kingdom–that had urged Australia to adopt a more 'relaxed' and less 'legalistic' policy in the late 1950s.457

The same shift in attitude occurred in Australia's approach to colonial problems in southern Africa. From the early 1960s, Australia was not content to merely abstain on resolutions criticising South Africa for its administration of South West Africa. Indeed, the Australian delegation in 1961 completely abandoned its previous unmitigated support of South Africa by voting, in the Fourth Committee, for a draft resolution which condemned Pretoria's 'ruthless intensification' of apartheid in South West Africa and accepted the long-term goal of independence for the territory. The following year, the Australian delegate, Laurence McIntyre, in contrast to Australia's earlier position, told the Fourth Committee that 'South Africa should have … placed South West Africa under the Trusteeship System'; he also noted South Africa's 'moral obligation' to end racially discriminatory policies in the territory and to promote its eventual self-determination.458

The Australian government, increasingly disenchanted with Pretoria's refusal to accommodate anti-colonial sentiment, approached South Africa directly in 1963 and 'put [it] on notice that if they persist in their disregard of United Nations and international opinion we would feel obliged to speak out more strongly in international and public fora'.459 In 1966, therefore, when the International Court of Justice–on Spender's casting vote–denied the UN's competence to address the issue, Hasluck, now Minister for External Affairs, said that 'it is most regrettable that the Court … did not find itself able to go beyond a judgment on a standing of the parties … and to give a judgment on … central issues'. He dismissed South Africa's claim that the original mandate had lapsed when the League of Nations was dissolved and called for 'the pursuit of justice by all lawful means':

We do not think that South Africa can escape its obligations towards the inhabitants of South West Africa by saying in effect that the territory those inhabitants occupy has been annexed … [T]he fact that South Africa has in effect disavowed all international obligations [in South West Africa] provides justification for action by the United Nations … I add that passing resolutions is not enough. Everything possible should be done to secure the consent and cooperation of all concerned in processes that will make the achievement of our objectives possible …460

While Australia stopped short of supporting an Afro-Asian proposal for the United Nations to immediately terminate South Africa's mandate and resume direct control of the territory, it voted for a resolution endorsing the proposal's 'general objectives'.461

Likewise, Australia in the early 1960s demonstrated a significant change of attitude towards Portugal's administration of its African territories, especially Angola and Mozambique. The status of these territories remained one of Tange's so-called 'sticking points', so the most the Australian government was prepared to do at this point was abstain on a resolution recommending the creation of a committee of inquiry into the political situation in Angola. As Ralph Harry, First Assistant Secretary in the DEA's Geographic Regions Section, explained to acting Minister Barwick in March 1961, 'we have already taken the view that, legally, the General Assembly is not competent to treat Angola as a non-self-governing territory under Article 73 of the Charter'.462 The abstention itself was significant and demonstrated a shift in attitude; but in October 1961, in contrast to Australia's former defence of the principle of domestic jurisdiction, Menzies went further and wrote directly to the Portuguese Prime Minister, Dr António Salazar, recommending the adoption of a more cooperative attitude in the United Nations. Not surprisingly, therefore, in November 1961, the Australian delegation voted for a resolution condemning Portugal for refusing to submit information on its overseas territories.463 The following year, Australia was even more forthright in its criticism. Ambassador Plimsoll voted in the General Assembly for a draft resolution calling on Portugal to cease repression in Angola and to prepare the indigenous people for self-government 'irrespective of any legal or constitutional principles which it regards as applying in this situation'. The people of Angola, he added with unprecedented candour, 'are entitled, at the proper time, to a genuine exercise of the right of self-determination'.464 Again, in 1963, Australia supported a resolution in which the Assembly called for immediate independence for all Portuguese territories, even though the United Kingdom, the United States and Canada abstained.465 There were, however, limits to Australia's new-found activism. Increasing demands in the Committee of Twenty-Four for more extreme measures against Portugal, including economic sanctions, an arms embargo and the cessation of diplomatic relations, were repeatedly rejected by the Australians as counterproductive to a solution.466

The situation in Southern Rhodesia, whose revised constitution of 1961 effectively entrenched the political supremacy of its small European minority, was a more difficult proposition for Australia. This was not because Australia sympathised with the racial policies of the white minority regime. As Plimsoll told Tange in April 1962, the only real solution to the emerging crisis in Rhodesia 'lies in recognising as an objective equal opportunity being accorded [to] everyone regardless of race'. This would require 'the active and rapid preparation of the Africans for the effective and responsible exercise of political rights', an objective that 'should not be dependent on the consent of the European minority'. It seemed inevitable, he thus concluded, 'that sooner or later an African majority must control Southern Rhodesia'. The problem, as Plimsoll saw it, was Southern Rhodesia's constitutional status: neither fully independent nor subordinate to London, the regime was not 'really under the control of the United Kingdom Government'.467 As such, Britain's unwillingness or inability to intervene directly in the affairs of the territory, especially after the Southern Rhodesian government imposed highly repressive measures against the major African political party, became the natural focus of many resolutions in the United Nations. In October 1962, when the General Assembly passed a resolution calling on the British government to take the necessary steps to secure 'the immediate extension to the whole population of the right to vote' and 'the immediate convening of a constitutional conference to formulate a new constitution for Southern Rhodesia', Australia abstained on legal grounds.468

As the situation deteriorated, however, Australia, while still sympathising with the British position, realised that continued support for this stance would only strengthen the more stridently anti-colonial nations and produce extremist resolutions in the United Nations. In April 1963, therefore, the DEA told Barwick plainly that Britain's position was untenable. While appreciating the constitutional and practical difficulties of direct intervention by the United Kingdom, it was felt that some concessions should be made to 'African feeling on Southern Rhodesia', and that:

the trend of events in that country towards a restriction of African political rights cannot be ignored. Neither the African nationalist groups in Southern Rhodesia nor the independent states which support their claims for racial equality will permit the situation to go unchallenged.

For all these reasons, 'and because we have our own international position to consider', the DEA advised that '[Australia] should not be disposed to adopting any conspicuous public role' in the matter.469 This recommendation proved impossible to implement. During a Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference in July 1964, a number of African leaders succeeded in having the situation in Rhodesia added to the agenda. Thus confronted, Menzies, while expressing the conviction that 'there must be an accommodation, and … in due course–and not too long a course–an accelerated movement towards adult suffrage', nevertheless rejected the conference's right to interfere in the affairs of the United Kingdom. For him, 'it would be a dangerous precedent, and an invasion of domestic jurisdiction'.470

Far from submitting to 'African feeling', Menzies, employing the old legalisms, emphasised the sanctity of British authority and the lack of competence of international organs such as the United Nations and even the Commonwealth to intervene in Southern Rhodesia. This position was clearly unsustainable, especially after Ian Smith's Southern Rhodesian government responded to British urgings for a more democratic system by threatening unilateral independence. In 1965, therefore, in accordance with its new and more flexible policy, Australia voted in favour of a resolution calling on Britain to discourage such a declaration and to put down any subsequent rebellion. Later still, after Southern Rhodesia defied the United Kingdom and actually declared its independence, Australia again voted in favour of a resolution which condemned Smith's action and referred the matter to the Security Council.471 In May 1968, after the Security Council had agreed to impose mandatory economic sanctions on the rebel Smith regime, Australia (somewhat reluctantly) complied. During September and October 1968, Hasluck faced a barrage of criticism in parliament, most of it from members of his own government who deplored the perceived injustice of punishing Rhodesia when the United Nations had shown itself to be utterly incapable of preventing the Soviet Union's invasion of Czechoslovakia in the same year. While conceding that it was probably unfair that Southern Rhodesia should be treated so harshly when other equally unpleasant regimes escaped censure, Hasluck dismissed the alternative of Australia alienating itself from world opinion. In the end, he reasoned:

one … must recognise that the Security Council was competent to make its decision … the question for Australia really was: Do we obey or do we disobey a call made by the competent authority that we have committed ourselves to obey?472

Southern Africa, not surprisingly, dominated the work of the newly established Committee of Twenty-Four during the early to mid-1960s. This had the happy effect, from Canberra's point of view, of deferring the committee's examination of Australia's territories, the more important of which remained the primary responsibility of the Trusteeship Council. While frequently declaring its willingness to cooperate with the Committee of Twenty-Four, Australia naturally favoured a continuation of the status quo, partly because the functions and responsibilities of the Trusteeship Council (as opposed to the Committee of Twenty-Four) were endowed with greater legitimacy by virtue of being written into the Charter, but more especially because the council was composed equally of administering and non-administering powers; by contrast, the Committee of Twenty-Four was heavily weighted in favour of non-administering powers. As Patrick Shaw, First Assistant Secretary in the DEA's Geographical Division, noted, this meant that the committee had 'the power, and the numbers, to press severe and often unhelpful resolutions expressed in immoderate terms'.473 Consequently, Australia, like the United Kingdom and the United States, consistently refused to legitimise the new body by either accepting visiting missions organised and administered by the committee or agreeing to discuss their respective territories in the committee prior to treatment of those territories in the Trusteeship Council. As far as the DEA was concerned, the Australian delegation was always to be guided by 'the principle that the Trusteeship Council is the primary UN authority to whom the administering powers are responsible on trust territories'.474

Certainly, Australia realised that nothing would be gained by ignoring or hampering the work of the Committee of Twenty-Four. It was, as one Territories official put it in February 1964, 'a fact, born of the will of the majority in the Assembly, and as a member of the United Nations and a metropolitan power responsible for territories, Australia will have to live with it'.475 This recognition, combined with Australia's efforts to demonstrate its commitment to the principle of decolonisation by adopting a more liberal position on the southern African territories, had, according to Shaw, produced 'a reasonable working relationship' between Australia and the committee; but Australia's willingness to accept the committee's legitimacy became a more difficult proposition when its own territories were under scrutiny. When, therefore, the committee, in a deliberate effort to extricate itself from its all-consuming preoccupation with southern Africa, proposed the creation of subcommittees to report on territories in other parts of the world–including the Pacific–the Australian delegation's 'initial feeling' was that the idea should be resisted. When this proved impracticable, its tactic was to stall, even suggesting in April 1964 that Australia could 'buy time' by nominating the territories of New Zealand, the United States and the United Kingdom ahead of its own.476

As it turned out, the reports of the Sub-Committee on Pacific Territories (also known as Sub-Committee II), though frequently dismissed by the Australians as 'unrealistic' and 'doctrinaire', were less extreme than expected. This was due in part to the division of the Committee of Twenty-Four's work into subcommittees, which in effect reduced the Soviet bloc's ability to sway the more moderate Afro-Asian nations.477 Dudley McCarthy, a senior official with the Australian mission in New York, reported in November 1964 that most members of Sub-Committee II were 'disposed to be friendly to Australia and Australia's efforts' in its territories. Poland, as the Soviet representative on the committee, worked 'unremittingly'–and with some success–to have the report on Australia's territories 'stiffened at many points'. Without the 'physical presence' of the Soviet Union itself, however, Poland was increasingly alienated, and according to McCarthy, its representative quickly:

exhausted his credit with the Committee … [B]oth that morning and the previous night we were privately approached by a large number of delegates who made no secret of their strongly adverse reaction to the Soviet tactics and remarks.478

More importantly, however, Australia was successful in dispelling hostility to its colonial policies in the United Nations because of the progress made in Papua and New Guinea during these years. As noted above, following the Foot Report in 1962, Australia officially invited the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development to visit the territory. For the first time, an independent authority not only emphasised the underdeveloped nature of the Papuan economy but also insisted on the importance of a continuing–if less controlling–role for Australia in the territory's growth. The University of Papua New Guinea, near Port Moresby, and the Institute of Technology, in Lae, were established during 1966 to 1967. In the political sphere–and this was where it mattered most to the United Nations–a partially elected House of Assembly was created in 1962; after the elections of 1968, the indigenous proportion of total membership in the House stood at two-thirds compared with just over half in the first House.479 The Australian government was sufficiently aware of the goodwill generated by these efforts to make Papua and New Guinea the focus of its publicity campaign in the United Nations. When, therefore, the Committee of Twenty-Four began discussing the Australian territories for the first time in 1964, the delegation was under strict instructions to meet any Soviet criticism of Australia's colonial record by talking up the government's achievements in Papua and New Guinea. While the DEA was especially fearful that Australia's slowness in granting independence to Nauru would become the subject of embarrassing questions in the United Nations, it need not have been overly worried. According to McCarthy, the Soviets privately admitted that they 'had only one interest really in the Pacific–New Guinea. This was the key to the Pacific.'480

This is not to suggest that Australia escaped the Committee of Twenty-Four's censure entirely during the 1960s. While the UN's interest in the situation in Nauru had been negligible in the past–mainly because there was limited regard for the viability and rights of small states–Australia's attempts to maintain continuing direct control over the island's lucrative phosphate industry to the detriment of Nauruan independence were by this time becoming untenable. When, in 1967, Australia again rejected Nauruan demands for full sovereignty, the committee put the Australian government on notice. The Australian mission in New York sensed the approaching storm. In August 1967, the acting minister in the mission, Ken Rogers, reported to Plimsoll, now Sir James and secretary of the DEA, that some of the department's thinking on Nauru was seriously out of step with the 'freely expressed wishes' of the Nauruans themselves. Despite Australia's decision to grant full control of the phosphate industry to the Nauruans, he said, 'we must expect to meet very strong criticism at the forthcoming session for having "failed" to give Nauru complete independence … and we can expect some condemnatory resolutions to this effect'.481 He was right. Less than a week later, India led Poland and Sierra Leone in the Committee of Twenty-Four in not only criticising Australia for 'endeavouring to attach unacceptable conditions to independence'–including continuing Australian control over the territory's defence and foreign affairs–but also demanding that 'the Nauruans should be allowed immediately to have full independence'. The Australian government, which had by now accepted the principle of granting self-determination–if not complete independence–to the Nauruans by 1968, now accepted the irrepressibility of Nauruan demands, and in October 1967 Cabinet agreed that Australia should 'not stand in the way' of full sovereignty for the island. The following year, on 31 January, Nauru became the newest member nation of the United Nations.482

With this single exception, criticism levelled at Australia for its administration of its territories during the late 1960s was, as historian Bill Hudson observed in 1974, 'ritualistic in that it tended to come from communist states still anachronistically playing the cold war anti-colonial game'.483 These antics were not especially discomfiting or even embarrassing for Australia, largely because the Soviet Union's credibility had been seriously dented by its own 'imperialistic' policies in Eastern Europe, especially its invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968. What bothered Canberra was that many Afro-Asian nations, themselves fearful of being stigmatised as insufficiently anti-colonialist, always supported hypercritical resolutions proposed by the Committee of Twenty-Four's 'extreme', 'militant' and 'irresponsible' members.484 During a visit to Canberra in February 1968, the Under-Secretary-General for Trusteeship and Non-Self-Governing Territories, Issoufou Djermakoye, acknowledged Australian grievances, saying that the committee had been 'immoderate' and had 'not given the Western states a fair hearing'.485 From 1967, therefore, the Australian delegation, led by Ambassador Patrick Shaw, pushed hard for Australia's withdrawal from the committee. In October 1968, he opined that although Australia generally received a fair hearing from the 'more reasonable' members of the Committee of Twenty-Four, these same countries would 'then turn around and vote for utterly unacceptable resolutions and recommendations about our territories'. At the same time, the committee refused to recognise the differing manifestations of colonialism throughout the world; accordingly, it tended to 'treat all dependent territories alike, so that recommendations framed with the southern African situation in mind are alleged to be equally applicable to territories in other parts of the world'.486 Hasluck accepted Shaw's advice. In New York at the time, he specifically instructed the ambassador to advise the DEA of his decision. As if to emphasise the irrevocable nature of this edict, which took effect from 28 January 1969, Hasluck further noted: 'You might add that this approval was given in my capacity as leader of the Australian delegation to UNGA'.487

'Hot and strong on colonialist issues': The 1970s and after

The Australian government's decision to leave the Committee of Twenty-Four, while criticised in some quarters for having the appearance of 'ducking for cover', was generally welcomed in Australia.488 Ironically, however, there were signs that the committee's attitudes toward Australia were softening even before Canberra took the decision to withdraw. On 19 December 1968, Malcolm Booker, First Assistant Secretary in the DEA's Geographical Division, advised against departure, claiming that recent resolutions initiated in the committee and adopted by the Fourth Committee had shown:

a greater willingness to appreciate the efforts we are making in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea and to accept our arguments in good faith. A distinction has been made, unlike in the past, between the problems of our territories and the Southern African territories. A number of Asian and African countries firmly resisted [the] efforts of Communist members to denigrate Australian efforts …489

Eight months after Australia's formal withdrawal from the committee, the Australian delegation in New York informed Canberra that despite Soviet attempts to criticise the Australian record the recent report of Sub-Committee II on Papua and New Guinea was 'a real improvement' on previous reports: 'phrases like "welcoming the larger role" and "noting the progress made" are rare indeed from the Committee of Twenty-Four'.490

A change of personnel in the committee was one reason for the improved tone, according to Ambassador Shaw. But the primary reason for this decreasing hostility was the rapid pace of change in Papua and New Guinea from the late 1960s, making Soviet criticisms increasingly meaningless for all but the most doctrinaire anti-colonialists. Prime Minister John Gorton, urged on by the leader of the Labor Party opposition, EG (Gough) Whitlam, had already accepted the need for further change, and during a visit to the territory in July 1970 he affirmed the government's belief that more real power should rest with indigenous politicians and 'less should be referred to Canberra for decision'.491 This was more than empty rhetoric. Following elections in Papua and New Guinea in April 1972 and the formation of a Coalition government led by Chief Minister Michael Somare, Territories Minister Andrew Peacock travelled to the territory seventeen times in less than a year for discussions with the emerging leadership.492 When, in August 1972, Somare called for a further devolution of powers, Peacock, observing 'the quality of leadership displayed by the Chief Minister', urged Cabinet to 'respond favourably' to a recommendation that the date of self-government be set at 1 December 1973 'or earlier'. For Peacock, it was clear that the interval between self-government and independence was rapidly diminishing: 'I believe that we should recognise now the distinct possibility of a short interval between self-government and independence and be prepared to act accordingly.'493

Whitlam shared these sentiments. Unlike Gorton and Peacock, both of whom stressed the right of the indigenous people to choose their own political destiny, Whitlam was so determined to bring the territory to independence that he downplayed the expectations of the people of Papua and New Guinea and insisted that the decision was primarily one for the Australian government to make. So when, in the elections of December 1972, he led the Labor Party to victory after twenty-three years in opposition, one of his first acts as prime minister was to visit the territory, where he told the enlarged and indigenous Third House in no uncertain terms that:

a timetable for self-government and independence must be set … I cannot stress too often that the decision for independence is not only a decision about Papua New Guinea … Australia is no longer willing to be the ruler of a colony. And my Government is determined to divest itself of that role in the lifetime of the present Australian Parliament …494

Accordingly, while retaining Peacock's target of 1 December 1973 as the date on which self-government should take effect in the territory, Whitlam pushed hard for the idea of Papua and New Guinea attaining full independence as early as 1974.495 This date was overly ambitious, and it was not until July 1974 that the Third House finally resolved that Papua and New Guinea should move to independent nation status. A year later a firm date was set–16 September 1975–from which time, as the Papua New Guinea Independence Act put it, 'Australia ceases to have any sovereignty, sovereign rights or rights of administration in respect of or appertaining to the whole or any part of Papua New Guinea'.496 Accordingly, on the evening of 15 September 1975, in a restrained ceremony in Port Moresby, the Australian flag was lowered for the last time. Reflecting the manner and context in which this final act of decolonisation occurred, the new nation's inaugural Governor-General, Sir John Guise, widely regarded as the elder statesman of territory politics, told the audience: 'It is important that the people of Papua New Guinea and the rest of the world realise the spirit in which we are lowering the flag of our colonies. We are lowering it not tearing it down.'497

Whitlam's key role in the decolonisation and independence of Papua New Guinea–or its hastening, at least–was symptomatic of the new Labor government's determination to shake off what Whitlam especially regarded as Australia's poor international image. This new focus was almost immediately reflected in Australia's strong support for decolonisation issues in the United Nations and its equally strong condemnation of the white minority governments in southern Africa. Earlier Coalition governments were highly disapproving of these regimes but at the same time unwilling to either introduce or countenance an escalation of economic and military sanctions against Rhodesia and South Africa, but Whitlam showed no such qualms. As prime minister-elect, on 5 December 1972, he called a meeting of senior public servants to discuss those issues requiring urgent attention–the meeting, as well as including discussions on Whitlam's swearing in and the formation of his ministry, noted the prime minister-elect's instruction to change a UN resolution calling for stronger sanctions against Rhodesia from an abstention to one 'in favour'; he also attempted (unsuccessfully) to have the Rhodesian Information Centre in Sydney closed down.498 Significantly, on 19 December 1972, after the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), as the DEA was now called, had advised against rejoining the Committee of Twenty-Four because no 'specific advantages' would be gained 'which have not already been realised by the Government's clear stand on the side of countries opposed to colonialism', Whitlam demurred and instructed that Australia accept an invitation to serve again on the committee.499 A few months later, when the Australian delegation apparently implied that the government had gone 'somewhat further' than it needed to in redressing Australia's policy on colonialism, Bruce Woodberry, now head of the DFA's UN Political Branch, replied: 'The fact is … that the Prime Minister is hot and strong on colonialist issues, and anxious for us to stand up and be counted as often as possible on the anti-colonialist side.'500

In accordance with this new emphasis, the Australian delegation from 1973 consistently voted for resolutions in the General Assembly which condemned apartheid, racial discrimination, the activities of Ian Smith's white minority regime in Rhodesia, and the 'illegal' policies of South Africa in South West Africa (now known as Namibia). The extent of this shift was evident when, on 30 September 1974, Australia supported a draft resolution calling on the Security Council to review Pretoria's relationship with the United Nations 'in the light of constant violations by South Africa of the United Nations Charter and the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights'.501 Whitlam, who was in New York at the time, urged the United Nations:

to direct even more concentrated attention upon the twin evil of racism–particularly its post-colonial manifestations in southern Africa. We must be unremitting in the efforts sanctioned by the Assembly to break the illegal regime in Rhodesia, to end South Africa's unlawful control over Namibia and to end apartheid.502

With these sentiments at heart, Whitlam told the New York press that Australia–then a member of the Security Council–had no alternative but to vote for the expulsion of South Africa from the United Nations because the latter had 'constantly defied the United Nations' rulings'. Accordingly, on 30 October 1974, Australia and nine other members of the Security Council supported the immediate expulsion of South Africa. In taking this position, Sir Laurence McIntyre, now Australian Ambassador to the United Nations, explained that 'the moral considerations as [Australia] sees them must be decisive'.503 In the event, however, the resolution was defeated by the veto of France, Britain and the United States.504 While the Australian delegation subsequently criticised (on technical grounds) the General Assembly's decision to suspend South Africa from United Nations proceedings–made on a recommendation from its Credentials Committee–these firm enunciations of Australia's anti-colonialism were regarded as having the desired effect. As early as December 1973, the Australian delegation was pleased to report that Australia had now emerged:

as one of two or three Western countries most sympathetically disposed towards the anti-colonial causes that are a principal attraction for the third world. Its contribution to those causes was widely recognised as not only a direct one but as having the potential capacity also to influence other Western countries to modify their attitudes.505

The latter sentiment was somewhat hopeful. Indeed, while the situation in southern Africa provided an appropriate hook on which to hang the government's anti-colonial credentials, this zeal was in fact moderated on those occasions when it was not easily reconciled with the abiding need to maintain friendly relations with Western partner countries. In August 1973, for instance, when Cuba, in an obvious attempt to embarrass the Americans, pushed hard to have the Committee of Twenty-Four accept a resolution reaffirming the principle of self-determination and independence for Puerto Rico–which had been 'freely associated' with the United States through an act of self-determination in 1952–the DFA advised New York that 'we should not worry unduly' about the matter being discussed in the committee or, indeed, about supporting the resolution; to do otherwise, according to the DFA, 'would run counter to our basic policy on decolonisation'.506 Taken aback by these instructions, the mission replied with some spirit, saying that the Cuban resolution was 'little more than mischievous' and that it was unfair of the department to imply that the Australian delegation's questioning of Cuba's motives somehow indicated their failure to understand the importance the government attached to the 'essential principles' of decolonisation.507 Despite these remonstrations, Canberra instructed the delegation to abstain on the resolution, prompting a terse rebuke from the Americans and, subsequently, a long memorandum from Patrick Shaw, now Ambassador to the United States, in which he vigorously criticised Australia's failure to 'unequivocally oppose' such a 'ridiculous' resolution and seemed to suggest that the Australian government should perhaps think more carefully about its broad interests before uncritically accepting every anti-colonial resolution:

While Australia supports the United Nations' principles, including that of self-determination for dependent peoples, I doubt if that principle is really involved in the agitations recently created in the United Nations' context about Puerto Rico. It seems to be of some importance for us that we should not unnecessarily offend the Government and the peoples of Puerto Rico and of the United States …508

Taking heed, the DFA in September 1974 advised New York that Australia should oppose 'any resolution' unfairly critical of role of the United States in Puerto Rico. Dr James Cumes, First Assistant Secretary in the DFA's International Organisations Division, told the Australian delegation to 'make it clear in opposing such resolutions [that] we are in no way detracting from our full support for the principles of decolonisation endorsed by the United Nations'.509

In this instance, there were enough mitigating factors to accommodate a policy reversal without necessarily sacrificing the government's overall commitment to the principles of self-determination and independence. But Whitlam's determination to uphold these principles came under intense pressure and scrutiny following a left-wing military coup in Portugal which brought the previously intractable issue of Portuguese decolonisation to a head. While the new government in Lisbon subsequently accepted full independence for Guinea-Bissau (1974), Angola and Mozambique (both 1975), it was less willing to act rapidly on the colony of East Timor, just off the northern coast of Western Australia, because of the presumed unreadiness of the Timorese people for independence.510 Throughout 1974 and 1975, as events in East Timor overtook Australia's hopeful expectation that the matter could be resolved to the advantage of all parties, the government found itself in the uncomfortable position of talking up the principle of self-determination–both publicly and privately–while at the same time being aware of Indonesia's increasing covert military activities in the territory. Although this position became increasingly untenable, and indeed inconsistent, Canberra remained concerned about the potential bilateral repercussions of pushing Indonesia too hard on the issue. When Whitlam met President Suharto in Yogyakarta in September 1974, he was careful to note Australia's record on decolonisation. Since coming into office, he said, the Labor government had shown a strong and abiding commitment to:

the right of self-determination for all the remaining colonial territories. This was particularly so of Africa. We had recently recognised Guinea-Bissau. We would support independence for the large African territories, Angola and Mozambique. Since we support independence in these large territories, to be consistent we ought to apply the principle of self-determination to all territories, even the smallest colonial territories.

And yet Whitlam told Suharto that in his view Portuguese Timor was 'part of the Indonesian world'. As such, he said, the territory should be integrated with Indonesia.511 During a second meeting with Suharto, in April 1975, Whitlam expressed continued sympathy for Jakarta's position and assured the Indonesian president that 'he strongly desired closer and more cordial relations with Indonesia and would ensure that our actions in regard to Portuguese Timor would always be guided by the principle that good relations with Indonesia were of paramount importance to Australia'.512

The United Nations played only a peripheral role in this unfolding saga, partly because intervention seemed unwarranted by events on the ground in East Timor, which outwardly at least, was being guided to self-determination by Portugal. However, the escalating chaos on the island jolted the organisation into action. When, in May 1975, the Committee of Twenty-Four was invited to Lisbon to discuss the future of the remaining Portuguese territories, the Australian government, wanting to avoid complications with Indonesia, baulked at the idea of raising the subject of East Timor: 'Our preference would be for there to be no Australian reference to Portuguese Timor'. If there must be a statement, the DFA advised:

you should say that Australia is firmly wedded to the general principle of the right of peoples to self-determination, and that we accept (we prefer this to 'welcome' or 'support') whatever decision the people of Portuguese Timor may come to in determining their own future …513

The following month, when the chair of the committee introduced a 'surprise paragraph' enunciating the principles of self-determination and independence for East Timor 'as set forth in the Charter', Australia backed the Indonesians. While accepting that Jakarta should 'take the front-running' on the matter, Canberra nevertheless instructed the Australian delegation to 'support them [the Indonesians] in private discussions with the Chairman'.514

This policy continued to inform Australia's behaviour in the United Nations as the situation in East Timor worsened in the second half of 1975. When, therefore, Indonesia invaded and occupied the territory in December 1975, Australia's efforts were focused on preventing any 'unjust criticism' of its near neighbour. Thus Ralph Harry, Ambassador to the United Nations, told Canberra two days after the invasion that 'our immediate diplomatic problem and task has been to do what we can to reduce the pressure on the Indonesians'. By way of some 'skilled and pertinacious negotiation', he reported, 'a relatively mild resolution seems to be emerging which will … avoid condemnation of Indonesia'.515 However, Australia now had a caretaker government led by Liberal Malcolm Fraser, after the Whitlam Labor government had been 'dismissed' in November 1975. The Coalition had been critical of Whitlam's Timor policy, and Australia now voted in favour of a resolution in the Fourth Committee that drew the Security Council's attention to the situation in the territory. Significantly, however, the delegation was instructed to abstain on two crucial paragraphs that 'strongly deplored' the invasion and called for an Indonesian withdrawal 'without delay'.516 Despite this, and despite Australia's vigorous but unsuccessful efforts to remove any explicit reference to Indonesian armed forces in the resolution (a line it subsequently pushed in the General Assembly as well), the Indonesians still regarded Australia's vote as 'extremely harmful'. A counter-response from Canberra reminded the Indonesians that Australia had already played a major part in 'blunting or diverting criticism of Indonesia' and that a number of other countries had demanded:

some form of United Nations condemnation of Indonesia's actions. That, in the event, this condemnation was not expressed in much harsher language, was due in no small measure to Australia's efforts in the Fourth Committee.517

Despite Australia's lukewarm defence of the principle of self-determination during the East Timor crisis, a position that was reinforced when the Fraser government granted de jure recognition to Indonesia's incorporation of the territory in December 1978, its anti-colonial credentials were held in high regard in the United Nations during these years. This was partly due to the fact that Australia, by granting independence to Nauru and, more importantly, to Papua New Guinea, had ceased being an administrative power and had thereby removed the main cause of criticism of its colonial policies. At the same time, the Fraser government was as zealous as its predecessor in supporting UN resolutions calling for majority rule and independence in Namibia and Southern Rhodesia.518 In the latter case in particular, Australia maintained economic sanctions against the white minority regime until 1980, when free and fair elections produced the country's first black majority government and the country's name changed to Zimbabwe. Fraser, having taken an especially strong line in the Commonwealth on the issue, accepted an invitation from the newly elected Zimbabwean Prime Minister, Robert Mugabe, to attend independence celebrations. He used the occasion to 'warmly welcome' Zimbabwe back into the international community and to talk up 'the bond between [our] two countries as constitutional democracies with a common system of institutions'.519

Namibia was now the only major non-self-governing territory whose status remained unresolved. While this would be a source of continuing rancour in the United Nations until 1990, when Namibia was finally granted independence, the almost complete decolonisation of Africa by the 1980s led to a growing sense of imminent closure. As early as 1976, the DFA's in-house publication, Australian Foreign Affairs Record, noted the ever-diminishing number of dependent territories and enthused that the United Nations was 'in the home straight' with regard to its trusteeship responsibilities.520 At the same time, the relevant bodies in the United Nations–the Committee of Twenty-Four and (especially) the Fourth Committee and the Trusteeship Council–became increasingly redundant. In December 1977, the Australian delegation reported that there was 'an embarrassing lack of work' for the Fourth Committee; indeed, 'for the first time it had fewer meetings than any other committee during the session'.521

There were still a few small dependent territories, mostly British, French and American, and it was to these that the Committee of Twenty-Four now turned its attention. Australia, which had been rapporteur of the Sub-Committee on Small Territories since 1976, retained a continuing stake in the Committee of Twenty-Four's work. As one senior DFA officer put it in April 1980, Australia, while still keen to demonstrate 'our commitment to anti-colonialism and support for all who have yet to exercise an act of self-determination', was primarily motivated by a desire 'to see consideration of [the] Cocos [Islands] concluded in a manner satisfactory to us'.522 The Cocos Islands, in the Indian Ocean some 3,000 kilometres northwest of Perth, had been ceded to Australia by Britain in the mid-1950s. During the 1970s, the Australian government had become increasingly uncomfortable with what former Territories Minister Hasluck had disapprovingly referred to as the 'semi-feudal' relationship between the estate of John Clunies-Ross and the small community of Cocos Malays, whose wages were paid in plastic tokens that could only be redeemed at the company store.523 In 1980, following two UN visiting missions to the territory that were highly critical of this forced dependency, Canberra agreed that the Cocos Malays should be allowed to exercise their right to self-determination. A series of meetings were then held between Australian officials and the Cocos Malay people. During these discussions, the Cocos leaders were quite forthright about the available options, telling the Minister for Territories and Local Government, Tom Uren, 'let's forget about two of the choices [independence or free association] and opt to choose the Integration option with Australia as it is the only one which has any validity or any value as far as they are concerned'.524 This accorded with Australia's own very clear objectives for the territory, as well as 'the particular requirements of the UN', and in September 1983 Cabinet agreed with Uren's recommendation that a referendum should be held to determine the future constitutional status of the islands.525 In New York, the Australian mission persuaded the Committee of Twenty-Four, especially the Sierra Leone chair and the Soviet representative, that integration with Australia was the most appropriate course. On 2 April 1984, a six-person UN mission observed an Act of Self-Determination that garnered overwhelming support (84 per cent) for integration.526

Australia now withdrew from the Committee of Twenty-Four, not on this occasion because of disenchantment, but because, as Gareth Evans, acting Minister for Foreign Affairs, told parliament in February 1985, the Cocos Act of Self-Determination had 'brought to an end Australia's last direct responsibility within the United Nations system for a non-self-governing territory'. While the age of empire was 'now nearing completion', he said, making the work of the committee less relevant to Australia's interests, Evans nevertheless promised that Australia would continue to participate in all UN debates on the remaining small territories. Consistent with this more detached approach, Australia, as Evans later put it, played the role of a 'supportive spectator' in the continuing story of decolonisation throughout the 1980s.527

This approach, though broadly suited to the times, was not so easy to maintain during the last major decolonisation issue which preoccupied Australia in the United Nations. From the mid-1980s, French New Caledonia experienced a protracted period of unrest as the indigenous (but now minority) Kanak population stepped up its demands for independence. Australia, in accordance with Evans's policy, was initially loath to support the emergent nationalists. However, when France took a decidedly militant approach to the independence movement, Australia, motivated by both its disapproval of France's Pacific policies–especially its nuclear policies–and its anti-colonial convictions, reversed its position. In November 1986, it co-sponsored a UN resolution calling for the reinscription of New Caledonia on its list of non-self-governing territories and reaffirming 'the inalienable right of the New Caledonian people to self-determination and independence'. Intense lobbying by the mission in New York saw the successful passage of the resolution. Infuriated, the French government accused Canberra of 'aggressiveness' and ejected the Australian consul-general from New Caledonia in January 1987. Tensions persisted until 1988, when the Matignon Accords–which accepted that political devolution was 'irreversible' in the territory–led to stabilisation and a corresponding decline in tension between France and Australia over the issue of New Caledonia throughout the 1990s.528 At the height of the unrest, however, Australia had consistently justified its position with high principle. Certainly, there was self-interest involved; Foreign Minister Bill Hayden conceded in 1987 that this was 'a matter of direct concern to the Australian Government' because it involved a country 'in our immediate region of interest'. But in urging France to grant independence to the New Caledonians he gave priority to the principle of self-determination and, perhaps more importantly, to the UN's role in finding a solution. Persistent efforts by the French to contravene these responsibilities, he thus reasoned, demonstrating the fundamental shift that had occurred in the Australian mindset since the 1940s and 1950s, 'were inconsistent with the requirements of the United Nations for the process of decolonisation laid down by the Committee of Twenty-Four'.529


Recognition of the pivotal role of the United Nations in upholding the dual principles of self-determination and independence for trust and non-self-governing territories had been slow to receive acceptance in Australia. Indeed, after a brief period of progressive–even altruistic–thinking on dependent territories articulated in particular by Evatt in the early to mid-1940s, Australia, determined to maintain authority over Papua and New Guinea, spent the next decade refusing to countenance any interference from the United Nations in terms of its trusteeship responsibilities, or indeed, the trusteeship responsibilities of any of the European imperial powers. However, when these powers began to acknowledge the ineluctability of decolonisation, in the late 1950s and early 1960s, Australia reassessed its position. Significantly, the very consideration which had played such an important role in its thinking during the 1950s–strategic self-interest–also prompted Australia to take a more flexible view of decolonisation issues in the United Nations from the early 1960s. The outcome of the West New Guinea dispute, which demonstrated that the United States was not prepared to automatically privilege its Western imperial allies over and above the anti-colonial nations, was a significant factor in Australia's reappraisal of its colonial policies.530

In accepting the inevitability and, indeed, the imminence of change in Papua and New Guinea, where a program of accelerated economic, social and, most importantly, political development was initiated in the early 1960s, Australia now expressed more enthusiasm in the United Nations for the principles which Evatt had advocated so zealously in the 1940s. This renewed acknowledgment of the United Nations as a proper and legitimate forum for discussing, debating and implementing the principle of self-determination was manifested most clearly in Australia's changing attitudes to the non-self-governing territories in southern Africa, culminating in the strong anti-colonial policies of Whitlam and his senior advisers in the 1970s. Even for Whitlam, however, who, like Evatt, Hasluck, Spender, Casey and even Menzies later in his leadership, believed in the principle of allowing dependent peoples to exercise their right to self-determination, the power of national self-interest, or at least perceived national self-interest, was in the end irrepressible. This was demonstrated in the Whitlam government's lack of enthusiasm for the idea of self-determination for the East Timorese people. This was not because Whitlam was insincere; he clearly believed in the principle of self-determination, but in this instance that support was mitigated by the equally genuine fear that Australia's relations with Indonesia would be seriously damaged by pushing this line too aggressively in the United Nations. When the stakes were not so high for Australia, as in the case of the southern African colonies, the Cocos Islands and New Caledonia, it showed itself to be a strong supporter of decolonisation in the United Nations.


The Australian Attorney-General and Minister for External Affairs, and deputy leader of the Australian delegation, Dr Herbert V Evatt, presents Australia's position in the Sub-Committee on Regional Arrangements, San Francisco, 21 to 22 May 1945. Seated at table, facing (left): Francisco Castillon Nájera, (Mexico); (right) Fausto Soto and German Vergara (Chile). [UN Photo/Mili]

The Australian Attorney-General and Minister for External Affairs, and deputy leader of the Australian delegation, Dr Herbert V Evatt, presents Australia's position in the Sub-Committee on Regional Arrangements, San Francisco, 21 to 22 May 1945. Seated at table, facing (left): Francisco Castillon Nájera, (Mexico); (right) Fausto Soto and German Vergara (Chile). [UN Photo/Mili]


The Argentine Permanent Representative to the United Nations and Chairman of the Fourth (Trusteeship) Committee, Rodolfo Muñoz (left), confers with the Chairman of the Trusteeship Council-appointed visiting mission to West Africa, Roy Peachey (Australia) (centre), and the Secretary of the Committee and Principal Director of the UN Department of Trusteeship and Information from Non-Self-Governing Territories, Dr Ralph Bunche, before the meeting of the Fourth Committee, Seventh Session of UN General Assembly

The Argentine Permanent Representative to the United Nations and Chairman of the Fourth (Trusteeship) Committee, Rodolfo Muñoz (left), confers with the Chairman of the Trusteeship Council-appointed visiting mission to West Africa, Roy Peachey (Australia) (centre), and the Secretary of the Committee and Principal Director of the UN Department of Trusteeship and Information from Non-Self-Governing Territories, Dr Ralph Bunche, before the meeting of the Fourth Committee, Seventh Session of UN General Assembly, New York, 12 December 1952. [UN Photo/Marvin Bolotsky]


Members of the UN Trusteeship visiting mission to Papua and New Guinea and Nauru speaking with Kupas, Chief Luluai Ainuai and interpreter Robin Mariot, Raluana, 1956. Left to right: J Rolz Bennett (Guatemala); J Lewis (secretary); ME Chacko (India); Sir John McPherson (United Kingdom, chairman); and K Roberts (Native Affairs). [National Archives of Australia]

Members of the UN Trusteeship visiting mission to Papua and New Guinea and Nauru speaking with Kupas, Chief Luluai Ainuai and interpreter Robin Mariot, Raluana, 1956. Left to right: J Rolz Bennett (Guatemala); J Lewis (secretary); ME Chacko (India); Sir John McPherson (United Kingdom, chairman); and K Roberts (Native Affairs). [National Archives of Australia]


The Australian Special Representative on the Trusteeship Council for Papua and New Guinea, John H Jones (left), and First Secretary, Australian Permanent Mission to the United Nations, Allan H Loomes, during the Trusteeship Council general debate on the report on the UN Trust Territory of Papua and New Guinea under Australian administration, New York, 1953. [National Archives of Australia]

The Australian Special Representative on the Trusteeship Council for Papua and New Guinea, John H Jones (left), and First Secretary, Australian Permanent Mission to the United Nations, Allan H Loomes, during the Trusteeship Council general debate on the report on the UN Trust Territory of Papua and New Guinea under Australian administration, New York, 1953. [National Archives of Australia]


The Australian Alternate Representative to the Trusteeship Council and counsellor, Australian Permanent Mission to the United Nations, Kevin T Kelly (upper right), addresses the Trusteeship Council, 1959. [UN Photo/Leo Rosenthal]

The Australian Alternate Representative to the Trusteeship Council and counsellor, Australian Permanent Mission to the United Nations, Kevin T Kelly (upper right), addresses the Trusteeship Council, 1959. [UN Photo/Leo Rosenthal]


The Australian Minister for Territories, Paul Hasluck, inspects the schoolwork at Bamu River Mission, Papua and New Guinea, 1955. [National Archives of Australia]

The Australian Minister for Territories, Paul Hasluck, inspects the schoolwork at Bamu River Mission, Papua and New Guinea, 1955. [National Archives of Australia]


The Australian Special Representative of the Joint Administering Authority (Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom), Dudley McCarthy (centre), is questioned by representatives in the Trusteeship Council on conditions in the trust territory of Nauru, New York, 27 June 1961. Adviser to the Australian Representative, Raymond Gadabu of Nauru (left); and Minister, Australian Permanent Mission to the United Nations, John DL Hood (right). [UN Photo/MB]

The Australian Special Representative of the Joint Administering Authority (Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom), Dudley McCarthy (centre), is questioned by representatives in the Trusteeship Council on conditions in the trust territory of Nauru, New York, 27 June 1961. Adviser to the Australian Representative, Raymond Gadabu of Nauru (left); and Minister, Australian Permanent Mission to the United Nations, John DL Hood (right). [UN Photo/MB]


The Australian Representative, Duncan Campbell (left), and the Special Representative of Papua New Guinea, and Minister for Defence, Foreign Relations and Trade, Albert Maori Kiki (right), reply to questions on conditions in Papua New Guinea in the Trusteeship Council, New York, 16 October 1974. [UN Photo/M Tzovaras]

The Australian Representative, Duncan Campbell (left), and the Special Representative of Papua New Guinea, and Minister for Defence, Foreign Relations and Trade, Albert Maori Kiki (right), reply to questions on conditions in Papua New Guinea in the Trusteeship Council, New York, 16 October 1974. [UN Photo/M Tzovaras]


The Australian flag is passed to the inaugural Governor-General of the new nation of Papua New Guinea, Sir John Guise, watched by the Commander of the PNG Defence Force, Brigadier General Ted Ramu Diro (left), HRH Prince Charles (second left) and the Australian Governor-General, Sir John Kerr (third left), in a sunset ceremony which saw the flag lowered for the final time in the former Australian territory, Port Moresby, 15 September 1975. [National Archives of Australia]

The Australian flag is passed to the inaugural Governor-General of the new nation of Papua New Guinea, Sir John Guise, watched by the Commander of the PNG Defence Force, Brigadier General Ted Ramu Diro (left), HRH Prince Charles (second left) and the Australian Governor-General, Sir John Kerr (third left), in a sunset ceremony which saw the flag lowered for the final time in the former Australian territory, Port Moresby, 15 September 1975. [National Archives of Australia]


The Australian Prime Minister, E Gough Whitlam, addressing the UN General Assembly, New York, 30 September 1974. [National Archives of Australia]

The Australian Prime Minister, E Gough Whitlam, addressing the UN General Assembly, New York, 30 September 1974. [National Archives of Australia]


The Deputy Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, Emeka Anyaoku of Nigeria (left), and Princess Bunmi Anyaoku, together with the Commander of the Zambia National Defence Force, Major General Kingsley Chinkulu (right), greet the Australian Prime Minister, Malcolm Fraser (centre), on his arrival for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, Lusaka, 1979. [National Archives of Australia]

The Deputy Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, Emeka Anyaoku of Nigeria (left), and Princess Bunmi Anyaoku, together with the Commander of the Zambia National Defence Force, Major General Kingsley Chinkulu (right), greet the Australian Prime Minister, Malcolm Fraser (centre), on his arrival for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, Lusaka, 1979. [National Archives of Australia]


The Australian Prime Minister, RJL (Bob) Hawke (left), meets with a delegation from the Cocos (Keeling) Islands, Canberra, 1984. [National Archives of Australia]

The Australian Prime Minister, RJL (Bob) Hawke (left), meets with a delegation from the Cocos (Keeling) Islands, Canberra, 1984. [National Archives of Australia]

5. Australia, ECOSOC and the UN specialised agencies

Peter Carroll

This chapter provides an overview of Australia's involvement with a selection of the specialised agencies of the United Nations, as well as with the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), the body entrusted with their coordination. At present there are fifteen UN specialised agencies531 and Australia is currently a member or contracting party to all except the UN Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), from which it withdrew in 1997, and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), from which it withdrew in 2005. It also withdrew from membership of the World Tourism Organization from 1990 until 2004, when it rejoined. Thus, while Australia has had long associations with the specialised agencies, those associations are regularly reviewed.

It is impossible to cover in one chapter what has been a long, complex and important set of associations, so the chapter will examine only the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD), the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the World Health Organization (WHO). While the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) is one of the agencies not examined, it is the only UN specialised agency that currently has an Australian at its head: Director-General Dr Francis Gurry. WIPO plus the World Trade Organization (WTO), the FAO, the WHO and the International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants constitute the global intellectual property rights regime. Gurry has held his current position since 2008. His appointment followed a difficult period for WIPO. It had had strong criticism from a UN Joint Inspection Unit that had reviewed its management and budgetary practices, and had also faced allegations of corruption and bribery in regard to the result of the tender for construction of a major new building to house the agency.532

The chapter is divided into six major sections. The first outlines the challenges faced by Australian ministers and officials participating in the design and development of the United Nations (particularly ECOSOC) and its specialised agencies. The second focuses on the IMF and the IBRD, beginning with the lack of enthusiasm towards Australian membership that was initially felt in many quarters, then showing how Australian engagement, which became, at times, influential, was increasingly supported within the Australian Labor Party (ALP) and Cabinet. The third section examines the FAO, noting the early involvement of a number of Australians in its creation, then examining the challenge posed to the management capacities of Australian government departments when faced with the sudden expansion in the proposed number and type of international bodies connected with food and agriculture. The fourth looks at Australia's association with UNESCO, which came about with little or no dissent, although difficulties arose in coordinating the overlapping responsibilities within the bureaucracy, particularly education and external affairs. The fifth section, on the ILO, examines its sometimes close entanglement with Australian domestic politics, and the varying degrees of involvement with the organisation by governments of differing political persuasions, measured by ratification of ILO conventions. The final section illustrates Australian involvement with the WHO, showing how concerns regarding its finances and the status of the members of its executive board persisted over fifty years, and examining the increasing role played by the Department of Health and Ageing in global health affairs.

Capacity, coordination and multilateralism

During the 1940s, the Australian Labor government's capacity to manage its rapidly growing involvement with the United Nations and its new specialised agencies was strictly limited. This management entailed dealing with some longer-established departments that were unenthusiastic about surrendering influence to newer departments, the Department of Post-War Reconstruction (DPWR) and the Department of External Affairs (DEA). Perhaps the most challenging requirement was the development of a coherent national approach that effectively linked domestic and international interests. There was also the need to quickly develop the government's organisational and staffing capacity regarding external affairs. The DEA had been set up as a separate, specialised department on its re-establishment in 1935, but had not been entrusted with sole responsibility for Australia's external affairs; responsibilities were scattered across a range of departments, all with greater resources and status than the new department.

In particular, the DEA initially had little or no responsibility for the planning or conduct of international economic policy (which was vital in relation to the new specialised agencies). This was spread between Treasury, Trade and Customs, Commerce and Agriculture, Labour and National Service, and the DPWR. When the DEA eventually gained that responsibility, it frequently had to call on more experienced staff in the other departments for assistance. What eventuated was a series of clusters of external affairs activities, each centred around a particular department and coordinated to varying extents by the new DPWR, the Inter-Departmental Committee on External Relations, the Financial and Economic Advisory Committee (several members of which were also members of the inter-departmental committee), the DEA and, ultimately, the Prime Minister's Department and Cabinet. As well as having responsibility for coordinating the interests of the various departments involved in external affairs, the Prime Minister's Department retained responsibility for Australia's relations with the United Kingdom until 1972.

The DPWR, established under Dr HC 'Nugget' Coombs in December 1942 and responsible to Ben Chifley as Treasurer, had as one of its major tasks the preparation and coordination of proposals and plans for the early postwar years. It focused on social and economic reconstruction, including humanitarian relief for people in war-stricken countries. It also had responsibility for leading Australia's participation in international negotiations, including those that led to the creation of the UN's specialised agencies. Coombs, in particular, played a substantial and direct role in the negotiations that led to the establishment of the IMF, the IBRD and the FAO. He played a similar role in regard to the unsuccessful proposal for the planned International Trade Organization (ITO). The DPWR also had responsibility for external affairs in relation to education through the Commonwealth Office of Education, which was established within the department in November 1945. The result was a significant role in the development of UNESCO.

Treasury, together with the Commonwealth Bank, which then had a central bank role as regards the development and implementation of monetary and banking policy, was largely responsible for the implementation of international economic policy and related activities. This role overlapped somewhat with that of the DPWR, with which Treasury worked closely under Chifley. These departments, from at least December 1943, agreed on the full employment policy–for Australia and other nations–endorsed by Chifley. The policy, in its domestic application, was expressed in the 'Full Employment in Australia' white paper of 1945.533However, the leader of the Australian delegation to the Bretton Woods Conference in 1944, Leslie Melville (later Australian executive director at the World Bank) was dubious about this approach. Chifley and Coombs believed that with the Australian economy heavily dependent on international trade in agricultural products, it was necessary to pursue full employment policies in the other major trading nations, particularly the United States and the United Kingdom, because only those policies would sustain the high level of demand necessary for Australia to achieve its full employment goal.

It was the Minister for External Affairs, Dr HV Evatt, who gained Cabinet's approval for a full employment-centred stance in international economic policy in January 1944. This approach would be the basis for Australia's negotiating position at the several international conferences to be held in 1944 to 1945. This was a sign of increasing DEA influence. However, the DEA was not always the lead department in the negotiations: that responsibility was allocated on a case-by-case basis among the competing departments.534

The departments of Commerce and Agriculture and Trade and Customs both had responsibilities in relation to trade, and strong interests in the development of the ITO insofar as the latter's activities related to trade, especially trade in food and agricultural products. Commerce and Agriculture was also significantly involved with the development of the FAO. The Department of Labour and National Service had long had responsibility for Australian involvement with the ILO.

Australia and ECOSOC's role in relation to the specialised agencies

ECOSOC is a principal organ of the United Nations.535It was intended as a relatively minor body but was elevated to a principal organ following pressure from the middle and smaller countries at the 1945 San Francisco Conference, a pressure largely shaped and led by Evatt.536The elevation in status, however, was not matched by any authority to make decisions binding on members, or on specialised agencies. ECOSOC's mandate in relation to the specialised agencies was to coordinate their economic, social and related work. It also had to oversee a wide range of functional commissions and five regional commissions that reported directly to it.

ECOSOC's first session took place in January and February 1946. Its discussions then on negotiating agreements with the specialised agencies identified two contrasting views, held by two associated groups of members. One group favoured shaping the council's agencies and the commissions into a tightly integrated set of subordinate organisations operating under the direct policy guidance of ECOSOC. The other group, which included most of the industrialised and larger member states, did not support this approach, and knew that they were in a position to control several of the specialised agencies–especially the IMF and the IBRD, which had weighted voting systems, not the 'one member, one vote' system in ECOSOC and the General Assembly.

The Australian government, now led by Chifley as prime minister, was broadly in favour of a more centralised approach. Such an approach would be needed if the government's goal of full employment as the leading objective for international economic coordination were to be achieved. Australia's view was that: first, responsibility for overall international economic policy and the coordination of associated functions should rest with ECOSOC, particularly its Economic and Employment Commission; second, coordination of regional and inter-regional plans should rest with the new regional commissions, such as the Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East (ECAFE), though they were ultimately subordinate to ECOSOC; and third, the implementation of plans should be the responsibility of the relevant specialised agencies.537

The Charter, however, did not give ECOSOC the necessary authority or power to achieve the role envisaged by Australia. Even if it had, the degree of centralised planning and control over economic and social development Australia hoped for was not acceptable to the US delegation. As Evatt noted, when he asked the General Assembly on 18 September 1947, 'Is the Economic and Social Council to be all harness and no horse?', the answer, for the most part, was 'Yes'.538

An article written fifty years after these events by Arthur Tange, at the time a DEA officer with the Australian mission to the United Nations, and later the department's secretary, noted:

New agencies to handle economic and social activities were set up separately from the UN and they evaded effective oversight by the ECOSOC. Significantly, the organisation which most firmly distanced itself from the body containing the full employment pledge was the International Monetary Fund where our first efforts had failed. Burton's hopes of a central UN powerhouse (backed in Australia by more authority housed in External Affairs) collapsed in New York and in Canberra.539

It was not only in regard to ECOSOC that the hopes of Evatt and John Burton, Secretary of the DEA at the time, for effective, international economic policy coordination were dashed. As Tange further noted, the relevant government departments took little or no notice of ECOSOC's work and recommendations:

I began to recognise these realities after sitting in sessions of the ECOSOC and, after returning to the Department in Canberra in the late forties, observing the lack of discernible impact of UN recommendations on the formulation of Australia's fiscal and trade policies in other departments which retained sole responsibility for them.540

A change to a Coalition government in Australia following the 1949 federal elections saw a lessening of the importance of the United Nations and ECOSOC in government policy. This continued until the re-election of a Labor government in 1972 under the prime ministership of Gough Whitlam.541 This is not to say that, in the 1950s and 1960s, the United Nations was not acknowledged in Australia as a valuable forum for determining and, to a lesser extent, influencing the views of member states to take positions in line with Australian interests. However, it was not seen as the global focus of international economic policy development and administration. The goal of an international economic order remained an ideal, towards which only limited progress was being made. Australian bilateral relations, notably with the United States, were given an increased emphasis and the specialised agencies were dealt with, for the most part, via the Australian representatives on the governing boards and their supporting delegations. These relations were largely the responsibility of departments other than the DEA and its successor departments, and were loosely coordinated by annual (later biennial) meetings organised by the DEA, as well as through correspondence between the officers involved.

The reduced emphasis on Australia's activities in the United Nations of the 1949 Coalition government marked the start of a repetitive political cycle in attitudes of Australian governments toward the United Nations and the specialised agencies, especially the ILO: Coalition governments typically reduced emphasis and resources, and Labor governments revived both, but never to the extent reached in the Evatt years. However, regardless of the party in office, there was a continuing, if diminished and fluctuating, concern voiced by Australian delegates, whether as elected members to ECOSOC or as interested participants in General Assembly debates, regarding ECOSOC's role in relation to the specialised agencies. The matters of concern were also largely common to both political parties over the next sixty-five years.

There were, for example, repeated calls for more effective coordination of the work of the agencies, including by the Administrative Committee for Coordination and its successor, the Chief Executives Board for Coordination, in order to avoid duplication and thus increase efficiency. This was especially the case in regard to the importance of the agencies' role in the UN's rapidly augmented development efforts.542 Australian representatives were often critical of what they saw as the agencies' reluctance to engage in an integrated technical assistance program. Such criticism was increasingly accompanied by efforts, often through ECAFE, to ensure that more UN resources were allocated to the Asia–Pacific region. Fifty years later, in 1995, Australia's Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Richard Butler, in a statement to ECOSOC, argued that its performance in relation to the coordination of the specialised agencies was still limited and that the agencies were fixated on their independence from the council, and thus were not cooperating in a proactive manner.543 Minister for Foreign Affairs Gareth Evans agreed and, while endorsing efforts to achieve political consensus, stressed that the UN bodies devoted to economic and social reform were 'urgently in need of reform'.544

While the increasing chill of the Cold War and the rapid expansion in UN membership with the newly independent states in the late 1950s and 1960s are important factors in explaining the limited role played by ECOSOC in relation to the specialised agencies, they were not the only factors. The records of Dumbarton Oaks and the San Francisco Conference, as well as those of leading participants, demonstrate that none of the major powers wished ECOSOC to have the authoritative role envisaged by the Australian Labor governments of the 1940s. Such a role would have involved a significant increase in the constraints on international and domestic decision-making, and the major powers were unwilling or unable to accept that. By the 1990s, the situation had changed little, even with the end of the Cold War and dying claims for a new international economic order.

Australia, the IMF and the IBRD

The economists and government officials in Australia and the Allied countries working on plans for the postwar era saw the following as major constraints on the achievement of an open trading system, which would lead to economic growth and sustainable, high levels of employment: fluctuating exchange rates, free movement of capital, and jealously protected national monetary and fiscal policies (as had occurred during the Great Depression). So it is not surprising that several of their first policy designs for a postwar international monetary system contained significant supranational elements, notably proposals for an effective system of international, intergovernmental management of the system.545 What resulted, however, was a more modest and, importantly, politically more acceptable solution in the form of two linked institutions, the IMF and the IBRD. The original plan was for a third institution covering international trade, the ITO, but continuing opposition from the US Congress saw it come to nought, with only the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) surviving. It was not until the creation of the WTO in 1995 that such a body came into being.

In summary, the IMF was to promote international monetary cooperation, facilitate the expansion and balanced growth of world trade, including the elimination of foreign exchange restrictions, promote exchange rate stability and help establish a multilateral payments system for current transactions. The IBRD, or World Bank, was to assist in postwar reconstruction by providing investment capital, and to encourage economic development in less developed countries. Both institutions have seen significant change in their roles over time; Australian attitudes toward them have also changed.

Opposition, uncertainty and cautious membership

As Leslie Crisp indicated in his biography of Chifley, getting agreement in Cabinet and among the ALP to membership of the IMF and IBRD 'was to prove the sternest of all tests of Chifley's political leadership'.546 Opposition came from within the ALP because both institutions stimulated deeply held fears and suspicions about their potential for advancing the interests of the international financiers, who were blamed for the severity of the Depression and the very high levels of unemployment in the 1930s. These were fears and suspicions initially strengthened by the uncertain, varying and cautious advice being received by Cabinet from Australia's economic advisers and negotiators before, during and after the July 1944 Bretton Woods Conference.

Melville's pre-conference report on the earlier London discussions (March 1944), for example, recommended that the IMF could be accepted provided: one, that the annual permissible drawing rights were increased to 33 per cent of the quota for countries whose gold reserves were low at the commencement of the IMF; and two, that unless a satisfactory alternative could be found, countries whose export price levels had fallen more than their import price levels should have greater freedom to vary their exchange rates. The report also noted that the initial US proposals for an 'investment bank' were unsatisfactory and would be discussed at a later date.547

Melville's report reinforced Cabinet's concerns, and it agreed to send just three delegates to Bretton Woods, without a minister, and with strict instructions not to commit the government in any way. Australia achieved a number of successes at the conference, notably the gaining of an increase in the quota allocated to Australia and an increase in the extent of governments' discretion to vary exchange rates. It failed, however, to embed the government's cherished goal of full employment as a major objective of the IMF. The conference report was cautious in tone, indicating a number of reservations, but it did recommend that Australia take up membership of the IMF.548 Given the extent of Cabinet's opposition to the report, however, Chifley decided not to press the matter at that time and undertook a campaign of persuasion. This strategy proved successful, and in 1947 Cabinet endorsed the formal proposal.

Australian fears regarding both the IBRD and the IMF proved largely groundless. The IBRD became a major source of scarce US dollar loans for Australia's internal development purposes for most of the 1950s and early 1960s. The IMF played a largely passive role in terms of its major objectives for much of the period up to the mid-1950s. Nonetheless, its role was not unimportant for Australia, as membership entailed an acceptance of a specific stance in members' monetary policy settings. This focused on the goal of stabilising individual members' currency exchange rates within agreed limits around the par values notified by members on gaining membership (these were set either in US dollars or gold). While minor changes to rates lay within the discretion of national governments, giving them a degree of policy autonomy, changes above
10 per cent entailed consultation with the IMF, as did requests for rate changes that arose from fundamental disequilibrium. For the most part, central banks or their equivalents were left free to determine other aspects of monetary policy as long as they did not clash with the main objective of monetary stability.

In 1951 the passive role of the IMF was receiving sharp criticism from a number of members, including Australia, whose representative noted in a closed plenary session at the IMF's annual meeting that 'the early hopes placed in the Fund had not been realised and its position and prestige were waning'.549 In the IMF's financial year 1950/51, for example, there was only one drawing on the Fund–by Brazil, for sterling.550 The British and Australian view was that drawings on the IMF should be automatic, constrained only by relevant administrative procedures. The US executive director on the Fund's Executive Board,551 in contrast, felt that each application should be carefully scrutinised and, if agreed to, be subject to conditions to repay within a specific time period. Cabinet had in fact authorised the Australian executive director at the Fund to oppose the US position on the grounds that it was tantamount to amending the Fund's Articles of Agreement by administrative decision. But he was also instructed to indicate Australia's acknowledgement of the problem and that it was willing to consider negotiations towards a solution.552 Ivar Rooth, the IMF's Managing Director from 1951 to 1956, eventually managed to gain members' agreement that there would be very limited automatic drawing rights for the near future and that the IMF would act as a short-term credit institution, with applications being assessed on their merits and subject to a variety of specific conditions.553

Influencing policy in the IMF: From the 1960s to the present

Compared with the formal powers of the United States and other large members of the IMF, Australia's ability to influence the Fund's activities was, and is, limited, especially on major new developments. This became clear in 1962, for example, in the development of what was initially called the Group of Ten (G10)–Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, the United States, Belgium, the Netherlands and Sweden. In 1964, with the addition of Switzerland, it became eleven. In summary, the members of the G10 were increasingly concerned about the IMF's capacity to provide the finance needed if the United States (in regard to the US dollar) and the United Kingdom (in regard to sterling) needed substantial assistance. The result was an agreement among the G10 members to create the General Arrangements to Borrow (GAB). This enabled the IMF, subject to the agreement of the G10 members, to borrow large amounts should it be necessary. Furthermore, the G10 members persuaded the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) to establish a special working party, Working Party III of its Economic Policy Committee, to focus on the balance of payments issues of the major industrial countries: this became the forum in which OECD members coordinated their approach to issues on the IMF's agenda.

The establishment of such a group, outside the IMF but with substantial power within it, caused considerable resentment among non-G10 members, including Australia.554 In part, the formation of the G10 led to the development of the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), which stimulated the establishment of the Group of Seventy-Seven (G77) in 1964 to represent the interests of the developing countries555 and, in 1971, the formation of the Intergovernmental Group of Twenty-Four on International Monetary Affairs and Development (G24) to coordinate the position of developing countries on monetary and development issues.556 All these developments left Australia in a difficult political position. On the one hand, the bulk of its interests, both economic and security, rested with G10 members, notably the United States and, though increasingly less so, the United Kingdom. On the other hand, it shared the resentment of the developing country members of the IMF, the IBRD and, to an extent, UNCTAD and the United Nations regarding the essentially unaccountable power of the G10. It was a situation that remained frustrating to the Australian government until the 1990s, and it required Australia to tread a difficult path in its relationships, at least within the major international organisations.557

This is not to suggest that Australia's representatives were or are powerless within either the IMF or the IBRD, as more recent experience demonstrates. Australian representatives played a significant role in the IMF's response to the Asian financial crisis in 1997. In 1999, Australia became a member both of the Financial Stability Forum (FSF) and the Group of Twenty (G20), the Group of Seven (G7)558 initiative that was established 'to bring together systemically important industrialised and developing economies to discuss key issues in the global economy'.559 Australia's inclusion among what are termed the 'systemically important' countries came about because it had been pressing the case for greater representation by a wider range of increasingly important economies for several years, it had influential and well-articulated analysis to back up this claim, and the Australian economy was growing in importance, especially given its location in the Asia–Pacific region, among so many of the emerging economies.

The FSF–since 2009 the Financial Stability Board (FSB)–was established to encourage international financial stability through enhanced information exchange and cooperation in financial supervision and surveillance, following members' dissatisfaction with the performance in these areas–by the IMF, the Bank for International Settlements, the OECD and the independent Basel Committee on Banking Supervision–in relation to the 1997 Asian financial crisis. The original members were the G7 finance ministers, through whom the body was established, plus four other countries representing significant financial centres: Australia, Hong Kong, the Netherlands and Singapore. Membership of the FSB has been extended to include those G20 members not represented on the FSF. The body includes senior representatives from international financial institutions, international groupings of regulators and supervisors, committees of central bank experts and national authorities responsible for financial stability. Australia is represented by the Governor of the Reserve Bank, with a group of bank and Treasury staff involved in several of the FSB's working groups.

Australian representatives were by no means confident of the initial capacities and likely performance of the FSF or the G20. Nor were they confident about the overall performance of the international financial system. They argued as early as 1999, for example, that the membership of the FSF needed to be broadened if it were to gain and retain international credibility.560 This argument was repeated on several occasions over the next decade.561 While their case addressed increasingly serious issues, as the global financial crisis of 2008/09 was to demonstrate, the expansion of IMF membership and an increase and redistribution of Fund quotas would work only marginally in Australia's favour. In particular, they would reduce the dominance of the long-established major members and increase the power of emerging economies, especially from the Asia–Pacific region.

Australia's limited but growing influence in the IMF can be seen in the establishment by the Fund's Executive Board of the New Arrangements to Borrow (NAB) in 1997 (becoming effective in 1998). The NAB is a credit arrangement between the IMF and twenty-six members, initiated following the 1995 Mexican financial crisis, on the basis of a suggestion from the G7 meeting in Halifax. As with the GAB, the stimulus was a fear that more resources than were available within the IMF or the GAB would be needed to meet any future financial crises.562 As noted above, Australia had reacted negatively to the creation of the GAB, an attitude that had persisted into the 1990s. The 1994/95 report on Australian activities at the IMF somewhat caustically noted that the conditions of access to the GAB were stricter for non-G10 members, and that it had been used only for the benefit of other GAB members, resulting in the division of IMF membership into first- and second-class citizens, with Australia in the latter category.563 Hence, when the G10 approached Australia to participate in an extended GAB, the response was cautious, and included a set of criteria for participation: one, that all participants in the proposed scheme would have equal rights and responsibilities; two, that contributions would be based on the relative standing of participants; and, three, that voting rights would be determined by the share of commitments undertaken. In effect, Australia had put forward a set of arrangements to borrow that were different from those applicable within the GAB.564 With the G10 members keen to share the cost burden of the proposal, as well as to incorporate new members, it was agreed that negotiations would take place on the basis of the Australian proposal. Broad agreement was reached in May 1996.565

Similar examples of Australia's improved position can be seen most recently in its involvement in the report of an external review committee on IMF–World Bank relationships (the Malan report)566 and in the IMF working group established by the G20 nations (after the onset of the global financial crisis) to propose reforms to the Fund's quota and governance systems.567 The Fund–Bank review committee was established by both bodies in 2006, following criticisms of their efforts to collaborate, which formed part of an ongoing, more general criticism of IMF governance.568 Several of the criticisms had been voiced by past and present Australian executive directors in the Fund, including Michael Callaghan, who was appointed as a member of the review committee, itself an indicator of the increased respect for and acceptance of Australian views on the need for IMF reform.

The Malan report found that close collaboration between the World Bank and the IMF was important given their distinct, though closely linked, mandates, but that poor collaboration had occasionally imposed a significant cost on members. Although it was evident that the two organisations worked well together, there was scope for improvement, especially in the development of strategy and in consideration of how collaboration could be made more effective. The report was presented in 2007 and the result was an agreed Joint Management Action Plan to implement the recommendations.569

At the end of his appointment to the IMF, Michael Callaghan returned to the Australian Treasury, but his work as a member of the Malan committee, his experience as an IMF executive director, and his exposure as the prime minister's special representative for the G20 saw that group agree to his co-chairing its working group on IMF reform. The appointment was an acknowledgement not only of Callaghan's individual status, but also of the respect which G20 members had for Australia at the height of the global financial crisis. The Malan committee reported in 2009 and its recommendations have been discussed at length by the IMF Executive Board, as has the Fund's own eminent persons' report, completed in 2009. Both have formed the core of a final set of reforms.570

In addition to the contributions that can be made by its appointees, the Australian Treasury finds membership of the IMF valuable.571 It provides an opportunity to influence the economic policies of a range of national economies, big and small–the opportunity is exercised through membership of the Executive Board and the Interim Committee, through commentary on the Article IV (Obligations Regarding Exchange Arrangements) consultations conducted annually for most members, as well as informally in the corridors of power, and by virtue of the presence of eminent Australian officials on a number of key IMF and G20 reform committees. In earlier years membership also provided, in line with the IMF's major objective, funds to assist the government when faced with balance of payments difficulties: this occurred in 1949, 1952 and 1961. In recent decades, however, the gradually increasing strength of the Australian economy has resulted, for the most part, in Australian dollars being drawn upon by other members of the Fund when they are facing similar difficulties.

The IMF's influence in Australia

It is difficult to be precise about the extent of the influence of the IMF in Australia. As noted above, membership entails an acceptance of the Fund's Articles of Agreement and its operating policies and procedures, such as those entailed in the Article IV consultations. In the period before the 'collapse' of the par value system in the 1970s the IMF's influence was significant. In particular, the prevailing system, with its restrictions on the power of governments to vary exchange rates, meant that governments–when faced with balance of payments difficulties–had to resort to other policies, largely domestic policies aimed at a general contraction of economic activity. In this sense the IMF had considerable influence on at least the broad directions of Australian monetary and economic policies, though it did not determine the precise selection of policies and settings used. Even here, the Fund's advice in regular Article IV consultations and, before that, in Australia's case, consultations arising from Article XIV, Section 4 (Transitional Arrangements) had a degree of influence.572

For the most part, however, it is unlikely that the policies of successive Australian governments would have been very different had Australia not been a member of the Fund. One study suggests that the IMF's influence has varied over the years. Prior to 1983, for example, the IMF urged Australian governments to decrease their reliance on direct taxation, increase reliance on indirect taxation, especially on consumer goods (through some form of consumption tax), and, over the medium term, reduce tariffs. These recommendations were implemented in the late 1980s and the 1990s, although the stimulus for the changes also came from domestic sources.573 In relation to monetary policy and institutions, the Fund, in line with the Articles of Agreement, encouraged Australia to make its currency convertible, which was achieved in 1965. In addition, from the mid-1970s and the collapse of the par value system, the IMF's advice to Australia (and to other members) was that it should move to a more flexible exchange rate regime, let markets determine interest rates and reduce public debt levels. It was advice that seems to have had most impact on the Labor governments from 1983 to 1996, when the Fund's recommendations were largely put into effect, albeit over a number of years, as part of a wide-ranging program of macroeconomic and microeconomic change.574

As a small, open economy in an increasingly interdependent set of national economies, it is not sufficient for Australian interests to be advanced only by sound domestic financial and monetary policy. Those interests also require well-regulated international financial and monetary systems and, hence, Australian involvement in the key institutions that develop and apply such regulation. While the IMF is only one of those institutions, it is an important one and much of Australian international economic policy has been aimed at maintaining and enhancing IMF effectiveness.

A member and a borrower: Australian involvement with the IBRD in the 1950s

In contrast to its initial responses to the IMF, Australia's attitude to the IBRD was more positive, as its potential as a source of scarce funds for Australian economic development became evident in the 1950s. By 1957, Australia was the second largest (to Japan) single borrower from the IBRD, having borrowed a total of US$317.7 million, largely for developments such as the Snowy Mountains Scheme.575 This more positive attitude was despite concern surrounding the distinct reluctance of the IBRD (like the IMF) to surrender any of its independence to ECOSOC.576 Australia was not alone in its position on the IBRD. As early as 1951, there was a marked difference in standing between the Bank and the Fund among the membership, with the former almost universally praised, including by Australia, and the latter having 'to take a number of hard knocks' from nearly all Fund members other than the United States.577

Australian success in gaining IBRD loans initially came as a surprise. The first Australian team sent to negotiate a loan, for example, arrived in Washington with a set of what were later described as 'impossible conditions' in its loan proposal. The team apparently expected to be turned down by the Bank, at which point they would turn to the US Export–Import Bank for the loan. However, the proposal was so well argued and detailed that, taken with Australia's excellent credit record, its support (with the United States) of the UN effort in the Korean War and Prime Minister Robert Menzies' personal visit to leading figures in the US administration, the requested US$100 million loan was approved within three weeks. Australia's success in gaining IBRD loans led to early directions being issued to Australian delegations to the IBRD that 'in any discussion on the operations or policy of the bank, the Australian Delegation should be most tactful', and that Australian policy was to strongly support a high volume of lending.578 This positive view of the Bank was also at the time stimulated by hopes for funding for the Colombo Plan, a development initiative being promoted by Minister for External Affairs Percy Spender.579

The IBRD, developing countries and Australia

As the hopes for IBRD Colombo Plan funding suggest, Australian governments were increasingly supportive of the Bank lending to developing countries, both in general and, specifically, for Southeast Asia and the South Pacific. This objective was emphasised in a 1950 Cabinet decision that 'Australia should support as high a priority as possible for the projects presented to the International Bank which would contribute to the economic well being of the area.'580 It is also evident in Australia's decision, as a founding member within what is now known as the World Bank Group, to support the establishment of the International Finance Corporation (IFC) in 1956 and the International Development Association (IDA) in 1960, both aimed at supplementing the activities of the IBRD.

The IFC was set up to provide loans directly to private enterprise, particularly, but not only, in less developed countries. The IDA's origins lay in the growing feeling that many developing countries needed IBRD loans, but increasingly could not afford them, and the Eisenhower administration's desire to reduce the growing impact of Soviet aid to these countries. The IDA was to meet this need by providing interest-free credit or grants, disciplined by IBRD procedures and experience. Unlike the IBRD, the IDA was funded by voluntary subscriptions from IBRD members and so required regular replenishment of its funds; it had no significant income streams of its own.

The establishment of the IFC and the IDA gave institutional form to the IBRD's increasing focus on aid for development purposes. As a result, an increasing portion of the Australian aid budget, traditionally largely bilateral, was channelled through the IDA: the extent of the work involved entailed the attachment of an Australian Development Assistance Agency official to the body. Both the Colombo Plan and, increasingly, Australia's trust territory, Papua and New Guinea, received aid from the World Bank Group. For example, by 1971 the IBRD and the IDA had approved six loans totalling US$45.7 million for large-scale development projects in the territory, all guaranteed by the Australian government.581 These loans were an extremely valuable supplement to other aid to Papua and New Guinea, and came at little direct cost to the Commonwealth government.

While Australian support for the IFC and IDA was, and continues to be, motivated in part by humanitarian concerns, it was seen as a way to facilitate the advancement of Australian economic and security interests as well. Australian support also reflected a continuing belief that the best form of assistance was aid for a country's economic development.582 The security motivation was more strongly emphasised in the years before the break-up of the Soviet Union, when aid for economic development in Southeast Asia and the South Pacific was seen as a path towards economic–and, in turn, political–stability, particularly in countries with strong communist movements.583 The IFC's focus on assistance directly to firms offered a threefold opportunity for Australian businesses in that they were eligible: one, for loans, initially at generous rates and, later, equity investment for their expansion within Australia; two, for loans and equity investment when moving offshore to developing countries; and three, for IFC advice and assistance.584

From efficiency to World Bank reform

As indicated, Australian governments were generally positive about the IBRD (especially while continuing to borrow), but by the late 1980s concerns were being raised as to its efficiency. In parliament, there were demands for annual Treasury assessments of the 'managerial efficiency, and financial and economic effectiveness' of the IBRD, as required by the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (General Capital Increase) Act 1989. As a result, a review was undertaken of the effectiveness of the global multilateral organisations in Australia's development cooperation program. It was jointly conducted by the Australian International Development Assistance Bureau, Treasury and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT). While the review rated the IBRD and IDA as more than satisfactory on most criteria, it found the IFC satisfactory overall, but low on some criteria.585 There was also criticism of the effectiveness of its programs, especially those focused on poverty reduction–a key aim of Australian aid programs–and of the lack of systematic evaluation by the IBRD of its projects. A 1995 Treasury report noted that '[i]n the Australian Government's view … there is substantial room for further improvement in the Bank's performance'.586

By 2009 the World Bank Group had become Australia's largest non-government development partner, by virtue of the group's co-financing of an increasing range of joint aid projects. In summary, the IBRD now provides not only financial resources, but also what is described as 'convening power' to bring together donors, partner governments and other multilateral financial institutions in planning and implementing projects, as well as extensive knowledge and experience. While acknowledging that IBRD reforms had been undertaken from the 1990s onwards, a 2009 Treasury report determined that further reforms were necessary, though the focus of those would now be on increasing the 'voice and participation reform' of developing countries in order for them to gain a greater degree of influence in decision-making within the Bank.587

Australia has had long and, for the most part, fruitful relationships with the IMF and the World Bank, relationships that have survived the changing roles of both institutions in international economic governance. Moreover, Australian representatives at both institutions have, at times, achieved a degree of influence, through the quality of their arguments and their individual skills and capabilities.

Australia, the origins of the FAO and the Codex Alimentarius

Agriculture and food have played an important, if gradually declining, role in the Australian economy and, similarly, have been a major, if declining, component of its exports since 1945. Hence, Australian governments have been, and remain, deeply interested and involved in international developments related to agriculture and food (including forestry and fisheries) since the earliest international discussions on a proposed FAO.

This section is divided into two parts. The first examines the origins of Australia's interest in, and somewhat idealistic hopes for, the FAO, again highlighting the challenge posed to the government's management capacities when faced with a sudden expansion in the proposed number and type of international bodies involved. The second moves forward some fifty years to illustrate how Australia's involvement with the FAO has both increased and changed in its focus, by briefly examining its involvement with the Codex Alimentarius. The section demonstrates the growing complexity of the global food and agriculture regime and the increasing involvement in that regime by Australian organisations. It also explains how the UN's specialised agencies, while still important, are all now part of a more complex set of global regimes, posing a growing management challenge for national administrations.

Origins and overlaps

In the first twenty-five years after its creation in 1945, the FAO was the pre-eminent intergovernmental agency in international food and agriculture. Its objectives, in summary, were to collect, analyse, interpret and disseminate the agricultural knowledge necessary to meet the world's food and nutrition needs. The major food shortages of the immediate postwar years, followed by the rapid increase in UN membership of developing countries in the 1950s and 1960s, saw the organisation's early work focused on increasing food production by educating farmers about improved technologies and production processes. This work was greatly assisted by the creation of the Expanded Programme of Technical Assistance (EPTA) and the UN Special Fund in the 1950s, both of which provided the FAO with increased funds for developing countries. Similarly, the UN Development Programme, formed by a merger of EPTA and the Special Fund in 1966, provided development funds from 1970 on.588 In effect, the FAO became the project director and administrative agent for most UN agriculture programs.

Australian involvement in the development of the FAO was at a very high level. Senior government economist FL McDougall, for example, had helped persuade President Franklin D Roosevelt of the value of such an organisation in September 1942 and was involved, as an adviser to the US delegation, in the preparatory work for the 1943 Hot Springs Conference that led to the FAO's formation.589 At the request of the US administration, the Australian government also released McDougall to serve on the interim commission that drew up the FAO's constitution. He later became an assistant director-general at the FAO, and devoted the remainder of his life to the organisation.590 There was little or no opposition in Australia to membership of the FAO, and Evatt's submission to Cabinet was relatively short and to the point, noting that 'Australia is greatly affected by world standards of consumption and the organisation of agricultural products', and that the organisation's objectives were 'in harmony with Australian international economic policy'.591 An inter-departmental committee–consisting of the DEA, Treasury, the DPWR, and the departments of Health, and Commerce and Agriculture–was established to coordinate Australian interests. It reported to the Minister for External Affairs, not to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture.592

While Australian membership of the FAO came about relatively smoothly, the arena of food and agriculture became complex and contested over the next few years, posing increasing difficulties for Australian policy and diplomacy. Allied discussions about the possibility of an ITO, prompted by the US objectives of multilateralism and non-discrimination, led to the United States calling a conference on international trade and employment in December 1945. Australia became one of eighteen countries to attend these meetings, which took place over the next three years.593 The problem with the FAO was that its constitution specified the promotion of policies for agricultural credit and, importantly, the adoption of international policies regarding agricultural commodity arrangements, as key functions.594 The latter was attractive to an Australian government keen to see the development of at least some international commodity agreements, particularly for wheat. The government hoped such agreements would stabilise prices, as the provisional
1942 International Wheat Agreement had been abandoned and no new agreement had been reached at the London Wheat Conference in 1947.595

The potential role for the FAO in relation to commodity agreements, however, was being rapidly eclipsed by discussions about the potential role for the ITO in the regulation of trade, including trade in agriculture and commodity agreements. Matters were further complicated by the fact that, as the World Food Board (WFB) emerged and ITO discussions continued, a new International Wheat Agreement, to which Australia was a signatory, was sealed in 1949.596 Also, to a lesser extent, there was a potential for overlap between the work of the FAO and that of the IBRD in regard to credit facilities. Most importantly–and despite the strong opposition of Australia, New Zealand and the other commodity-exporting countries–the US representatives had managed to include agriculture as an exceptional case in the draft ITO charter: members would be permitted to retain a much higher degree of protection for agricultural products than for industrial products.597 This, in turn, meant that any hopes Australia had for working through either the FAO or the ITO to pursue international commodity arrangements were likely to be dashed by US opposition–at least if those hopes involved moves to use commodity agreements to lower barriers to trade in agricultural products. As it happened, the ITO came to nought, with the more limited GATT taking its place.

The WFB posed similar and further difficulties for the Australian government and its negotiators. In relation to the FAO, in particular, the WFB proposal made a difficult situation even more difficult. In summary, the FAO was developing slowly, with major divisions between its members as to the type of organisation it should become. Some supported a steady development of its technical assistance and advisory role. Others, despite the constraints in the FAO's constitution, wanted it to take on executive functions. These included food-importing members faced with severe food shortages, as well as those keen to see the FAO quickly develop international commodity agreements so as to stabilise food prices.598 The WFB proposal was based on ideas that had been developed and promoted by, among others, the FAO's first Director-General, Sir John Boyd-Orr, and McDougall. Its proposed functions were: to stabilise agricultural food prices; to establish a world food reserve to cope with emergencies; to provide funds for the disposal of food surpluses to countries in need; and to cooperate with bodies such as the IBRD and the IMF to provide the necessary credit facilities, and with trade organisations regarding the place of the organisation and its activities in international trade (a reference to the ITO).599 If accepted, these functions would have made the WFB a new, powerful and central player in the nascent world food and agriculture regime. This would, of course, have become a further complicating factor for the Australians involved in the discussions relating to wheat agreements and the ITO.

The WFB proposal released on 9 August 1946 received a somewhat negative response from the US administration.600 The proposal also produced a swift reaction from the British government: a request to Australia for advice as to where its government stood. The British agreed with the proposal's assessment of the food shortage situation but had 'considerable doubts' about the proposed policies and organisational arrangements for dealing with the problem. There was also the possibility that the proposal's use of buffer stocks of food to stabilise food prices might overlap with the proposal for a Commodity Commission in the ITO that was being discussed. In summary, the United Kingdom suggested that, given the implications of the WFB proposal for a range of UN agencies, including the IBRD, the IMF and the proposed ITO, ECOSOC should examine the matter, with the participation of the specialised agencies. The US position was that the FAO conference should call for the establishment of an international committee to examine the WFB.601

Australia endorsed the British view, agreeing that the WFB proposal needed further examination and noting that most of the specific WFB proposals were already listed in one form or another for consideration at the forthcoming ITO discussions. It was particularly concerned about the implications of the WFB proposal for the IBRD and the IMF, as well as about the practical difficulties of gaining agreement among the states on the large number of commodities in question, given its ongoing involvement in the wheat agreement discussions.602 There was also a view that the FAO's weak organisation and management performance needed to be addressed before it took on such an ambitious project as the WFB.603

The FAO's Copenhagen Conference agreed that the proposal needed more detailed consideration and a preparatory commission was set up, with an independent chair: former Australian prime minister, Stanley Bruce. Australia was one of sixteen countries initially invited to join the commission, with other representatives drawn from the IBRD, the IMF, the ILO, the WHO and ECOSOC.604 The commission, in its January 1947 report, did not recommend the creation of a WFB: it had failed to gain US, UK and Australian support.605 Instead, the commission recommended an eighteen-member World Food Council (WFC), with Australia as a member, to monitor and review world food supplies and to advise the FAO on the international coordination of agriculture and nutrition programs and on commodity operations and emergency measures. It was also proposed that the WFC replace the existing FAO Executive Committee, a body composed of independent experts rather than government representatives and which was unpopular with most FAO governments, including that of Australia. This was a far weaker organisation than Boyd-Orr had envisaged. It became even weaker. While the following FAO Conference in Geneva did set up the FAO Council, with Bruce as its first chair, the members did not implement the preparatory commission's detailed recommendations.606 Australia's subsequent engagement with the FAO is discussed in Chapter 6.

The Codex and Australian food regulation

The food and agriculture regime set up in the 1940s was complex, and it became progressively more so over the next sixty years. Australian decision-makers faced an ever more challenging task as they attempted to pursue a coherent set of policies in a range of international bodies with linked and sometimes overlapping interests. It was a task in which domestic and foreign economic policy issues were increasingly interdependent, as can be seen in relation to the Codex Alimentarius (the Codex). The Codex is a set of internationally agreed standards regarding food, food production and food safety. The standards are developed and maintained by the Codex Alimentarius Commission, a body jointly established by the FAO and the WHO in 1963. A dense network of Australian domestic organisations link to the Codex and to other food and agriculture networks associated with, but separate from, the Codex, such as the International Food Safety Authorities Network (INFOSAN). The latter was set up by the FAO and the WHO at the second Global Forum of Food Safety Regulators, with the aims of promoting the rapid exchange of information during food safety-related events and strengthening members' capacities to manage food safety risks. Australia was among over one hundred countries that joined INFOSAN.

Both the WHO (Article 2u) and the FAO (Articles 1, 2e) were given responsibilities for international food standards and, as early as 1950, they commenced joint meetings on nutrition, food additives and related areas. However, work was sporadic until the 1960s, when the first FAO Regional Conference for Europe endorsed the need for international food standards and asked the FAO's Director-General to submit proposals for a joint FAO–WHO Food Standards Programme. This was established in 1963. Its purpose was to develop and promulgate minimum standards for food products and related things, including labelling requirements and methods of analysis. These were intended to serve as model regulations for national decision-makers, and would thus aid in the protection of consumer health and help ensure quality.

Until the creation of the WTO the standards were voluntary, but the Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (the SPS Agreement) and the Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade created a legal framework that provided incentives for member states to base their regulation on Codex standards.607 There were two motives for the creation of the WTO framework: one, the development of common international food standards that would reduce the regulatory costs of international trade in foods by requiring businesses to meet only one set of standards; and two, to attempt to prevent countries using their national standards as, in effect, barriers to trade. These motives (particularly the latter) were very soundly endorsed by food exporters such as Australia.608

The WTO's use of the Codex as an authoritative reference source has posed, and continues to pose, a problem in that its two aims–protecting public safety by establishing and promulgating food standards and assisting in the reduction of technical barriers to trade–are not always compatible. Also, an increasing number of interested parties are attending the Codex Alimentarius Commission, especially the specialist committees that prepare sets of draft principles for consideration by the commission's central committees. Many non-state organisations, including industry associations and lobby groups, have observer status on the Codex committees. They can table proposals and engage in discussion, and can often determine the agenda of national-level consultative committees. However, these organisations cannot vote. Voting is reserved for the member state representatives.609

In Australia, the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF) organises and coordinates a complex network of consultative committees and associated processes that link Australian businesses, state governments and not-for-profit organisations into the Codex decision-making processes. In the recent past, for example, as many as ten committees and three taskforces developed general standards and guidelines that cut across industries in relation to food additives, for instance, and import and export certification systems. Another ten committees and one taskforce developed specific standards related to specific food commodity groups, including cereals, pulses and legumes, and milk and milk products. Additionally, the Codex is closely linked to Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ), which sets food standards for Australia and New Zealand and regards its relationship with the Codex as a key priority in its work.610 FSANZ food safety programs, for example, are based on the Codex's Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point system, a methodology used to identify and assess hazards in the food production process. Appropriate control measures are then developed.611 A number of FSANZ's senior administrative and scientific staff are also lead delegates on Codex committees, including the Committee on Nutrition and Foods for Special Dietary Use.

The FAO is now only one actor in a more complex governance regime than can have been imagined in 1945. This means that Australian activities in regard to the FAO have to be planned and conducted with an eye to their impact on the other international bodies involved, notably the WTO. It is this latter body that is the central forum for negotiations on international regulations relating to agriculture and food, not the FAO. In turn, the careful analysis, negotiation and routine work needed to achieve success in this regime require equally careful coordination not only by DAFF, but also by DFAT and the Department of Health and Ageing.

Australia and UNESCO

Australia was a founding member of UNESCO, and its membership has continued unbroken to this day. This section focuses on three issues: first, Australian involvement in the creation of UNESCO; second, the manner in which the relationship with UNESCO was organised and managed, particularly in the earlier years; and third, Australia's involvement in UNESCO's fields of competence, particularly its role as the lead UN agency in the drive to achieve the objectives of the Global Partnership for Education (formerly known as the Education for All – Fast Track Initiative)612 and improve the quality of education in developing countries.

Australia and the origins of UNESCO

Australia's involvement in the development of an international educational and cultural organisation began in 1944, when it was invited to send representatives to the Conference of Allied Ministers of Education (CAME), which had been meeting in London since November 1942. In October 1944, CAME agreed to consider a long-term project to establish what was then described as a 'United Nations Bureau of Education'. This was the first of a series of meetings that culminated in the signing of the UNESCO constitution on 16 November 1945.613

For the Australian government, notwithstanding its support for the new agency, this was the beginning of an involvement that would put new and increasing demands on its very limited organisational capacities in relation to education. The creation of UNESCO coincided with, as noted earlier, the establishment of the Commonwealth Office of Education within the DPWR under the Education Act 1945. The Act gave the new office six functions, the second of which included the role of establishing and maintaining 'a liaison on matters relating to education with other countries'.614 While the office had a largely domestic focus, one of its activities was, in consultation with the DEA, to provide administrative support for Australia's National Commission for UNESCO.615

Evatt was initially appointed as Australia's delegate to the UNESCO founding conference in London in November 1945, but he could not attend: he saw his ministerial priorities as the IMF and IBRD. Dr E Ronald Walker, from the newly established Australian legation in Paris, and Harold Wyndham, of the NSW Department of Education, were nominated as alternate delegates, with John Seitz, Director of Education in Victoria, acting as adviser. The presence of two delegates drawn from state governments reflected the lack of experience of Commonwealth officials in educational matters at this time.616

As noted, there was Australian support for UNESCO from the outset. The only matter of significant concern was its organisational status. Initially, the preference was that it should become a specialised agency, like the IMF, the FAO and the IBRD, but owing to concerns about ECOSOC's ability to coordinate the specialised agencies effectively, Australia proposed that UNESCO be given the status of a subsidiary body under the direct control of the General Assembly.617 The London conference did not support the Australian proposal, and instead recommended that UNESCO be set up as a specialised agency.

Organising and managing Australian involvement in UNESCO

Responsibility for managing Australia's involvement as a member of UNESCO was divided between the DEA and the Commonwealth Office of Education (the latter moved in time from the DPWR to the Prime Minister's Department, and then into the various incarnations of the Department of Education). The DEA had responsibility for political, general policy, and financial and administrative issues, while the Office of Education was responsible for the administration of UNESCO programs in Australia, working through and with a national coordinating committee chaired by its director, and a varying number of specialised cooperating bodies. The specialised cooperating bodies represented experts in a range of areas, such as education, visual arts, radio and television, and the Office of Education was a member ex officio of each body.

Article VII of UNESCO's constitution suggests that members form a national commission, the aim of which would be to involve their various national associations relating to education, the arts and science directly in the work of UNESCO. The Australian Cabinet in 1946 at first decided not to take up this option, preferring to exercise more direct control over committee membership.618 The following year, however, Cabinet approved a submission from the Minister for Post-War Reconstruction, John Dedman, to set up both a commission in line with UNESCO's suggestion and a series of subsidiary specialised bodies. The commission was to be administered by the Office of Education with membership consisting of the chairs of the specialised bodies and a representative from the DEA and from the United Nations Association of Australia. It was renamed the Australian National Advisory Committee for UNESCO in 1951 and then the Australian National Commission for UNESCO (hereinafter the Commission) in 1973.

The Commission's role was to review the activities and recommendations of the specialist bodies and make recommendations to the government on policy questions and on the composition of the Australian delegation to the UNESCO General Conference (held annually from 1946 to 1952 and thereafter biennially).619 The conference delegation was headed, initially, by the director of the Office of Education and included a varying number of members of the Commission and DEA officials. Over the years the delegation has included government ministers, Australian representatives on the Executive Board of UNESCO, the chair of the Commission and, where a permanent delegate has been appointed, the permanent delegate. Australia has had a representative at UNESCO since 1947, when it appointed Dr William Gardner Davies as a liaison officer. This position was raised to the status of permanent delegate in 1954 and was held by Davies until 1972.620 Since that time Australia has had an ambassador and/or permanent delegate to UNESCO; this person heads the Australian permanent delegation to the agency, and is part of the delegation to the General Conference.621

The division of responsibilities in Canberra, however, led to gradually increasing problems of communication and coordination between the DEA, which was responsible for policy, and the Office of Education, which was responsible for programs. The problems were exacerbated by the inclusion of a number of other government departments as UNESCO widened its range of activities in the areas of human rights and, in particular, the environment, the latter in the shape of the World Heritage Convention. The difficulties began with the transfer of the office to the Prime Minister's Department, a change which saw the Commission report its findings and recommendations regarding UNESCO directly to that department, with the DEA associated only informally, through representation at the Commission's meetings.622 However, the allocation of responsibility for UNESCO within the DEA to the Information and Cultural Relations Branch in the mid-1960s seemed to Ronald Walker, now Ambassador in Paris, 'to imply an intention to accept some responsibility for the substance of UNESCO activities'. He hoped then that 'a body of Australian views on UNESCO activities, both at Headquarters and in the field and on its methods of work' would be developed.623

The tendency, perhaps, on the DEA's part to leave many of the specific issues in Australia's relations with UNESCO to the Office of Education and the Commission, the bodies with the relevant expertise, resulted in a relationship between the Commission and UNESCO that became of some concern to the DEA. By the mid-1960s, on the Commission's initiative, the UNESCO Secretariat communicated directly with it (though correspondence was copied to the DEA in Canberra and to the Paris embassy), a process that could be construed as bypassing the Australian government. The DEA was also concerned that the Office of Education prepared briefs for the Australian delegations based on the views of the specialist bodies, which were advisory only and did not represent official policy. That is, the office did not consult separately with the individual relevant government authorities, having determined that as these agencies were represented on the specialist bodies and the Commission, the views of those specialist bodies could be taken as reflecting the Australian government's position.624

DEA Secretary Sir Arthur Tange and Minister for External Affairs Paul Hasluck became concerned about the fact that advice relating to UNESCO was in the hands of a restricted group of persons. Hasluck believed that instead of:

leaving the planning of a program to the sweet will of the Australian UNESCO Committee, the government should provide direction on the type of items to be included in Australia's program, notably a top priority to increasing UNESCO's providing aid to Papua New Guinea.625

Nor were the problems associated with representation, communication and coordination on UNESCO matters confined to Canberra. Although he was not Australia's permanent representative to UNESCO, Walker was well placed (in Paris) to note that Australian influence in the organisation was limited by the lack of a considered position on its programs and by scarce support resources. Because of this, Australia's ability to press its views with the Secretariat was limited.626 A review of the Commission saw most of the views expressed by the DEA and its minister adopted in 1971, and in November 1989 responsibility for the Commission was transferred from the Department of Employment, Education and Training to DFAT. The Commission remains an advisory body to the national government and the interface on UNESCO matters between the government and the wider Australian community. The Australian permanent delegation to UNESCO is the interface between the organisation and the government.

Australia in UNESCO

As a foundation member of UNESCO, Australia has had a long and close involvement in the organisation's community: it has served on the UNESCO Executive Board for seven terms627 and currently stands as the twelfth-highest contributor to its annual budget.

Australia has consistently supported a wide range of UNESCO initiatives and, as a key partner for the organisation in the Asia–Pacific region, has been involved with projects in a range of UNESCO programs. Support for UNESCO's capacity-building and policy-planning activities in the region has included the provision of accurate statistical data, promotion of the organisation's work through events and delegations, and the hosting of a number of UNESCO chairs and centres, including the Australian National University Centre for UNESCO, established in 1995. In the natural sciences, three key international programs Australia has been associated with since their inception are the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (1960), the Man and Biosphere Programme (1971) and the International Hydrological Programme (1975). Additional activity in the social and human sciences, and the culture and information-sharing areas, includes participating in the development and the concluding negotiations that led to the adoption of the Convention Against Doping in Sport; promoting the implementation of the 1972 World Heritage Convention and other conventions in the fields of heritage, copyright and the protection of cultural property; and participating in the Memory of the World Programme, through the National Library of Australia, with the Australian Memory of the World Register.

As noted above, UNESCO had its genesis in the CAME meetings of 1942 to 1945, and the organisation remains committed to the promotion of education as a fundamental human right. Australia has actively supported such UNESCO endeavours, particularly in the Asia–Pacific region, and in 2011 increased support for the Global Partnership for Education, a partnership between donors and developing countries to enable more children to have primary school education.628

In the decades following its establishment, however, UNESCO became only one of an increasing number of international, intergovernmental organisations in the field of education. Others included the OECD, the Council of Europe, the World Bank and the WTO. As a provider of education to overseas students since the early 1950s, Australia's external relations on educational matters have been complex, as each of these organisations has had interests in one or more of the linked questions of international recognition of qualifications, educational standards, and trade in educational services. This has required carefully coordinated discussion and negotiation, and has been pertinent to the decision to promote Australian trade in higher education.

While Australia had provided approximately 25,000 educational scholarships from the commencement of the Colombo Plan in 1951 up to 1985, in that latter year the Australian government, then under the prime ministership of the ALP's Bob Hawke, brought in a new policy that gradually reduced the number of international educational scholarships and encouraged the recruitment of fee-paying international students to the Australian education sector.629 The result was a dramatic increase in the number of full-fee-paying overseas students in Australia. However, if that policy were to be successful and remain effective, it at least required that: first, Australian tertiary qualifications would be recognised in as many countries as possible, especially those in the Asia–Pacific region; second, Australian tertiary qualifications would meet the relevant international quality criteria; and third, common international standards would be agreed, where possible, to reduce the costs of gaining and retaining recognition.

UNESCO had long taken the lead in establishing standards for the international recognition of tertiary qualifications, and six separate regional conventions were in place by 1983.630 The adoption of the policy encouraging the recruitment of international students saw the Australian government accede to a number of these conventions, commencing in 1985 with the Regional Convention on the Recognition of Studies, Diplomas and Degrees in Higher Education in Asia and the Pacific. This was followed by accession to the Convention on the Recognition of Studies, Diplomas and Degrees concerning Higher Education in the States belonging to the Europe Region in 1986, and the revised Council of Europe–UNESCO Convention on the Recognition of Qualifications concerning Higher Education in the European Region in 2002.

Australian efforts to ensure free international trade in educational services continued in the 1986 to 1994 Uruguay Round of GATT negotiations and, in particular, the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS). Australian negotiators played a significant and effective role in relation to services by setting up and then chairing the informal Rolle Group of negotiators on services.631 Despite Australian efforts, trade in educational services was one of the most difficult areas for national negotiators in the Uruguay Round, or since in the abortive Doha Round launched in 2001, with less than one-third of members making commitments in relation to tertiary education. Nevertheless, those who signed up to the GATS entered into an international legal framework that made the introduction of new restrictive measures in trade in education difficult, if not impossible.

The Australian Department of Education's increasing involvement in the OECD, from the 1990s on, affected the development of international policy frameworks and standards, such as for qualifications recognition and educational quality assurance.632 The then Minister for Employment, Education and Training, John Dawkins, accepted the OECD's invitation to act as chair of its 1988 International Conference on Education and the Economy in a Changing World.633 Engagement with the OECD was aimed at taking advantage of its expertise in both education and economics to help build a convincing case for trade in educational services. Once developed, the case could then be used in other international forums, such as the WTO and UNESCO, with the support of OECD members, to help overcome opposition from the many developing countries that were suspicious of increasing international trade in education. At the same time, domestic economic and political pressures led to a dramatic reduction in aid for international educational programs. Between 1995 and 2001, for example, Australia's share of official development assistance for post-secondary education decreased from 83 to 20 per cent.634 From 2007, however, following a change in government, there has been a reinvigoration and scaling up of Australia's educational aid program, particularly in regard to scholarships in Africa and programs in the South Pacific and countries such as Indonesia, Afghanistan and Pakistan.635

The dramatic growth in trade in educational services during the 1990s, combined with the growing realisation of the implications of the GATS and the pro-competition thrust of the OECD's work on education, generated a variety of responses, many of them negative. UNESCO became, initially, a forum for the expression of views, often critical of the neoliberal agenda, as was evident at the first World Conference on Higher Education in 1998, organised by UNESCO. The conference was followed by UNESCO's 2002 launch of the Global Forum on International Quality Assurance, Accreditation and the Recognition of Qualifications. The participants, including Australia, agreed that there was a need to build bridges between those who opposed and those who supported international trade in education services, and that further work was needed to this end.636 Perhaps the most significant outcome of the further work that took place was the joint OECD–UNESCO Guidelines for Quality Provision in Cross-Border Higher Education, launched by the OECD in 2003 and approved by UNESCO's General Conference in 2005. The guidelines were partly sponsored by Australia's Department of Education, Science and Training, as well as departments of education in Japan and Norway; this marked a considerable success for Australian efforts.

In summary, Australian involvement with UNESCO has grown and changed over time. Australia's enthusiastic commitment was somewhat hindered in the early years by a relative lack of organisational capacity at the Commonwealth level, but this eventually changed, allowing a more sophisticated engagement with the organisation.

Australia and the ILO

Established in 1919, the ILO became the first UN specialised agency in 1946. The organisation engages with the world of work in a variety of ways. It develops legally binding conventions that set minimum standards for human and labour rights–the aim is that they then be ratified by member states–and non-binding declarations which usually set out broad statements of principle. It also develops non-binding recommendations which mostly provide guidelines to complement its conventions and declarations. The ILO also provides technical assistance and a forum for the discussion and development of policies related to work and employment.

The ILO Governing Body takes decisions on policy and establishes its program and budget, which it then submits to the annual International Labour Conference for consideration. The Governing Body consists of fifty-six members, twenty-eight representing governments, fourteen representing workers and fourteen representing employers.637 The International Labour Conference consists of all member states as well as the employer and worker representatives of these states. In 2011 there were 183 member states.

Australia's involvement with the ILO stands out from its involvement with the other specialised agencies in a number of respects. First, it has been subject to significant study by Australian scholars, largely in terms of the influence of ILO conventions on Australian labour law and practice. Second, membership of the ILO's supreme body, the International Labour Conference, is uniquely tripartite, consisting of two government delegates, one employer delegate and one worker delegate. Third, the matters the ILO deals with, including labour rights and standards, sit closer to the centre of Australian domestic politics than most other specialised agencies' issues. The extent of involvement by Australian governments, as evident in the ratification of ILO conventions, has varied. Many, if not all, of the issues dealt with by the ILO involve concerns that are central to employee organisations, employer organisations and the major political parties. This is manifested through the tripartite conference membership, for example, which provides a forum in which these concerns and associated proposals and actions can find direct, international voice. This is in contrast to the other specialised agencies, where non-government views can be expressed only via the government representative or by lobbying the agency in question.

The domestic application of its standards is monitored closely by the ILO–for example, by the ILO Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations–and procedures are in place to allow aggrieved employer and worker organisations to draw both international and domestic attention to alleged noncompliance by governments.638 The findings of such monitoring are often the subject of media attention and sometimes result in legal or policy changes.

From 1919 to 1949

Australia's early involvement in the ILO faced an immediate difficulty: the established Australian system of compulsory conciliation and arbitration, providing a settlement mechanism for disputes over labour standards, reduced the attractiveness of the ILO system of legislatively embedded standards. Hence, for most of the period until the Whitlam government of 1972 to 1975, ILO standards played a normative and instrumental role, rather than a substantive role in the development of Australian labour law. They were normative in the sense that the conventions were often held up as an ideal towards which Australia should work, and instrumental in that unions often made reference to specific ILO standards in support of particular claims.639

Australian conservative governments between 1919 and 1929 saw that the Commonwealth's power to enact most international treaties was limited by the constitutional division of powers between the Commonwealth and the states, and by Australia's conciliation and arbitration system. As the Australian constitution largely reserves labour matters to the states, these governments' position was that it was the states that decided whether or not draft conventions should be ratified or applied, excluding those which clearly fell within the power of the Commonwealth. This position was in accordance with Article 19(9) of the ILO's constitution, which permitted the government of a federal state to treat a convention as only a recommendation, and was conveyed to the ILO in 1924 by the government of SM Bruce.640 As a result, until 1931, Australia had ratified only one convention–Convention 9, in 1925.

The potential for a faster rate of ratification was established in 1936 by the High Court of Australia when it determined that the Commonwealth could use Section 51(xxix) of the Constitution to legislate to give effect to an international convention on air navigation.641 Despite this ruling, the rate of ratifications continued to be slow, with only five conventions ratified between 1936 and 1941. Two more were ratified by Labor governments between 1945 and 1949. But in these years Australian governments, both conservative and Labor, were concerned not to be seen to extend the Commonwealth's external affairs power: the High Court might rule against any extension of it, whether in relation to ILO conventions or other international bodies and treaties.642

From 1949 to 1996

While thirteen conventions were ratified by conservative governments between 1949 and 1972, there was no attempt to use the external affairs power as the basis for ratification until 1993, under an ALP government. The Menzies Coalition governments were reluctant to ratify ILO conventions, as can be seen in the case of ILO Convention 100 (ILO 100) regarding equal pay for women. In 1951, on the advice of the Department of Labour and National Service, Australia abstained from voting on ILO 100, because it would be bound to implement its provisions, but did vote in favour of the accompanying Recommendation 90. Two years later, Harold Holt, as Minister for Labour, asserted that the government did not oppose equal pay but did not intend to ratify ILO 100 as it considered the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission the more appropriate body to effect this objective. Both Tom Sheridan and Hugh Stretton have argued that, at least in regard to equal pay, Henry Bland (later Sir Henry), Secretary of the Department of Labour and National Service, ensured that this approach was maintained for the next twenty years.643 On the other hand, Bland was sympathetic to proposals for ending the bar against the employment of married women in the Commonwealth public service, in line with ILO conventions, advising Holt that:

I hope I am sure you will support this. It is entirely right in principle. It will enable us to hold up our own heads at ILO Conferences. I should have thought it has political value. The bar … has been a barbaric anachronism. Get rid of this and we may have a little more peace on equal pay.644

The period of the Whitlam government saw a marked acceleration in ratifications, with nine achieved in three years. To manage this acceleration, the Whitlam government established the position of special labour adviser, which was, until the 2000s, usually filled by an official from the Department of Industrial Relations (in its various incarnations) and based at Australia's mission to the United Nations in Geneva. The position was responsible for liaison with the ILO and for supporting the Australian delegations to the International Labour Conference and the Governing Body, including both employer and worker delegates. On two occasions up to 1996 this Australian adviser was elected as chair of the Governing Body.645

In the late 1970s and the 1980s, both Coalition and ALP governments became increasingly, if for somewhat different reasons, frustrated by what they saw as the lack of flexibility in the existing conciliation and arbitration system. In particular, the ALP governments of RJL (Bob) Hawke and Paul Keating in the late 1980s and early 1990s decided that it was in need of reform as part of their general thrust to improve Australia's international economic competitiveness. They began to examine, in particular, the possibility of using the external affairs power to enact legislation that would move Australian labour law away from state-based compulsory conciliation and arbitration systems and towards a focus on enterprise-based, collective bargaining, ideally within a largely national industrial relations system.

In that context, several of the unratified ILO conventions were seen as a way of providing a safety net of basic employee rights in the proposed system, a safety net that could be introduced, if necessary, without the agreement of the state governments by using the external affairs power granted under Section 51(xxix) of the Constitution.646 As a result, fourteen ILO conventions were ratified via the Industrial Relations Reform Act 1993. ILO Convention 158, on the termination of employment, for example, which had been adopted by the ILO in 1982, was ratified by the ALP government in 1993 and enacted within the Act. This was a major departure from established practice: no state or territory government had legislated in conformity with the convention, and the ALP government did not have the formal agreement of any domestic jurisdiction.

The Coalition parties were strongly opposed to the major provisions of the 1993 Act and to its extensive reliance on the external affairs power. In 1991, for example, the then Shadow Minister for Industrial Relations and later Prime Minister, John Howard, indicated a willingness, upon gaining office, to cut off relations with the ILO, following critical findings by the ILO's Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations in relation to what it described as unacceptable restrictions on the right to strike in Australia brought in by the ALP government.647

From 1996 to 2011

The period from 1996 to 2011 was a tumultuous period for Australian industrial relations. Shortly after gaining office in 1996 the Coalition government's Minister for Industrial Relations, Peter Reith, announced that Australia would withdraw its special labour adviser from the Geneva office and reduce the delegation to the annual International Labour Conference. Most unusually, it decided not to accept election to the Governing Body, which sent a clear signal, domestically and internationally, about its views on the ILO.648 The Workplace Relations Act 1996 significantly modified the changes introduced by the Industrial Relations Reform Act 1993. In particular, it sharply reduced the situations in which industrial action could be taken. Several authors argued that the 1996 Act did not comply with ILO standards.649

The 1996 Act came under criticism from the ALP opposition, from trade unions and from the key ILO monitoring and supervisory bodies.650 Union and ILO criticisms became more intense after the Howard government's re-election in 2004 and its gaining control of the Senate in 2005, which gave it the opportunity to introduce and implement its Workplace Relations Amendment (Work Choices) Act 2005. The latter introduced a number of changes to the existing legislation, in particular reducing the extent to which employees could take action regarding claims of unfair dismissal.651 The ILO standards committee examined the new legislation, having been actively encouraged to do so by the president of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, Sharan Burrow, in her position as an employee delegate to the ILO, and despite opposition from the employer and Australian government delegates.652

Following its election in November 2007, the ALP government led by Kevin Rudd overturned Work Choices and, for the first time in the history of Australia's involvement with the ILO, in 2010 entered into a formal partnership agreement with it for the provision of technical assistance, an agreement that set out a program of agreed activities for the period from 2010 to 2015. In addition to its normal, annual assessed contribution to the ILO (A$9 million in 2009), the government also agreed to provide, through the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID), a further A$15 million for the first two years of the agreement, with possible further funding following a review in 2012. The agreement sent a strong signal to the ILO as to the Australian government's recommitment to the organisation, part of a more general reinvigoration of the government's commitment to the UN system. Australia's election to the chair of the ILO Governing Body for 2011 to 2012 suggested that the signal had been received and understood.

Australia and the WHO

At the 1945 San Francisco Conference delegates unanimously approved a joint Brazilian–Chinese declaration calling for the establishment of an international health organisation. Again, the Australian government, while broadly supporting the resolution, was concerned about the likely status of another new organisation. The Australian view was that ECOSOC should play a more influential, coordinating role in relation to the specialised agencies. The tendency to set up 'separate organisations' left ECOSOC able only to make 'roundabout processes of recommendations' if it wanted to make its influence felt. At the United Nations in London in January 1946, the Australian delegation argued that the General Assembly and ECOSOC had a clear responsibility for health, that ECOSOC should take the initiative and that Australia should urge the United Kingdom to sponsor an ECOSOC resolution to initiate planning for the establishment of an 'organ of the Assembly under Article 22 of the UN Charter'.653

The matter was submitted to the General Assembly and, in turn, to ECOSOC. One of ECOSOC's first tasks was to give effect to the joint declaration and, on 15 February 1946, it resolved to call an international conference in June that year to consider the establishment of a single international health organisation, neatly avoiding any reference to its final form or relation to the United Nations.654 A preparatory committee of health experts, tasked with preparing a draft agenda and proposals for the conference, recommended that a new agency be set up, modelled somewhat along the lines of the recently created UNESCO.

The International Health Conference met on 19 June 1946, with an Australian delegate part of the fifty-one delegations present–all of the then member states were represented. For the most part the conference adopted the recommendations and endorsed the view that the new organisation should be financially autonomous. Australia did not favour autonomy and had argued that the new organisation's finances be integrated with those of the United Nations.655 The proposed constitution established: the World Health Assembly, the new organisation's supreme body, empowered to adopt resolutions across a wide range of areas; an eighteen-member Executive Board, empowered to exercise the powers delegated to it by the Assembly; and the position of director-general, to lead the Secretariat. It also established an eighteen-member interim commission to make preparations for and convene the first session of the Assembly. Australia initially, and temporarily, was represented on the interim commission by two officials from the Australian mission to the United Nations. They were succeeded by Sir Raphael Cilento, then Director-General of Health and Medical Services for the Queensland government and, in turn, for the remainder of the commission's existence, by Dr George Redshaw, the Chief Medical Officer attached to the Australian High Commission in London. Redshaw was also the Australian chief delegate to the first meeting of the World Health Assembly in 1948. The WHO constitution came into force on 7 April 1948.

A joint DEA–Department of Health submission to Cabinet recommending membership of the WHO was approved on 29 April 1947.656 The reasons put forward for membership were that: it 'has a real constructive job to do', especially as Australia was a 'neighbour to Eastern countries where epidemics are likely to originate'; faster rates of international travel needed standardised quarantine practices overseen by an international organisation; membership was in line with Australia's 'general policy' respecting such agencies 'as an essential element in world organisation'; and Australia had played 'a considerable part' in setting up the proposed body.657

In contrast to the IMF, World Bank and FAO, however, Australian representation at the various meetings that led to the establishment of the WHO, from 1946 to 1948, was at a relatively low level of seniority. Neither of the two health ministers in the period, James Fraser and Nicholas McKenna, attended, though this was not unusual. More unusual was that the first two directors-general of the Department of Health, John Cumpston and Frank McCallum, did not attend. Their successor, John Metcalfe, did later play a more active role, attending WHO assemblies in 1951, 1953 and 1954. He was appointed to the WHO's Executive Board in 1957, heading the board's standing committee on administration and finance in 1960. WHO Director-General Dr Brock Chisholm raised this relatively low level of representation in a meeting with Australian officials in Australia in March 1950. He pointed out that there was a feeling that 'Australia had not been appointing its highest medical administrators to the Health Assembly', whereas other countries had been represented by deputy ministers or directors-general of health or, occasionally, ministers.658

The above is not to suggest that Australia had little interest in the WHO or that it had no influence on its development or operations in these early years. Arthur Tange, as the first Australian representative on the interim commission, was successful, for example, in proposing that the commission establish an ad hoc committee to consider the draft rules of procedure recommended by the preparatory committee, and he became a member of its committee on relations with external organisations. Similarly, Redshaw, one of his successors, became a member of the subcommittee dealing with the transfer of the Office d'Hygiène Publique to the WHO,659 and then a member of the Nominations Committee of the first World Health Assembly.660 In addition, Australia was elected to membership of the Executive Board for one year, following the drawing of lots to determine which elected members would serve for one, two or three years.661 While Australia was successful in gaining membership of the Executive Board, when it considered standing again for election in 1949, it could not gain US support for its re-election. The Philippines was the preferred candidate of the United States.662 Australia did not regain a position on the Executive Board until 1957.

Australia, the WHO Executive Board and WHO finances

Australia's first year of membership of the WHO Executive Board was not an entirely happy one, with two linked issues occupying much of the time of its representatives and senior staff in Canberra. The issues were the status of the members of the Executive Board and the organisation's finances. The eighteen board members were not directly elected by the Assembly, which only elected member countries, taking into account their geographical distribution. Each member country then designated a person qualified in the field of health as a member of the board. However, Article 29 of the WHO constitution specified that the Executive Board exercised its delegated powers on behalf of the whole World Health Assembly, not on behalf of the countries that nominated them, a rather fine but relevant distinction. Director-General Chisholm felt strongly about the matter, arguing successfully that board members were not responsible to their governments, but to the Assembly, and that they therefore needed to focus on the member countries' health needs as health experts.663

John Farley notes that 'Australia became the greatest irritant to Chisholm in this regard', proposing at the third World Health Assembly, in 1950, an amendment to the constitution which, if successful, would have made the Executive Board members representatives of their respective governments.664 Australia's position was that Chisholm's views were unrealistic and, of even more concern, had led to unrealistic budgets and a worrying financial situation for the WHO, as some members of the board did not have the authority of their government, nor sufficient financial experience, to be valuable contributors when they came to consider the draft budget proposed by the Director-General. In turn, the Assembly, which was not designed to undertake detailed evaluations of budgets, and certainly could not do so in the limited number of days on which it met, had to accept a budget that had not received sufficient expert attention. These views were circulated to members of the WHO in an explanatory memorandum.665 Mindful of Chisholm's comments regarding the level of Australian representation at WHO meetings and keen to gain the maximum support for Australia's proposals to amend the constitution, Minister for External Affairs Percy Spender asked Sir Earle Page, the Minister for Health, to release a senior official to attend the third World Health Assembly, as well as an official from a state department of health, in order to provide the necessary expertise and prestige.666

However, the political dynamics of the WHO at this time worked against the Australian proposal, for at least four reasons. First, the poorer WHO members were usually keen to support larger budgets as the bulk of the cost of providing the funds fell upon the richer members, such as the United States, the United Kingdom and, to a lesser extent, Australia. Hence they were reluctant to support moves that might reduce the funds available. Second, the Soviet bloc states and Nationalist China suddenly withdrew from the WHO in 1949. The result was a US$1 million hole in the budget that, if it could not be at least partly filled by increased contributions from the richer members, would mean major cutbacks in the operating programs. Third, an increasing number of the poorer WHO members were already falling into arrears on their payments, again putting stress on the budget. Fourth, the Cold War was gathering momentum. The United States, backed by its major European allies, was increasingly reluctant to support even financially rational measures such as proposed by Australia (and supported by Canada) that might alienate poorer WHO members and lead to an increasing number of such countries aligning themselves with the Soviet Union. The Australian motion for an amendment to the constitution was defeated by thirty votes to eighteen; the bulk of the richer countries supported the motion.667 For some time after this, Australia put its views less prominently and did not take a leading part in Assembly debates on the budget. The DEA acknowledged that the proposed amendment to the constitution and persistence in criticising the Director-General's budgets–and, more generally, WHO finances–were perceived by some members and the WHO Secretariat in an increasingly negative light.668

Increased Australian engagement in international health issues

As noted in Chapter 6, Australia continued to play an active role in the WHO in the decades following its establishment, with senior staff from the Department of Health, often the secretary, typically forming the core of the delegation. This participation was complicated from the early 1980s by the increasing role of the World Bank in the area of health, the decision by the World Health Assembly to freeze the WHO budget in 1982, the 1985 US decision to pay only 20 per cent of its assessed contribution to all UN agencies, including the WHO, and a subsequent US decision to withhold all its WHO contribution because of its opposition to the agency's Essential Drug Program.669 At the same time, however, there was a rapid growth in voluntary, non-budget, or 'extra-budgetary', funding of the WHO, similar to that experienced by most of the specialised agencies in this period. By the early 1990s, such funds amounted to 54 per cent of the total WHO budget.670

The growth in voluntary funding meant that the policies and priorities of the World Health Assembly, with its developing countries majority, only related to the items in the regular budget. Policies and priorities supported by the wealthier members and specialised agencies (such as the World Bank) were funded by the extra-budgetary funds. The WHO was, in effect, declining in importance and prestige. By the 1990s the World Bank had become, at least in financial terms, the major actor in international health affairs, with its annual loans for health purposes being greater than the WHO's total regular budget.671 For Australian decision-makers the global health regime had become increasingly complex. There was now a greater variety of actors involved, both public and private, and a need for a more sophisticated response in a range of international institutions, not only the WHO.

In the face of this increasing complexity, Australian governments, though by no means uncritical of the organisation's capacities and performance, strongly supported moves towards performance reviews and reform. As noted in Chapter 6, for example, in early 1996 Australia produced and distributed a detailed paper on proposals for reform of the WHO, a position elaborated in the Department of Health and Family Services Annual Report 1995–96 and the DFAT Annual Report 1997–98. The latter noted that AusAID had played a significant role in WHO reform through its Executive Board and through participation in the World Health Assembly.672 It also noted that the organisation had adopted some elements of Australia's reform agenda and that Australia had, with others, succeeded in gaining the appointment of a new, more reform-oriented Director-General and a change in the status of Executive Board members.673

The change in the status of Executive Board members in 1998 was a victory for a policy Australian governments had pursued, on and off, since 1949, as noted above. Nonetheless, despite the efforts of the intervening fifty years, the final stage proved awkward, and was achieved by indirect means. A change to the status of board members implied a change to Article 24 of the WHO constitution, which refers to members as 'persons', not 'delegates'. Those in favour of reform, including Australia, identified a discrepancy between the English and French versions of the constitution, with the former referring to board members as 'persons', but the latter as 'délégués'. Under Article 75 of the constitution, which deals with constitutional interpretation, the matter was referred to the World Health Assembly in 1998. The Assembly resolved that 'member states entitled to designate a representative to the Executive Board should designate them as government representatives, technically qualified in the field of health'. The pretence that the board's membership was not constituted by government representatives was finally over.674

Australia's active role in relation to the WHO was part of an invigoration of the Department of Health's international activities, especially under secretaries Andrew Podger and Jane Halton. Podger was aware of the growing importance of international health developments and thus of the value of international networks and institutions, and had a particular interest in the work of the OECD.675 Halton was similarly aware and came to play a major role in the activities of both the WHO and the OECD in the 2000s, becoming, in 2007, only the second Australian to chair the World Health Assembly, following Sir William Refshauge in 1971. Additional positions within the WHO held by Halton have included Executive Board member from 2004 to 2007 and vice-chair in
2005 to 2006; chair of the Program, Budget and Administration Committee from 2005 to 2007; and chair of the intergovernmental meeting on pandemic influenza preparedness from 2007 to 2009. At the time of writing, she is the first chair of the OECD Health Committee, established in 2007 following a recommendation that the OECD Group on Health, of which she had been co-chair from its inception in 2005, be recognised as a Level 1 body reporting directly to the OECD Council.

The growth in complexity of the global health regime has provided both opportunities and difficulties for Australia, as can be seen in relation to the increasingly important issue of the performance of national health systems. The Department of Health, for example, encouraged such work, partly to enable more informed judgements about the comparative strengths and weaknesses of the Australian health system, and partly to learn from the successes–and mistakes–of other national health systems.676 Hence it supported the development of performance assessment work in the WHO, leading up to the first assessment of the performance of national health systems, in the World Health Report 2000.677

The WHO report focused on four major indicators in 191 states, including Australia. The Department of Health and Ageing noted that Australia 'scored well on the four indicators, overall level of health, inequality of health within the population, the level and distribution of responsiveness and fairness in financing', which indicated that Australia's health system was delivering health outcomes slightly above the OECD average for financial outlays that were also slightly above the OECD average.678 However, media sources expressed rather different views, with the Sydney Morning Herald, for example, noting that 'the health system slides down the international scale to 32nd in WHO's key measure of overall performance, which determines whether taxpayers are getting sufficient bang for their health buck'.679

The WHO ranking noted by the media was not included in the Department of Health and Ageing's annual report. This omission may well have been because of the significant methodological issues that surrounded the ranking. The WHO report was subject to considerable international criticism in terms of methodological weaknesses, and both the Department of Health and Ageing and the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare worked with the agency to remedy some of the issues identified.680 However, the extent of dissatisfaction with the WHO report led to an increased emphasis on health system performance work at the OECD, funded by Australia and a number of other members as part of a new health project.681

Along with the World Health Assembly's adoption of the Pandemic Influenza Preparedness Framework, perhaps the most successful example of Australian leadership and engagement in the WHO in more recent times has been the development of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) between 1996 and 2004. The negotiations offered an opportunity to push for greater international commitment to tobacco control policies that Australia had already introduced, through both federal and state legislation.682 Australia was represented at all the meetings of the FCTC working group that developed the convention. Its delegation was led by the Department of Health and Ageing, with additional representatives from DFAT and the Attorney-General's Department.

The presence of a well-established body of domestic regulation in relation to tobacco gave the Australian representatives considerable credibility in the negotiations, and this was increased by their ability to provide examples of what control instruments worked and which did not work in the Australian context.683 Their credibility was, perhaps, pushed to the limit in regard to Australia's stance on whether or not the FCTC should incorporate a clause stipulating that the health obligations it embodied should have primacy over international trade obligations. As Madelaine Chiam has noted, the Australian representatives objected to this proposal, mindful of Australia's obligations in the WTO system, but after a period of difficult negotiations, the FCTC did not incorporate the clause.684

In announcing in 2003 that Australia would ratify the FCTC, Parliamentary Secretary for Health, Trish Worth, could claim that 'Australia was a major player in the negotiations and we worked hard to achieve a robust Convention that will lead to good tobacco policies across the globe'.685 In May 2011, Australia's efforts to advance tobacco control were recognised by the WHO with the award of a Director-General's Special Recognition Certificate to Minister for Health and Ageing Nicola Roxon for the Australian government's proposal to introduce plain packaging to tobacco products in 2012. The award noted that 'Ms Roxon's resolve … inspired political leaders in many countries to take strong, calibrated and decisive action on the tobacco industry's most noxious weapon: seductive brand advertising'.686


Australia's involvement with the UN's specialised agencies stretches back over sixty years, or ninety years in the case of the ILO. That lengthy and sustained involvement, sketched out in brief, and necessarily selective, detail in this chapter reveals how a small to middle power, through a wide range of activities, can have the capacity to influence not only international, intergovernmental organisations, but also the great powers that often dominate their activities. It shows how an initially very limited capacity to organise and manage the interface between domestic and external interests and policies grew rapidly over the decades after 1945. Australia today has a greater capacity to operate in an international arena in which the specialised agencies, while still important, must now cooperate–and sometimes compete for resources and political attention–with an expanding number of often overlapping public and private sector organisations and interests.

In the case of the ILO, the WHO and, to a lesser extent, the IMF, the chapter also shows how domestic and international issues and activities are often closely linked. Finally, it illustrates the persistent concern of Australian representatives to ensure that the organisation, administration and finance of the specialised agencies are as efficient as possible, a concern that has been to the benefit of Australian taxpayers, even if not always welcomed by the agencies.


Missing media item.

Australian attorney, Dr Francis Gurry, Director-General of the World Intellectual Property Organization and Secretary-General of the International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants, 30 October 2008. [WIPO]


The Australian Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Richard Butler (right), presides in the Economic and Social Council during a discussion of the UN Secretary-General's report 'An Agenda for Peace', New York, 28 June 1993. Seated also (left to right): Under-Secretary-General for Policy Coordination and Sustainable Development Nitin Desai; President of the General Assembly SR Insanally (Guyana); and UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali. [UN Photo]

The Australian Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Richard Butler (right), presides in the Economic and Social Council during a discussion of the UN Secretary-General's report 'An Agenda for Peace', New York, 28 June 1993. Seated also (left to right): Under-Secretary-General for Policy Coordination and Sustainable Development Nitin Desai; President of the General Assembly SR Insanally (Guyana); and UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali. [UN Photo]


The Australian Minister for Defence and Post-War Reconstruction, JJ Dedman (left), and Ambassador João Carlos Muniz (Brazil) take their country's seats as newly-elected members (with Denmark and Poland) of the UN Economic and Social Council, New York, 4 February 1948. [UN Photo]

The Australian Minister for Defence and Post-War Reconstruction, JJ Dedman (left), and Ambassador João Carlos Muniz (Brazil) take their country's seats as newly-elected members (with Denmark and Poland) of the UN Economic and Social Council, New York, 4 February 1948. [UN Photo]


The Australian Ambassador to the United States, Sir Keith Waller (left), a Vice President of the World Bank, J Burke Knapp (centre), and the Australian Minister Financial Washington, GA Low, sign the documents for the first World Bank loan, guaranteed by the Commonwealth of Australia, for economic development in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea administered by Australia, Washington DC, 28 June 1968. [World Bank/Edwin G Huffman]

The Australian Ambassador to the United States, Sir Keith Waller (left), a Vice President of the World Bank, J Burke Knapp (centre), and the Australian Minister Financial Washington, GA Low, sign the documents for the first World Bank loan, guaranteed by the Commonwealth of Australia, for economic development in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea administered by Australia, Washington DC, 28 June 1968. [World Bank/Edwin G Huffman]


The Australian Ambassador to the United States, Norman JO Makin (right), and the President of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, Eugene R Black (left), sign the documents for a $100 million loan to Australia, watched by the Vice President of the International Bank, Robert L Garner, Washington DC, 22 August 1950. [World Bank]

The Australian Ambassador to the United States, Norman JO Makin (right), and the President of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, Eugene R Black (left), sign the documents for a $100 million loan to Australia, watched by the Vice President of the International Bank, Robert L Garner, Washington DC, 22 August 1950. [World Bank]


The Australian High Commissioner in Canada, Alfred T Stirling (left), signs the Food and Agriculture Organization Agreement on behalf of Australia, assisted by the FAO Secretary-General, Walter E Sharp, Quebec City, 1945. [National Film Board of Canada Collection/Library and Archives Canada]

The Australian High Commissioner in Canada, Alfred T Stirling (left), signs the Food and Agriculture Organization Agreement on behalf of Australia, assisted by the FAO Secretary-General, Walter E Sharp, Quebec City, 1945. [National Film Board of Canada Collection/Library and Archives Canada]


The opening ceremony of the Third Session of UNESCO's General Conference, Beirut, December 1948. Left to right: Dr ER Walker (Australia); Dr Francisco del Rio y Cañedo (Mexico); the President of Lebanon, Sheik Bechara el-Khoury; unidentified official; and the Director-General of UNESCO, Dr Julian Huxley. [UNESCO]

The opening ceremony of the Third Session of UNESCO's General Conference, Beirut, December 1948. Left to right: Dr ER Walker (Australia); Dr Francisco del Rio y Cañedo (Mexico); the President of Lebanon, Sheik Bechara el-Khoury; unidentified official; and the Director-General of UNESCO, Dr Julian Huxley. [UNESCO]


The Australian Ambassador and Permanent Delegate to UNESCO, Sally Mansfield (left), presents Australia's instrument of accession to the UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions to the Director-General of UNESCO, Koïchiro Matsuura, Paris, 18 September 2009. [UNESCO/Andrew Wheeler]

The Australian Ambassador and Permanent Delegate to UNESCO, Sally Mansfield (left), presents Australia's instrument of accession to the UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions to the Director-General of UNESCO, Koïchiro Matsuura, Paris, 18 September 2009. [UNESCO/Andrew Wheeler]


The Australian Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd (centre), the UK Prime Minister, Gordon Brown (left) and the President of the European Commission, José Manuel Barroso (third left), participate in the launch of the 'Class of 2015: Education for All' initiative, New York, 25 September 2008. [UN Photo/Jenny Rockett]

The Australian Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd (centre), the UK Prime Minister, Gordon Brown (left) and the President of the European Commission, José Manuel Barroso (third left), participate in the launch of the 'Class of 2015: Education for All' initiative, New York, 25 September 2008. [UN Photo/Jenny Rockett]


The Australian Minister for Labour and National Service, Harold Holt (centre), and the past president of the Hobart Trades Hall Council, AJ White (left), exchange views with the Nigerian Minister for Labour and Welfare, Sam Okotie-Eboh, at the ILO Conference, Geneva, 1957. [National Archives of Australia]

The Australian Minister for Labour and National Service, Harold Holt (centre), and the past president of the Hobart Trades Hall Council, AJ White (left), exchange views with the Nigerian Minister for Labour and Welfare, Sam Okotie-Eboh, at the ILO Conference, Geneva, 1957. [National Archives of Australia]



The Australian Minister (Labour) at the Australian Permanent Mission to the United Nations in Geneva, Greg Vines (right), addresses the Governing Body of the International Labour Organization on his election as chairperson, watched by the Director-General of the International Labour Organization, Juan Somavia, Geneva, 17 June 2011. [ILO Photo/M Crozet]


The Australian Secretary of the Department of Health and Ageing and President of the 60th World Health Assembly, Jane Halton (right), addresses the closing plenary session with the Director-General of the World Health Organization, Dr Margaret Chan (second left), Geneva, 23 May 2007. [WHO/Chris Black]

The Australian Secretary of the Department of Health and Ageing and President of the 60th World Health Assembly, Jane Halton (right), addresses the closing plenary session with the Director-General of the World Health Organization, Dr Margaret Chan (second left), Geneva, 23 May 2007. [WHO/Chris Black]


The Australian Minister for Health and Ageing, Nicola Roxon (right), receives the WHO Director-General's Special Recognition Award for the Australian government's proposal to introduce plain packaging to tobacco products in 2012 from the WHO Regional Director for the Western Pacific, Dr Shin Young-soo, Manila, 31 May 2011. [Department of Health and Ageing]

The Australian Minister for Health and Ageing, Nicola Roxon (right), receives the WHO Director-General's Special Recognition Award for the Australian government's proposal to introduce plain packaging to tobacco products in 2012 from the WHO Regional Director for the Western Pacific, Dr Shin Young-soo, Manila, 31 May 2011. [Department of Health and Ageing]

6. Australia and development cooperation at the United Nations: Towards poverty reduction

Chad Mitcham

The goal of fostering development is perhaps the most ambitious goal of the United Nations, the complexity of the organisation's institutional response perhaps reflecting the difficulties encountered and commitments required. This chapter reveals six key and enduring themes promoted by both the Australian government and various influential Australians in their engagement with the UN development agenda. These themes include consistent advocacy of the linkage between economic and social development and security; an appreciation of the fundamental importance of agricultural development and food security; a focus on regional cooperation in Asia and the Pacific; a preparedness to demonstrate leadership in specific sectors; concern about women's issues and gender inequality; and a commitment to effective coordination and the rational use of resources within the UN system. Despite the considerable achievements of UN development activities, difficulties with such work continue because of inadequacies in prioritisation, coordination and funding. Since the establishment of the United Nations in 1945, Australia has maintained a firm commitment to improved delivery through structural rationalisation of the organisation.

The early years: 1943–47

Australia's engagement with the development agenda of the United Nations began with the outcomes of the Arcadia Conference, the Dumbarton Oaks Conference, the UN Monetary and Financial Conference at Bretton Woods, and the UN Conference on International Organization (the San Francisco Conference), held between 1942 and 1945. The correlation between development, peace and security was evident at the outset and resulted in the establishment of the UN Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA), the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD).687

The Australian government, as well as the governments of many other founding members, recognised that the most crucial short- to medium-term activity of a United Nations would be international postwar rehabilitation and development. This would lay the foundations for long-term global collective security, prosperity and peace. Australia had been an original signatory, at the Arcadia Conference in January 1942, to 'the Declaration by United Nations' which committed the Allies to cooperate in achieving victory and adhering to the Atlantic Charter. Articles IV and V of the charter made provision for the advancement of freer international trade and 'the fullest collaboration between all nations in the economic field' to secure, for all, 'improved labour standards, economic advancement, and social security'.

At the Dumbarton Oaks Conference in 1944, Australia's recently appointed minister in Washington, Sir Frederic Eggleston, recommended that the UN draft charter should be based on the concept that a collective international security system without economic development would be of little value.688Long before the San Francisco Conference, as noted in Chapter 5, the Australian government's view was that the most important part of a UN Charter should be a powerful coordinating body for all UN economic and social programs because 'war is mainly due to strains built up by a world in disequilibrium'.689

By November 1943, Australia had become a founding member of UNRRA, a temporary body set up to supervise short-term international emergency assistance. That agency's activities were coordinated from 1945 to 1947 by its Australian Senior Deputy Director-General, Robert Jackson. He later also supervised the transfer of residual UNRRA functions to UN specialised agencies.690Several historians and distinguished former colleagues of Jackson remember him as an extraordinarily energetic and enthusiastic international logistics genius, and credit him with much of the success of UNRRA.691 Another Australian appointed to UNRRA headquarters in Washington in these early years was economist and diplomat E Ronald Walker, who had been deputy director-general of the Department of War Organisation of Industry from 1942 to 1945. The Australian government itself also played a leading role in UNRRA operations, becoming, in 1944, the fourth largest contributor and, in early 1946, being elected to the body's Central Committee. Additionally, in February 1945, Australia hosted a crucial UNRRA Far Eastern Committee meeting which discussed aid supplies for enemy nations. Australia remained UNRRA's fourth largest contributor until the end of June 1947, when the agency's operations ceased.

Regional cooperation begins

From the beginning of the 1930s, the economic and strategic importance of Asia to Australia became increasingly apparent. At the same time, regional cooperation concepts, often involving new ideas about colonial association and partnership, were gaining popularity among British and Australian intellectual and political elites.692 An important question for the Western Allies, from about 1941, was the postwar future of colonies and what were then referred to as 'underdeveloped areas', particularly those in Asia, with their vast populations, natural resources and development potential.693 Meanwhile, Asian and Pacific regional cooperation was a possible solution to postwar development questions, but by 1943 the United Kingdom, the United States and Australia were considering various colonial government schemes which all involved regional commissions.694

In late February 1947 Minister for External Affairs HV Evatt told the Australian House of Representatives that the demise of European colonialism in Asia was generating growing Australian interest in the formation of a regional instrumentality involving Southeast Asia and the Western Pacific. Such an organisation would be concerned, at the very least, with facilitating free and rapid interchange of basic information about problems of administration, education, health, agriculture, commerce and cultural relations.695 Beginning in 1947, ECOSOC created distinct regional commissions to encourage development tailored to the needs and available resources of geographic regions of the world.696 One of these bodies was the UN Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East (ECAFE), which was established in March 1947. It was renamed the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP) in 1974.

Within ECAFE differing regional cooperation concepts merged into an effective collective effort. It was composed initially of regional members–the Republic of China, India, the Philippines and Thailand–and non-regional members–Australia, France, the Netherlands, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom and the United States. The commission was of economic, commercial and political significance to Australia, which enjoyed a special position among non-regional members because of its 'proximity to, and contiguity with, the region'. Australia considered the development of the ECAFE region of utmost importance and participated actively in all facets of the commission's work from the outset. As the Cold War gathered momentum, the government also promoted the commission as a forum for nations not headed by communist governments. The aim was to develop a common sense of identity among these states by providing instruction on economic growth techniques. This would, it was hoped, help them experience the benefits of the capitalist system and thus be able to resist communist overtures.697

After the end of the Pacific War, the Australian government awaited a Japanese peace settlement that might provide a firm foundation for political and economic reconstruction. Such an accord might involve coordination of Japanese civilian industry with that of the Pacific and East Asia, permitting comprehensive evaluation of the region's potential. Australia also emphasised at the United Nations that long-range regional industrial development, especially within the ECAFE region, hinged on agricultural improvement, despite industrialisation being often perceived as a more prestigious endeavour. Asian nations depended heavily on either earning foreign currency from exporting food or spending a large portion of such income on vital imports of food. Thus Australia was keen for ECOSOC to focus less on procedural and organisational matters and more on international economic and social problems, especially by keeping the specialised agencies in improved balance.698 This latter point was inextricably linked with sustained Australian efforts to encourage UN budgetary restraint, the coordination of work to prevent duplication, and the prioritisation of work to optimise the use of limited funding.699 The Australian government considered ECOSOC's work so crucial to the eventual success or failure of the United Nations that, in October 1947, it stood for and was elected to an initial three-year term (1948–1950) on the council. During this period Australian efforts to ensure that ECOSOC focused on fulfilling those key objectives–aimed at development of the so-called 'underdeveloped areas'–intensified.700 They coincided with the complementary efforts of Jackson, who served for a brief period in 1948 as Assistant UN Secretary-General for General Co-ordination.701

Reports of all UN specialised agencies during 1948 highlighted the urgent problems of underdeveloped nations, although budgetary restrictions limited UN operational responses.702 At ECAFE and ECOSOC in 1948 Evatt emphasised Australia's support for regional bodies working closely with the specialised agencies and functional commissions. Evatt felt that ECAFE had to begin a precise and prioritised development work program without delay, and that this would be greatly advanced by the conclusion of an appropriate Japanese peace treaty and greater international acceptance of the importance of agricultural improvement in overall development strategies. Australia continued to envisage the FAO as playing an important role in agricultural development and was eager for the other specialised agencies, including the IBRD, the only public international source of capital, to become more involved in that sector.703

Meanwhile, with an ECOSOC review of ECAFE's work due before 1951, the regional commission initiated, in June 1948, an assessment of its future work strategy and development objectives. At that crucial moment in the commission's history, Australia became the first and only non-regional member to host an ECAFE session, from November to December 1948. During the proceedings Australia continued to encourage the commission to begin a work program immediately, with a primary focus on agricultural development and the future regional role of Japanese industry. The key underlying themes of Australian remarks were regional cooperation, intra-regional trade and the inevitable shift in ECAFE's focus from economic reconstruction to development. Regional and international political stability, and economic growth, as well as increased trade and prosperity, it was posited, would result from development and regional cooperation in Asia.704

Expansion of technical assistance: 1949 to early 1950s

From the late 1940s, as the global financial system continued to face massive challenges and the Cold War spread to Asia, Australia recognised that a large portion of funds potentially available for international development would need to be diverted to the military-security sector.705 So although fewer funds were available for economic development, governments of the developed nations acknowledged the potential mutual benefits of focusing even more on the advancement of underdeveloped nations and the involvement of specialised agencies. Walker, who had moved from Washington to the Australian embassy in Paris, played a leading role on these issues, including as president of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Fourth General Conference in 1949 and in the shift in the organisation's focus towards assistance to the underdeveloped countries. Walker also emphasised the growing need to empower ECOSOC further in order to improve the coordination and prioritisation of UN work.706 When considering UNESCO in March 1950, Cabinet asked Minister for External Affairs Percy Spender to prepare a submission on 'proliferation in the United Nations and the specialised agencies', and what Cabinet saw as the 'over-expansion in work undertaken, personnel and organizational structure' of the United Nations and its specialised agencies.707 Spender's subsequent submission recommended that the government 'take all possible action' to ensure that those tendencies were 'suppressed'.708 From the late 1940s until into the 1960s, the World Health Organization (WHO) was also a focus of Australian efforts in this regard. Throughout this period, Australia pressed for much greater prioritisation and coordination in WHO activities as well as for a reduction and stabilisation of that agency's budget and administrative spending, and constitutional changes to the status of WHO Executive Board members.709

Western Allies were simultaneously attracted to US President Harry S Truman's Point Four Program of 1949, which called for an expanded UN technical assistance scheme to operate in conjunction with private capital investment to facilitate development in so-called underdeveloped countries, particularly those least economically developed.710 The Australian government was of the view that such a UN Expanded Programme of Technical Assistance (EPTA) would demonstrate the interest of donor countries in improving living standards in underdeveloped countries, thereby reducing political, economic and racial tensions and susceptibility to communist influence.711 Nevertheless, Canberra and Washington agreed that such a program should not be an expansion of existing specialised agency projects, but rather a highly coordinated and prioritised economic development scheme shaped by comprehensive consideration of the limitations of UN resources and targeted towards regions in the most urgent need. With UN agencies already attempting to do too much with too little, Australia insisted that an EPTA's first priority should be agriculture-related development, especially in Asia.712

In August 1949, when communist forces were poised to assume the government of China, an ECOSOC resolution, 'Economic Development of Under-Developed Countries', was proposed. It called for the establishment of an EPTA.713 In late 1949, following the establishment of the People's Republic of China, Secretary of the Department of External Affairs (DEA) John Burton, promoted a strategy which would see Australia providing as much international educational and technical assistance as possible–involving changes in Australian financial, commercial and industrial policy–to assist in reconstruction and development in Southeast Asia.714 This plan was aimed at developing the region as a buffer between Australia and the People's Republic of China. Burton's position was reinforced by growing Western concerns about Chinese intentions, as Beijing openly encouraged the strengthening of communist movements in colonial and semi-colonial countries and territories, and armed struggle through the formation of national liberation armies, where conditions were deemed favourable.

Australia, therefore, supported UN General Assembly Resolution 304 (IV) of November 1949 establishing the EPTA to facilitate the economic advancement of underdeveloped countries through the provision of specialists, fellowships and limited amounts of technical equipment. The EPTA was financed by voluntary government pledges separate from assessed contributions to the regular budget of the United Nations. Australia was a leading contributor to EPTA and played a substantial role in its evolution during the early to mid-1950s, at the same time pressing for continued cooperation between the program and various bilateral schemes.715

Building on the planning in the DEA, begun under Burton, for economic assistance for the countries to Australia's north, Spender became influential in the formation of the Colombo Plan for Cooperative Economic Development in South and Southeast Asia, under which donor countries provided economic and technical aid to participating countries.716 Spender's work was continued by his successor, Richard Casey, whose career as Minister for External Affairs (from 1951 to 1961), James Cotton contends, 'became synonymous with a new national awareness of Asia'.717 The Colombo Plan, which began operating in July 1951, was supplemented by the EPTA and other UN specialised agency projects in that region. It provided recipient nations with capital for projects aimed at reducing poverty so as to contain the spread of communism.718

From the Special UN Fund to the International Development Association

Australian enthusiasm for the Bretton Woods financial institutions grew rapidly after 1949 when Canberra made an initial drawing from the IMF to meet balance of payments difficulties. As discussed in Chapter 5, between 1950 and 1962 the Australian government obtained a number of large IBRD development-related loans. Country allocation was not a feature of the IBRD charter and during the early years the Bank did not provide loans to any country, no matter how poor, that had fallen behind in their international debt payments. Not until the 1960s did the IBRD begin to alter its agenda by becoming a major player in the 'green revolution', with its mission evolving gradually into poverty reduction.719 Accordingly, beginning in the early 1950s, underdeveloped nations unable to obtain IBRD funding increased pressure for the establishment of a Special UN Fund for Economic Development (SUNFED) to provide low-cost development loans. US President Dwight Eisenhower proposed, in April 1953, the creation of such a fund, financed by savings from disarmament, for reconstruction and development of the underdeveloped nations.720 US delegates to ECOSOC subsequently persuaded their Australian counterparts to co-sponsor a council resolution, in August 1953, urging the General Assembly to support such a scheme. The Assembly soon initiated action to have a SUNFED established as soon as possible, but the proposed scheme never became operational because–as the Cold War intensified–the necessary funding did not materialise in the way that the underdeveloped nations had hoped.721

Australia was initially reluctant to contribute financially to the proposed SUNFED, mainly because it was relying–at the time–on large foreign loans to finance its own domestic development, while simultaneously having to meet its multilateral aid commitments and provide financial support to its overseas territories and trustee areas. The Australian government constantly sought to ensure that Australian official development assistance (ODA) was channelled primarily to projects in 'underdeveloped' Asian and Pacific countries on Australia's northern geographical strategic periphery.722 Yet, with the Soviet economic offensive underway in the Middle East and Southeast Asia in the mid- to late 1950s, DEA officials continually emphasised that Australia should, in due course, consider contributing financially to a SUNFED.723

In the meantime, Australia was a founding member of the International Finance Corporation (IFC), which had been established in July 1956 to provide loans to facilitate private sector investment in developing countries, partly to ease pressure for the establishment of a SUNFED. When underdeveloped nations continued to lobby for a SUNFED, however, a compromise was reached at the General Assembly, resulting in the establishment, in October 1958, of a US$100 million Special Fund to provide grants for pre-investment studies that would improve the chances of low-income developing nations securing IBRD capital investment loans.724 The UN Special Fund began operating in January 1959, but the Australian government deferred financial contributions because of its own acute foreign financing requirements, balance of payments uncertainties, concern about the proliferation of international institutions, and existing ODA commitments, especially in Australian territories and the Territory of Papua and New Guinea.725

The proliferation of international institutions focused on economic and social development exacerbated the difficulties of coordination and resulted in the revival of proposals for the establishment of an international development authority. In 1949 VKRV Rao, the prominent Indian economist and chair of the Sub-Commission on Economic Development, had proposed the creation of a UN Economic Development Administration that would both 'complement … orthodox foreign financing and … coordinate and integrate the supply of technical assistance to underdeveloped countries'.726 While that proposal was not pursued, Nelson Rockefeller's International Development Advisory Board had recommended, in its Partners in Progress report of March 1951 to President Truman, that an authority be established promptly to 'finance a portion of the cost of public works which are essential to the underdeveloped countries and which cannot be financed on an ordinary loan basis'.727 Just as the Special Fund was getting underway in 1958, Jackson (now Sir Robert) also presented a case for the establishment of an international development authority, 'required primarily to assist individual less developed countries'. Unlike the US recommendation, Jackson's suggested authority would not be affiliated with the IBRD. Jackson viewed his proposal as a way to overcome the centrifugal forces of the specialised agencies by concentrating multilateral aid provided by the United Nations in one central body. Such an authority, he maintained, would 'need to be coordinated with the work of the various international bodies already in existence … Where overlapping in economic, social and technical fields does arise from incomplete coordination, an International Development Authority … might help to cure it.' He also emphasised that:

[i]n this concept of economic cooperation there can be far less emphasis on the role of donor and recipient nations. The greatest political and economic benefits will be obtained from a true partnership among all the countries concerned.728

Partnership was a concept that the United Nations and the international powers would embrace more fully–some four decades later–as the main thrust of their development assistance programs. In the meantime, the partnership model had a bearing on the formation, in September 1959, of the IBRD-affiliated International Development Association (IDA). Over time, the IDA neutralised pressure for a more centrally controlled SUNFED as it became the leading agency provider of long-term, low-interest development loans (IDA credits), repayable in local currency, for soundly conceived public infrastructure projects in countries with extremely low per capita income. The IDA, IFC and IBRD would become three of the five bodies which make up the World Bank Group, a UN specialised agency.729

Expanding development cooperation: 1960–1970

As decolonisation continued in the 1960s, and more developing states joined the United Nations, the organisation began to change its approach to international development. During the First UN Development Decade (1960–1970), launched by the General Assembly in December 1961 to lessen the gap between developed and developing countries, the latter successfully used their growing numerical dominance to ensure that the United Nations at large focused on development issues that were of primary interest to them. Australia, while maintaining its important long-term relationships with various developed countries, simultaneously sought to expand its engagement with developing nations, at the United Nations and elsewhere.

For example, the expansion of the focus of the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) from disaster relief to development, during the 1960s, was 'guided chiefly' by EJR (Dick) Heyward, an Australian who was Senior Deputy Executive Director of the agency. From 1960 UNICEF determined that children should be a focus of all policies directed at building up a country's 'human capital' and, to the satisfaction of developing countries, began to fund educational programs the following year.730 Australia was a member of the UNICEF Executive Board from 1966 to 1969, having first been a member from 1947 to 1961. Australia was also a founding member of the World Food Programme (WFP), a UN body that evolved from parallel FAO–General Assembly resolutions of November and December 1961 and whose purpose was to orchestrate UN food aid operations; these had previously been administered in ad hoc ways. The WFP's initial conceptual focus was on emergency disaster relief and providing food for schools. Operationally, however, for many years following its creation it was primarily a large-scale experiment in the economic and social advancement of the developing countries through the provision of surplus foodstuffs, mainly as partial payment to those working on specific development projects.731

The establishment of the WFP stemmed from the fact that bilateral food-for-development programs were already underway. Food aid had been a large and important feature of America's early postwar aid program, which had greatly assisted with the development of such nations as the Republic of Korea. By the late 1950s Washington was keen for other nations to take a larger share of the international food aid burden. In October 1960, following President Eisenhower's proposal that a multilateral food aid body be established, the General Assembly asked the FAO to formulate procedures for the provision, through multilateral shipments, of as much surplus food as possible to help reduce nutritional deficiencies, provide emergency relief in the wake of natural disasters and aid economic development, especially in the underdeveloped countries. In response to FAO Director-General BR Sen's report on food-for-development programs and US Food for Peace Director George McGovern's proposal that a three-year multilateral food aid experiment be conducted, the Coalition government of Prime Minister Robert Menzies agreed in October 1961 that Australia should contribute. While seeking to make sure that the program included effective consultations to safeguard commercial trading in foodstuffs, the government agreed to participate in the three-year (1963–65) experimental scheme, which was backed by US$100 million in participating government voluntary contributions. Australia was represented on the 24-nation committee which supervised the program's operations, and became a major donor. In early April 1965 Australia agreed to the continuation of the program for a further three years.732

During the early 1960s the Australian government also sought to expedite development in Papua and New Guinea. Australian grant assistance to the territory had been increased steadily over the previous decade and its First Five-Year Plan (1962–67) was introduced in October 1961, but with local revenues stagnating, the question of the territory's economic viability remained unresolved.733 Cabinet's decision that the IBRD be invited to investigate and report on the social and economic development of Papua and New Guinea was supported by a UN visiting mission there in April to May 1962.734 The IBRD mission to Australia and Papua and New Guinea that followed (June to September 1963) produced a comprehensive five-year revised and integrated development strategy for the territory.735 The Australian government endorsed the IBRD report in 1965 as the foundation for the planning of Papua and New Guinea's Second Five-Year Plan (1964–69). Also during 1965, the government decided to seek EPTA assistance to establish vocational and industrial training programs under the new development strategy.736

Meanwhile, in 1962, both the Minister for External Affairs, Garfield Barwick, and Walker, who was now Ambassador to France, pressed for Australia to begin contributing to the UN Special Fund. This would enhance Australia's ability to influence the direction of the First UN Development Decade. It would also enable Australia, which had just begun a third three-year term on ECOSOC, to comment actively on and influence Special Fund and specialised agency activities. In 1964, Walker became the second Australian president of ECOSOC, the first having been Sir Douglas Copland in 1955. In the mid-1960s Walker supported efforts to improve ECOSOC's work through a better defined and more streamlined, prioritised and coordinated approach, involving closer relationships between that council and the Administrative Committee on Coordination.737

Australia maintained its strong support for the UN's international development agenda, while benefiting directly from UN funds–those of the IBRD (until 1962) and select EPTA–Special Fund projects. The Menzies government urged an EPTA–Special Fund merger, with a view to achieving 'economies in administrative costs', 'better and more effective assessment of priorities', and coordination of UN and Colombo Plan activities.738 Australian Special Fund contributions would also complement Australia's record of assistance to UN programs and its recent joint application, with France, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States, for Special Fund aid for South Pacific Commission research on the eradication of the rhinoceros beetle, which threatened coconut and oil palm crops. Such financial allocations would also enable Australia to fully use the fund's resources in the development of Papua and New Guinea. On presenting these views to Cabinet, in June 1963, Barwick emphasised that:

[e]conomic development in underdeveloped countries, particularly those near to us, is important for Australia's political and economic future. The political importance, particularly in relation to Australia's security, of economic development in South-East Asia, is well recognised; in addition the future development of our overseas markets depends, to a large extent, upon the economic progress of the under-developed countries.739

Indeed, this was one reason for the Australian government's eagerness to increase its contributions to the IDA. Apart from the association being viewed as 'one of the most efficient of the international aid agencies, because it uses the same staff and draws on the accumulated experience of the International Bank', about 75 per cent of IDA credits continued to go to Asian countries, a pattern that the government was keen to see continue.740

At ECAFE's nineteenth session (March 1963) the Australian delegation, led by Barwick, succeeded, with Malaya's support, in having the ECAFE region extended to include Australia, which thus became a full regional member. Papua and New Guinea became an associate member in July 1970. Crucial groundwork in securing the Malayan government's support for the extension of full regional ECAFE membership for Australia had been laid by the Australian High Commissioner in Kuala Lumpur, Tom Critchley, and his deputy, Richard Woolcott.741 The session also adopted a resolution to establish an Asian Institute for Economic Development and Planning to provide training in economic planning to personnel from countries of the region. Australia agreed to donate substantial funds to this centre. ECAFE continued to promote proposals for regional economic integration and Australia was eager to participate in such discussions. Full Australian membership could provide both an effective forum to gain support for the government's international trade policies and opportunities to participate in regional joint industrial ventures.

Thus, in the second half of 1963, the Australian government also decided to begin annual contributions to the Special Fund. In mid-September 1965 Australia formally asked the fund to provide assistance for EPTA-related projects in Papua and New Guinea, with the immediate priorities then being the education and transport sectors.742 By the early to mid-1960s the United States also regarded ECAFE as the 'major instrument in Asia for the promotion of regional economic and social cooperation and development'.743 That view was strengthened by ECAFE's important role in the establishment of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) in August 1966. With both the IBRD and its affiliates remaining the only public source of international capital, and the UN development agenda focused increasingly on what were then becoming known as the least (or less) developed countries (LDCs), the ADB provided crucial large-scale development funding in Asia. A considerable and growing portion of ADB borrowing was from Japan. Although the bank is not formally part of the UN system, UN bodies played key roles in its formation. Bank membership has been open to member countries of ECAFE/UNESCAP, other countries of that region, and developed nations outside the region that are members of either the United Nations or its specialised agencies. The bank's charter makes provision for ADB–UN cooperation in development work in Asia, and it consults and works closely with UN agencies, especially UNESCAP, the FAO, the IMF, the UN Development Programme (UNDP), the WHO and the World Bank. UN bodies and the ADB have negotiated cooperative arrangements over the years.744

Australia participated in the meeting, organised by ECAFE, of the preparatory committee on the ADB (October to November 1965), which amended and adopted the bank's draft charter. That document, which made provision for ADB–UN regional development cooperation, was approved on 4 December 1965 by a Conference of Plenipotentiaries on the Asian Development Bank held in Manila. The Australian delegation also secured confirmation that Papua and New Guinea would eventually be eligible for ADB loans, if terms of Australian ECAFE membership were suitably amended. The territory joined the ADB formally in April 1971.745 Meanwhile, on 1 December 1965, Minister for External Affairs Paul Hasluck told the Second Ministerial Conference on Asian Economic Cooperation, also held in Manila (from 29 November to 1 December), that Australia supported the formation of an ADB 'because we see the need for regional economic co-operation … to use more fully the underdeveloped resources and bring better standards of living to all peoples of the region'. However, he stressed the paramount importance of agricultural improvement.746 In March 1966 Cabinet decided that legislation which would authorise the steps necessary for Australia to become an ADB member should be introduced as soon as possible.747 Ironically, the usefulness of ECAFE was gradually eclipsed by the establishment of the ADB, where developed countries had far more control than in any UN agency.

UNCTAD and the Jackson reforms

The UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), created in 1964, is a permanent forum on trade and development, especially as it relates to developing nations. It meets at four-year intervals 'for intergovernmental deliberation with attendant research, policy analysis, and data collection facilities rather than [being] a formal organization'.748 The establishment of this body was viewed as a great victory by the developing countries, but the developed countries ensured that it became relatively unimportant. However, in the early days of UNCTAD, Australia played a constructive and relatively influential role, leading the way in giving tariff preferences to developing country exports. It was also a member of the UNCTAD I preparatory committee and participated in the initial conference at Geneva from March to June 1964. There, Australia stressed the possibilities of cooperation and of strengthening relations with developing countries, particularly by establishing an 'identity of interest' in the commodity field. Australia sought to be sympathetic towards the problems of developing nations, working towards recognition of its 'middle zone' status and also towards the improvement of its trading position through international trade agreements. The Trade and Development Board was established in December 1964 as a permanent organ of UNCTAD, with Australia, as a member, participating in the board's first meeting in April 1965.749 UNCTAD was also a focus for meetings, in which Australia subsequently took part, of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), an association of developed countries. This included participation in meetings of the organisation's Development Assistance Committee, which met frequently to coordinate member reactions to various initiatives from developing countries in aid and finance.750

In parallel with developments in the United Nations during the second half of the First UN Development Decade, a new section of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) was introduced over the period from February 1965 to June 1966. It sought to ensure that developing nations would, through trade and export earnings, increasingly obtain the means for rapid economic development and the improvement of living standards. Australia led the way in demonstrating its commitment to these objectives by introducing and obtaining a GATT waiver for a tariff preference system for developing country exports produced by less than fully competitive industries.751 All developed countries eventually followed the Australian initiative, which Canberra modified and expanded, by introducing their own generalised system of preferences.752

In response to growing pressure for UN development bodies to be consolidated to avoid duplication of work, the General Assembly adopted a resolution in November 1965 merging the Special Fund and EPTA into UNDP, which began operations on
1 January 1966. UNDP's mandate was to coordinate all UN development assistance and to fund pre-investment work and technical assistance, tasks that were supposed to be facilitated by the program's access to greater financial resources than those of its predecessors.753 Australia's success in becoming a member of the initial UNDP Governing Council (1966–67) was based on its eagerness to see the program limit administrative costs, assess priorities more effectively and help coordinate UN–Colombo Plan activities.754 Australian Representative James Ingram reiterated to the Governing Council Australia's longstanding view that agricultural development was an essential element in the overall advancement of most developing nations. Canberra shared the concern expressed by governments of Asian nations about their region's reduced share in UNDP operations (continuing a decline that began when the EPTA and SUNFED were separate bodies) and thought the program should also focus on social development, especially as it related to education. Better coordination between the methods of technical assistance and the Special Fund components was required, and this depended on resident representatives becoming the chief executives of the program in each country, with the specialised agency representatives as their expert advisers. Ingram emphasised that Australia attached 'great importance to effective operational control … [and] satisfying governments that really effective procedures exist and are being applied'.755 Australia's perspicacious longer-term prognosis for UNDP, on departing its Governing Council at the end of 1967, was that there would be:

strong support by both recipient and donor countries for greater control by the UNDP of the aid activities of the specialised agencies. This would involve not only a tightening-up of the machinery for co-ordination at the planning stage, but also the granting of even greater authority to the UNDP resident representatives in the field.756

Before Australia finished its term on the Governing Council, UNDP had completed an economic survey of the Indonesian province of West Irian (West Papua). The resulting report advocated a strong and sustained longer-term development program, backed by greatly increased funding. Australia had 'every reason to seek to ensure that West Irian continues to receive special attention in the economic field in the years after the 1969 "act of free choice" with respect to self-determination'.757 The government sought to ensure that rapid development achievements of Papua and New Guinea were not undermined by any steady flow of people leaving West Irian. Australia was therefore a keen supporter of further contributions to the UNDP-administered UN Fund for the Development of West Irian, which resumed work in 1968, focusing on sectoral and infrastructure projects.758 Yet, with respect to UNDP itself, the Australian government and the administration of Papua and New Guinea continued to believe that the work of its specialists could be improved significantly.759 In December 1968 the IBRD, which had conducted pre-investment work in the territory by preparing a comprehensive development blueprint, began providing multimillion-dollar loans to finance crucial development projects.

In July 1968, UNDP appointed Robert Jackson, by then a senior consultant to the Special Fund, to chair the first ever 'capacity study' of the entire UN development system. Even before it was concluded, the Australian government doubted that the study's recommendations would, at least over the short term, form the basis of any concerted effort to improve coordination of UN agency activities. The doubts arose because developing and developed nations disagreed over what the study should achieve, and because there were concerns that the specialised agencies would oppose any suggestions in the report that might limit their own activities.760 The review, analysis and final report of September 1969, prepared by Jackson in collaboration with his British Chief Assistant, Margaret Anstee, emphasised the crucial role of technical cooperation and pre-investment in developing countries. The review also highlighted the fact that UN machinery was in some respects unmanageable, with the absence of a central coordinating body to monitor, organise and control UN development activities, including in relation to finance. The study advocated the need to introduce a country programming system–the coordinated concentration, under UNDP authority, of UN development resources into programs synchronised with recipient countries' national development strategies.761 It warned that if these changes did not occur, 'the gap would be filled from elsewhere, probably by the World Bank, which had learned from experience that capital loans needed the support of technical assistance and adequate pre-investment'.762

These ideas were similar to clearly defined visions and concepts promoted by Australia both before the formation of the United Nations, and, especially, during UN dialogue in the late 1940s and early 1950s. The Australian mission in New York immediately recognised, however, that the '[c]hances of doing very much with the Jackson study are not good because of a lack of strong control through the UNDP Governing Council'.763 Indeed, while the Jackson report resulted in UNDP initiating a country programming system, overall reform of the UN development apparatus as outlined did not occur, mainly, as Australia had foreseen, because of specialised-agency resistance to inter-agency coordination that might limit their own individual autonomy.764 Some of the agencies established their own technical assistance funds and a number of developed countries contributed financially, thus undermining the central funding role of UNDP, which was the cornerstone of the capacity study's proposals. Nevertheless, even during the 2000s, that study is viewed by many 'as a seminal work. It has been the starting point for all subsequent attempts to reform the system, none of which have succeeded in fully resolving its basic flaws.'765

Strengthening collaboration with developing countries in the 1970s

Australia was an active participant in the UN Conference on the Human Environment at Stockholm in June 1972 which sought 'protection and improvement of the human environment as it affects the well-being of peoples and economic development throughout the world'.766 Control of water, land and air pollution–including any unnecessary increase in artificial ionising radiation in the atmosphere–was of particular concern to Australia. Symptomatic of this concern was Australia's co-sponsoring, in June 1972, of a draft resolution calling all nations to cease nuclear weapons testing immediately. That issue was considered further in May 1973 at the twenty-sixth World Health Assembly (WHA) where Australia's chief delegate was Sir William Refshauge, the Commonwealth Director-General of Health. (Refshauge had chaired the WHO Executive Board in 1969 to 1970, prior to being elected president of the twenty-fourth WHA held in 1971.) At the twenty-sixth WHA Refshauge presented Australia's statement, which 'stressed concern for the peoples of the Pacific region at the continuation of such tests and the hazards to health which were thus produced'.767 Towards the end of the assembly Australia co-sponsored a WHO resolution on the urgent need for nations to suspend atmospheric testing of nuclear devices.

Sensitive to the links between the human environment and international economic development, the government of Prime Minister Gough Whitlam recognised the limitations of the Australian system of aid delivery as it had existed up to that point and responded with a landmark reform. Until the mid-1970s several government departments–including External/Foreign Affairs, Education and Treasury–had administered Australia's aid program in a rather ad hoc and sometimes uncoordinated manner. In 1974, as Papua and New Guinea approached independence, the Whitlam government established the Australian Development Assistance Agency (ADAA) under the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), formerly the DEA. The agency's role was to administer and professionalise Australia's aid program through strengthened, coordinated and integrated policy guidance and greater research and evaluation. This would, among other things, ensure that the development dimension was promoted and, in practice, result in stronger Australian support for multilateral aid. The ADAA also assumed joint responsibility with Treasury for the international banks. The Whitlam government's successor, that of Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser, sought to reduce the number of statutory authorities, with ADAA integrated into the DFA in 1976 to 1977, gaining considerable autonomy in the management of ODA. It became known as the Australian Development Assistance Bureau (ADAB) from 1977 to 1987, and under the directorship of James Ingram from 1977 to 1982, it maintained in practice the autonomy of the ADAA.768

While the Australian government retained its focus, in the 1970s, on the development of the Asia–Pacific region, it also remained enthusiastically involved in UN activities in areas outside that region. Australia was an active participant in the preparatory committee of the UN World Food Conference of November 1974, held in response to the inability of the international food system to meet a spike in demand resulting from drought in Sahelian Africa. Australia supported a proposal that increasing quantities of food aid be channelled through multilateral machinery. Australia, the Netherlands and New Zealand, along with thirty-one other developing nations, also co-sponsored a resolution that a fund be established immediately to increase financing to agricultural development projects to help developing nations to achieve greater self-sufficiency in food production through the improvement of infrastructure for rural development programs. Australia was involved in negotiating the text of the resolution, which also appealed to nations able to make voluntary contributions, and sought especially to attract substantial contributions from members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries.769 Australia became a member of the working group on the establishment of the fund and subsequently a founding member of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), which began operating in December 1977. After contributing A$5 million to help launch the fund, Australia contributed about another A$50 million over the period 1977 to 2004. Asia, Africa and the Middle East figured prominently in fund allocations.770

Meanwhile, the General Assembly's special session of 1 May 1974 supported the general concept of a New International Economic Order, a set of proposals submitted by developing countries in UNCTAD during the 1970s aimed at changing the international economic system in favour of the interests of developing countries. The passage of those proposals marked a culmination of various initiatives over many years to generate a significant transfer of resources to developing countries. The General Assembly decision to adopt an ancillary Charter of Economic Rights and Duties of States stemmed in part from this movement. The ensuing debate about the means and extent of transfers from the developed nations of the 'North' to the developing ones in the 'South' would command the international agenda within the United Nations for several years, and received considerable attention within the OECD.

In early April 1978 Fraser announced that his government had established a committee on Australian relations with the LDCs to be chaired by Owen Harries, a British–Australian academic and former senior adviser to both Fraser and Minister for Foreign Affairs Andrew Peacock. The resulting report, of April 1979, entitled Australia and the Third World (the Harries report) recommended: increased use of Australian agricultural expertise to help raise LDC food production; consideration of opportunities to offer loans for projects with high rates of economic return, while continuing to provide the bulk of assistance in the form of grant aid; greater focus on 'project-type' aid771 and progressive reduction in emphasis on overall aid from regular budgets; greater cooperation in the provision of assistance to meet the more moderate requests of the LDCs; and close involvement of business and non-government interests in the aid sector.772 Elements of the report were reminiscent of views that had been promoted by Jackson since the 1950s.

Achievements in the 'lost decade' of the 1980s

During the final decade of the Cold War, international economic recession and greater rationalisation in the economic and fiscal policies of the leading capitalist nations emphasised to communist and developing countries the need to undertake structural adjustment, entailing market reform and economic liberalisation.773 The 1980s have been described as the 'lost decade' in international development774 as the percentage of ODA as a proportion of gross national income (GNI) fell significantly. This, along with the exponential growth in bilateral aid programs which, apart from the United States Agency for International Development, had barely existed in earlier decades, resulted in a decrease in UN budgetary growth and pressure to reduce the expenditure of its agencies.775 Major donor nations sought to ensure that available funds were applied more carefully, both in terms of Cold War strategy and by making certain that such financial resources were directed at key priority projects. Australia also supported structural adjustment policies and, during the late 1980s as economic recession took hold, decreased its ODA significantly. In 1974 to 1975 Australia's ODA in terms of GNI had reached 0.46 per cent, the highest in the period from 1971 to 1972 to 2011 to 2012, but it decreased gradually after that until 1982 to 1983, when the ratio began to rise again. Australia's ODA/GNI ratio began a fluctuating decline in 1984 to 1985, reaching 0.30 per cent in 1989 to 1990–less than half the UN General Assembly figure of 0.7 per cent established in 1970 as the target for individual donor nations.776

Australia nevertheless remained an involved player in UN development-related activities during the 1980s. Its national and international work in health and virology drew praise from the WHO. The WHO had launched, in 1966, the Intensified Smallpox Eradication Programme, aimed at the global eradication of the disease within ten years: its aims were to reduce human suffering directly and save more than US$2 billion globally. Over the years the Australian government donated vaccine and large sums, outside regular budget contributions, to the campaign, and internationally renowned Australian National University microbiologist and virologist Professor Frank Fenner made a significant contribution to WHO research into the disease. From 1969 he was a committee member and rapporteur of the WHO's Informal Group on Monkeypox and Related Viruses, chairing meetings in 1976, 1978 and 1979. In December 1978 he was appointed chair of the Consultation on the Worldwide Certification of Smallpox Eradication and one year later was appointed chair of its successor organisation, the Global Commission for Certification of Smallpox Eradication. Fenner was chosen to announce, to the thirty-third WHA in May 1980, the global eradication of smallpox, often considered the WHO's greatest achievement.777

In 1981 Australia also signed the WHO's Global Strategy for Health for All by the Year 2000, which stemmed from the declaration of the Alma-Alta Conference of 1978, convened by the WHO and UNICEF.778 Under Minister for Health Dr Neal Blewett, between 1983 and 1990 Australia implemented a universal health plan and focused more on the prevention of illness than on treatment, launching both an offensive against drug abuse (in 1985) and its first national strategy to combat the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) (in 1989). The strategy, which focused on education, was deemed so successful that in the late 1980s the WHO encouraged other nations to emulate Australia's approach.779 From 1988 to 1992 distinguished Australian judge Michael Kirby was a member of the WHO's Global Commission on AIDS.

Meanwhile, in 1984 a major review of Australia's foreign aid program, chaired by business executive Sir Gordon Jackson, criticised ADAB operations, which had suffered from the Fraser government's efforts to reduce the agency's staffing and remove its autonomy. In 1987 ADAB was renamed by the Labor government of Bob Hawke as the Australian International Development Assistance Bureau (AIDAB) and became an autonomous body within the DFA. The Jackson report (1984) recommended that Australia place a greater emphasis on country programming, involving partnerships with recipient countries.780 Further involvement in UN activities on development during the 1980s included Australia's election as a member of ECOSOC for a fifth three-year term for the period 1980 to 1982 and again for 1986 to 1988. During the latter period, influential Australians remained disillusioned with the inadequacies of ECOSOC's coordinating role, especially as it pertained to development. Nevertheless, Australian engagement with the United Nations remained broad and energetic. Australia was elected to the UNICEF Executive Board for the period 1983 to 1986 and chaired that body in 1985. It was also elected to the UNDP Governing Council for three years, 1983 to 1986, and initiated the establishment, in 1986, of the Cairns Group, a unique coalition of agricultural-exporting countries within the GATT whose main argument against agricultural protection was that it inhibited development. Australia has continued to coordinate and lead the Cairns Group, which remains an influential voice in the agricultural reform debate.781

Also, in 1983 the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) entered into force for Australia––one of the initial signatories of the accord. The convention had evolved from the recommendations of the UN Commission on the Status of Women (UNCSW) and had been adopted by the General Assembly in 1979. There was subsequent increasing global recognition of the crucial role that women play in development. Australia had, since the very beginning of the United Nations itself, been a leading force in its movement towards gender equality and the empowerment of women. Jessie Street, the sole female adviser to Australia's delegation to the San Francisco Conference, was influential in the establishment, in 1946, of UNCSW, becoming vice-chair of the commission as Australia's representative in 1947 to 1948.782 In 1974, Australian academic Elizabeth Reid represented Australia at the UN Forum on the Role of Women in Population and Development. The following year, she led the Australian delegation to the first World Conference of the International Women's Year (now often known as the World Conference on Women), which prepared the foundation for the establishment of the UN Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), as those participating 'acknowledged that development could not proceed without equality and equality could not be achieved without recognition that discrimination against women is a human rights issue'.783 Reid went on to become the founding director, from 1977 to 1979, of the UN Asian and Pacific Centre for Women and Development in Tehran, and from 1989 to 1991 was director of UNDP's division for women in development. Australia also pressed for the CEDAW to be followed effectively, with eminent Australian Justice Elizabeth Evatt a member of the CEDAW Committee (the CEDAW monitoring body) from 1984 to 1992, and chair in 1989 to 1990.784

James Ingram and the World Food Programme

Neither was the WFP ignored during this period. Until 1981, the WFP had focused heavily on the provision of surplus 'food for development'. Emergency relief was, however, a growing focus. The appointment of Australian diplomat James Ingram as WFP Executive Director in April 1982 resulted in a revitalisation of the program, which continues to serve as a reform model for the United Nations at large. Ingram was the first–and to this day the only–Australian to have headed a major UN program and his reforms enabled the WFP to become the truly indispensable organisation it is today: namely, in the words of WFP authority D John Shaw, The World's Largest Humanitarian Agency.785

Ingram's career prior to his WFP appointment provided ideal experience for the job in that he understood both the difficulties of the UN system and the limitations of previous reform efforts. He had participated in Australia–IBRD loan negotiations and had represented Australia at UNCTAD, on the UN Industrial Development Organization preparatory committee, the UNICEF Executive Board and the UNDP Governing Council, as well as having headed ADAB, and he had thus gained considerable insight into development assistance policy. As counsellor at the Australian embassy in Jakarta (1962–64) and ambassador to the Philippines (1970–73) he had also gained firsthand experience in the pitfalls of managing aid projects. The expertise and managerial skills he developed in these roles helped him orchestrate WFP management and governance reform, while building on its successes in delivering 'food for development' through improved projects and flexible responses involving more efficient resource management. Greater care was taken to ensure that natural disaster relief did not undermine recipient country national food-security development objectives.

Ingram prevailed in a struggle with FAO Director-General Edouard Saouma over more autonomy for the WFP. Under his guidance, WFP emergency-relief response times improved, systematic methods of identifying needy communities were adopted, and government capacity to distribute food equitably and promptly was enhanced. Systems that identified and prepared development projects that would enable populations to avoid future dependence on emergency assistance were implemented.786 From the time he took the helm of the WFP, Ingram stated publicly that the program's emergency work, which he considered the best form of food aid, was as important as its development function. In the face of FAO opposition, he oversaw the development of a separate approval system that improved food relief for protracted refugee/displaced persons situations and fostered close collaboration with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees–achievements that endure to the present. The effect was to place the feeding of millions of refugees and displaced persons in developing countries on a secure, predictable basis. During his tenure there was a surge in the program's purchases from developing countries. Such transactions, which continue today, benefit both the supplier and recipient.

Apart from achieving some success in increasing the monetisation of commodities787 to help the poorest African nations cope with structural economic adjustment, Ingram was keen to perpetuate WFP social development projects, as he viewed these as the most appropriate food aid projects in many countries. These included projects for mother and child health care and food-for-schools. The latter both brought nutritional benefits and encouraged parents to send children, especially girls, to school, which is vital, as education is part of the foundation for all credible national social and economic development strategies. Such projects also complemented emergency assistance by setting up administrative and food distribution frameworks that can be expanded when disaster strikes. WFP development operations peaked under Ingram's leadership, but one of his lasting legacies, facilitating similar work in the future, was the proposal that resulted in a new US$30 million voluntary International Emergency Food Reserve which would limit the use, for emergencies, of WFP stocks held in countries for development projects.

With Ingram as WFP Executive Director from 1982 to April 1992, the program's administrative budget continued to grow despite intense political pressure from the governments of several of the most developed nations to reduce international agency expenditure. Finally, one of Ingram's most inspiring WFP achievements was to strengthen the agency's relations with institutions such as the African Development Bank, and various UN funds, programs and specialised agencies, such as IFAD and the World Bank Group. Ingram also established closer WFP relations with UNICEF and UNDP, although he has written that he found it easier to develop joint projects with the World Bank, IFAD and various specialised agencies and bilateral donors.788

A turning point: 1990–96

The end of the Cold War brought with it great optimism that all nations would work together more closely to maintain global peace and security. Governments started to agree that:

the concept of security must change–from an exclusive stress on national security to a much greater stress on people's security, from security through armaments to security through human development, from territorial security to food, employment and environmental security.789

In response to conflicts in Africa and Russia, as well as both the former Soviet Union and Yugoslavia during the 1990s, donor countries broadened their approach to development assistance, focusing more on humanitarian aid, conflict resolution and conflict prevention. Such work is related to the concept of humanitarian intervention, identified in 2002 as the 'responsibility to protect', discussed in Chapters 3 and 10. Since the founding of the United Nations, Australia has emphasised that global peace and security require, among other things, identification, prioritisation and coherence in the international development agenda aimed at reducing poverty. That position was, from the early 1990s, increasingly accepted by the international community. There was also growing international consensus that the provision of large amounts of non-targeted international development aid often resulted in recipients attempting excessively ambitious projects and spreading resources too thinly. Coordinated and targeted project development assistance, delivered through partnerships and country programming, involving shared orientation of development cooperation and preparation for priority challenges of sustainable economic and social policy, was increasingly in vogue internationally.790 Projected large reductions in military spending also presented the possibility that industrialised nations might very substantially raise their ODA along the lines proposed by President Eisenhower about four decades earlier.791

What followed throughout the 1990s and early to mid-2000s was a series of development-related global conferences and summits convened by the General Assembly: Children (1990, 2002); Education for All (1990, 2000); LDCs (1990, 2001); Drug Problem (1990, 1998); Food Security (1992, 1996); Sustainable Development (1992, 2002); Human Rights (1993); Population and Development (1994); Small Island and Developing States (1994, 2005); Natural Disaster Reduction (1994, 2005); Advancement of Women (1995, 2005); Social Development (1995, 2005); Human Settlements (1996, 2001); Youth (1998); Millennium Summit (2000, 2005); HIV/AIDS (2001); Financing for Development (2002); Ageing (2002); Landlocked and Transit Developing Countries (2003); and Information Society (2003, 2005). By 2007 the United Nations itself viewed these together as:

the best attempt in the history of the United Nations to give concrete content to … [the economic and social development] objectives of the UN Charter … [T]he conferences and summits of the past two decades were exceptional in responding to calls by leaders from many countries for the United Nations to more actively adopt the normative role outlined in the Charter by defining values, setting goals, articulating strategies and adopting programmes of action in the different dimensions of development.792

Collectively these objectives formed what is known as the United Nations Development Agenda, and progress towards them was usually evaluated at follow-up conferences and summits held at five- and/or ten-year intervals and dubbed the 'plus-5' and 'plus-10' reviews.

The need for a renewed emphasis on rationalisation of the economic and social sectors of the United Nations was a position promoted by both Richard Woolcott as Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (1988–1992) and Minister for Foreign Affairs Gareth Evans (1988–1996). As discussed in Chapter 11, this was part of the comprehensive Australian UN reform strategy, introduced at the United Nations by Australian Permanent Representative Peter Wilenski in late 1991, which emphasised the need to abandon any 'grand scheme' to coordinate the work of the UN specialised agencies and instead 'address the needs of developing and industrialised countries' through a coordinated focus on specific issues.793 Australia continued to promote focus and coherence in UN development work and was also keen to help shape the post–Cold War movement to increase international development cooperation in order to achieve better and more rapid results. One of Australia's most important contributions in this regard was its role in the World Summit for Social Development held in Copenhagen in 1995. Even before it began, Australian leaders recognised that this particular summit would be of 'historic importance', not only as the largest meeting of heads of state and government ever convened, but because '[t]he world is in transit from the policies and conditions which prevailed for virtually the whole life of the United Nations to those that we will need … for the 21st Century'.794 Australia was in an excellent position to influence greatly the outcomes of the Copenhagen Summit, not least because of its election as a member of the summit's bureau (management committee). In 1994, Australia's Permanent Representative at the United Nations, Richard Butler, had also been elected President of ECOSOC.

Australian politician and development economist John Langmore chaired the Australian National Consultative Committee of the Copenhagen Summit, established to bring together social policy specialists and representatives of peak non-government organisations (NGOs) in Australia. Although not a government official, he was also appointed deputy leader of the Australian delegation to the summit's preparatory committee meetings. Langmore recognised that the Copenhagen Summit would provide 'an opportunity to reassess the post-Cold War international system' and that it could 'have the equivalent role in establishing a new world economic and social order as the San Francisco Conference … at the end of the Second World War'.795He emphasised that:

[o]ne of the lessons of the last two decades is the inadequacy of dealing with economic policy in isolation. Thus, one of the central outcomes of this Summit must be a commitment to tackling economic and social policies simultaneously and in an integrated way.796

He also promoted the inclusion of concrete decisions in the summit's Programme of Action. Notably, these included availability of work, reliable and permanent improvement in UN financial resources with funding for development deemed essential, clear goals relating to poverty reduction, and steps to be taken to enhance ECOSOC's role. He wanted the council to use the powers and functions it already had under the UN Charter, including those to strengthen coordination between all UN social and economic bodies.797

At the preparatory meetings for the summit itself, Butler authoritatively chaired one of the most difficult negotiating committees; other Australian government and non-governmental delegation members also contributed. Consequently, '[m]any participants remarked on Australia's effectiveness in influencing the outcome'.798 During the first preparatory meeting, for example, it was the Australian delegation which proposed that countries set their own poverty reduction goals, prepare plans to achieve those goals and/or include such plans in national strategies.799 Australia was well placed to propose such initiatives given its focus on the Asia–Pacific region, which contained about two-thirds of the world's population and had the highest per capita poverty ratio. Prior to the Copenhagen Summit, Australia had played a central role in the development of the Asia–Pacific social development agenda, through participation in both UNESCAP (formerly ECAFE) and the Asian and Pacific Ministerial Conference at Manila (October 1994).

The General Assembly's goals for the Copenhagen Summit were poverty eradication, achievement of full employment, and social integration. Langmore reported that, at the summit itself, Australia played 'a central role in widening the range of issues covered and in strengthening the texts', including those on biennial reviews of implementation and on the strengthening of ECOSOC and the Commission on Social Development.800 The summit agreed on a major declaration which included ten commitments, thus expanding its original goals. More than ten years later the United Nations would state that the:

Copenhagen Declaration was a clear indication that priorities were changing and that there was a determination that social, economic and environmental goals would be integrated and have equal weight. It was the start of a global campaign to end desperate poverty, a campaign equivalent to that for the ending of slavery.801

Towards global poverty reduction: 1996–2007

During the 1990s, UN bodies began to recognise more fully the importance of assisting development in Asian and Pacific countries. While Australia's development policy remained focused on the Asia–Pacific region under the Coalition government of John Howard during this period, there was a shift towards other development cooperation strategies, including a more integrated approach to decision-making, partnerships, country programming and the objectives of poverty reduction and gender equality.802 A year before the election of the Howard government, AIDAB had been renamed the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID): it would, from then on, administer Australia's overseas aid. In 1996, Minister for Foreign Affairs Alexander Downer commissioned a major study of the Australian aid program, the Simons Review. As a result of this review, the single clear objective of the Australian aid program became the advancement of Australia's national interest through the provision of assistance to developing countries, based on effective partnerships, so as to facilitate poverty reduction and sustainable development. Greater emphasis was also placed on the quality of the program, through better performance evaluation and reporting, facilitated by improved identification of objectives.803 In 1999 the OECD's Development Assistance Committee commended Australia's development cooperation program for 'impressive progress of restructuring and renewal … [with] Australia in the vanguard of OECD practice'.804 The OECD emphasised development assistance policy coherence, with planning, targets and partnerships as key elements in a 'far more systematic approach to reducing poverty'.805

By this time, a new era of UN renewal was under consideration. In January 1997, shortly after becoming UN Secretary-General, the reform-minded Kofi Annan, while unveiling a commemorative portrait of the late Robert Jackson, declared in front of the television cameras: 'Jacko, where are you now, when I need you?'806 Annan's subsequent major reform strategy, launched in mid-July 1997 and entitled Renewing the United Nations: A Programme for Reform, was based to a considerable degree on Jackson's still highly relevant capacity study, as one of its main objectives was to achieve greater coherence and coordination.807 That year the First UN Decade for the Eradication of Poverty (1997–2006) commenced. During those years, the policy approach of the Howard government was to insert its agencies and its ODA strategically into priority areas, especially in Southeast Asia and the Pacific, by engaging selectively with UN agencies while supplementing these relationships with bilateral activities and initiatives. The focus was on key development-related issues such as antipersonnel landmines, the protection and empowerment of women, the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), WHO reform, HIV/AIDS, and the problems of small island developing states (SIDS), which had considerable regional resonance.

The clearance of antipersonnel mines was seen as essential in helping build capacity in affected countries. Explosive remnants of war were undermining development in a number of LDCs, reducing potentially productive land area, restricting transport and communication, impeding access to water and local markets, and straining domestic medical services as well as preventing the repatriation of displaced persons and the delivery of humanitarian relief. During the mid- to late 1990s, Australia contributed at least A$36 million to mine clearance and related work in Angola, Cambodia, Laos and Mozambique. From 1997 to 2010, it would contribute more than A$175 million in sixteen war-affected countries in Africa, the Asia–Pacific and the Middle East through international mine clearance, victim assistance, risk education and rehabilitation programs, working in conjunction with the UN Mine Action Service and UNDP.808

At Beijing in September 1995, Australia was fully engaged in promoting the position that the UN Fourth Conference on Women should be a 'conference of commitments'. Australia's commitments–in matters of health, participation in public life and decision-making, work and family, and violence against women–helped shape the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. To facilitate implementation of the conference commitments, Australia also agreed to fund NGOs in Pacific Island nations.809 The emphasis that Australia placed on those commitments was further reflected in the government's response to the UN's questionnaire on implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action810 and in its 'Beijing Plus Five Action Plan 2001–2005' document, which outlined 'measures to be taken by the … government to further progress the Platform for Action and to take forward the new Outcomes Document'.811 In late 1999, in presenting Australia's statement in the Third Committee of the General Assembly, an Australian representative at the United Nations stressed Australia's position that 'when women participated fully in their community, societies … [have] a better chance to reach their full potential'.812

As part of its poverty reduction approach during this period the Australian government was also scrutinising closely the effectiveness of non-voluntary funded UN bodies, especially in Asian and Pacific countries. One such body was the WHO. After having been elected to a four-year term (1995–98) on the WHO Executive Board, Australia pressed hard for organisational reform. The WHO had expanded its focus and bureaucracy, and Australia, reminiscent of its position from the late 1940s to the 1960s, advanced the view that the organisation should become more effective and efficient, while increasing its focus on key areas. Australia was also keen for structural changes within the WHO and for additional focus on development work. The WHO's policies seemed to be based excessively on the views of its regional directors, who operated too independently of the Director-General. One particular area of dissatisfaction for Australia was the organisation's approach to HIV/AIDS, a disease on which Australia's work had been hailed as a model by the WHO.813

Australia took a leading role in the establishment of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) in January 1996, which replaced the WHO's Global Programme on AIDS. Apart from the human tragedy of HIV/AIDS, the disease was a serious threat to international development. Yet the WHO remained at odds with the approach taken by UNDP's HIV and Development Program which, under its founding director Reid, focused on gender and equality in addressing socio-economic aspects of the transmission of the disease.814 Blewett, as Australia's Representative on the WHO Executive Board, had long drawn attention to the fact that Asian and Pacific countries were among those most affected, and emphasised that Australia should share its own experience and resources for the benefit of all nations in the region. In early 1996, Australia produced and distributed a detailed paper on WHO reform, an approach advocated through a special committee, headed by Blewett, of the Executive Board. In 1998, Blewett was appointed a member of Director-General-elect Gro Harlem Brundtland's transition team; Ann Kern, a distinguished Commonwealth and state government official, was appointed Executive Director of General Management (1998–2000) and Executive Director, Sustainable Development and Healthy Environments (2000–02).815

The Australian government remained committed to an increase in assistance to combat HIV/AIDS through collaborative international and regional work with UNAIDS and other UN agencies, announcing in July 2000 that it would provide an additional A$200 million for such work. In New York, Australia's Permanent Representative, Penny Wensley, and Ambassador Ibra Deguene Ka of Senegal co-facilitated the preparatory process for the twenty-sixth special session of the General Assembly, held from 25 to 27 June 2001, to discuss HIV/AIDS as a major international public health issue. The preparatory process draft declaration of commitment included important new objectives, based on the MDGs, such as the establishment of national targets to reduce, in most countries by 2005 and globally by 2010, infection in people aged fifteen to twenty-four. Wensley presented the draft declaration for adoption by the participating delegations of the special session. Within the region, Australia continued its efforts to combat the disease, including hosting the Sixth International Congress on AIDS in Asia and the Pacific in October 2001.816

Since the 1970s Australia had also been concerned about the challenges faced by the SIDS in terms of sustainable development. These include limited resources, dependence on international trade, fragile environments and susceptibility to natural disasters. From the late 1980s, member states have increasingly recognised the correlation between environmental sustainability and social and economic advancement, with sustainable development as the ultimate objective. The concept is particularly relevant in relation to the SIDS, given the possible impact of climate change on sea levels and weather patterns on these low-lying and remote states. In addition to participating in the UN environmental conferences discussed in Chapter 9, Australia was also one of the four developed countries to send ministerial representatives to the Global Conference on Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States in Bridgetown, Barbados in April to May 1994–this was the first such forum on SIDS. With Wensley, Australia's ambassador for the environment at the time, elected chair of the main committee, the conference produced a program of action for the SIDS–the Barbados Programme of Action. At the twenty-second special session of the General Assembly on 27 September 1999, Downer reaffirmed the government's strong commitment to the implementation of the Programme of Action and emphasised the importance of the Pacific Island states to Australia.

By 2000 it was clear that the 1995 Copenhagen Summit had indeed been a turning point, as many participating nations had subsequently set poverty reduction targets and/or upgraded their strategies to reduce poverty. Not only was growth in employment opportunities increasingly a focus, but the United Nations, including UNDP and the World Bank Group, had made poverty reduction their main goal.817 In June 2000, the twenty-fourth special session of the General Assembly on social development, also known as the Social Summit Plus Five, made 'renewed and new commitments [that] were even more specific and stronger than those set at Copenhagen. They were expressed with greater optimism and with language that was even more resolute.'818 Then, in September, the member states, including Australia, agreed to endeavour to reach, by 2015, MDGs to help fight global poverty and inequality. Specifically, the MDGs are to: eradicate extreme poverty and hunger; achieve universal primary education; promote gender equality and the empowerment of women; reduce child mortality; improve maternal health; ensure environmental sustainability; develop a global partnership for development; and combat diseases such as malaria and HIV/AIDS.

In these early years of the twenty-first century, Australia maintained the primacy of its aid program's focus on the Asia–Pacific region and sought to support effective and efficient multilateral development organisations. In September 2005 Howard announced that Australia would double its total annual ODA to about A$4 billion by 2010. The strategy of delivery was outlined in AusAID's white paper on Australia's aid––a ten-year strategic plan, introduced by Downer in April 2006. The plan focused on the two goals of sustainable growth and stability through key development partnerships with nations of the Asia–Pacific region, particularly Indonesia and Papua New Guinea. The participation of Australian professional groups, local government, schools and business was essential to the scheme, as was the removal of restrictions so as to increase competition and gain better value for aid money.819

Internationally, a key problem in the movement towards sustainable development during this period remained the continued inadequate communication, cooperation and coordination between the international financial institutions, the World Trade Organization (WTO–the successor of GATT, which remained outside the United Nations) and the United Nations at large. Yet, as Secretary-General Annan's reforms began in 1998, the United Nations and the World Bank Group (WBG)–the latter then under the presidency of Australian-born James D Wolfensohn–sought to cooperate with one another more closely. Annan's report to the General Assembly's fifty-seventh session in September 2002 acknowledged the UN's increasing role in building consensus on key economic and social matters, while advocating a corresponding strengthening of ECOSOC.820 Growing interest in UN–WBG cooperation led to high-level meetings, in 2002 and 2003, including at ECOSOC, involving the World Bank, the IMF and the WTO, to evaluate policy coherence and progress towards the landmark commitments on reducing poverty made at the International Conference on Financing for Development at Monterrey in March 2002. The Monterrey Conference was also attended by more than fifty heads of state. According to noted authority on the United Nations Thomas Weiss, while the leaders of the financial and trade bodies:

called upon the industrialised countries to provide the guidance and follow-through on commitments that are needed to move trade negotiations and the development agenda forward … the G8 has demonstrated little collective leadership and guidance in this regard.821

A crucial reason for this has been the global financial crisis, which began in mid-2007, the consequences of which continue to unfold. Adding to the socio-economic problems affecting the world's most vulnerable developing and least developed states has been the impact of increasingly frequent and severe disasters. Speaking in the UN debate on integrating disaster risk reduction into development agendas, on 12 April 2012, Australia's Minister for Foreign Affairs, Senator Bob Carr urged member states to factor disaster and climate risk management into development policies and planning 'to build the resilience of the most vulnerable communities'.822

Development goals and the global financial crisis: 2007–2012

From the mid-2000s there has been growing consensus among UN member nations on the need for greater coherence in the development-related agencies, funds and programs, for a strengthening of management and coordination of operational activities, and for a more effective ECOSOC 'as a principal body for coordination, policy review and recommendations on issues of economic and social development as well as for the implementation of the international development goals'.823 The General Assembly's Resolution 61/16 of 9 January 2007 reiterated that ECOSOC:

should continue to strengthen its role as the central mechanism for system-wide coordination and thus promote the integrated and coordinated implementation of and follow-up to the outcomes of the major United Nations conferences in the economic, social and related fields, in accordance with the Charter and relevant General Assembly resolution.824

At the 2006 ECOSOC Operational Activities Segment in Geneva, Australia–speaking also on behalf of Canada and New Zealand–welcomed the progress being made in simplification and harmonisation, monitoring and evaluation. While the work done in developing operational guidelines for UN country teams engaged in capacity development was also welcomed, the group believed that this needed to be extended beyond national government to include local and provincial government levels, the NGO sector and civil society. Capacity development was seen '[a]s a critical element of relief, transition and development' and the UN system was encouraged 'to enhance its support [for it] in all these stages'.825

In New York, the results of the First United Nations Decade for the Eradication of Poverty were examined, and were found to have been 'uneven',826 with poverty rising in many countries, particularly among women and children, despite its reduction in some regions. In December 2007, the General Assembly proclaimed that the Second United Nations Decade for the Eradication of Poverty (2008–2017) should focus on the provision of efficient and coordinated support for internationally agreed development goals.827 Those objectives were consistent with Australia's position as articulated at the United Nations since the early to mid-1990s, although Australia had been constant in emphasising the importance of efficiency and coordination, as noted, from as early as 1945.

Since December 2007, the Labor governments of Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard have viewed international development as a key element in international peace and security and sought to set an example in the provision of aid both by increasing Australian ODA to 0.5 per cent of GNI, initially by 2015–16, and fulfilling related commitments, regardless of the difficulties involved.828 So far, Australia's comparative economic resilience during the global financial crisis has provided a firm foundation for the government to increase its commitment to the UN development agenda. Australia's focus has remained on Asia and the Pacific: 80 per cent of total non-core multilateral ODA in 2008 was provided to countries of that region.829

In the lead-up to the Millennium Development Goals Review Summit, held in New York in September 2010 to review progress towards the MDGs, national governments and the United Nations recognised that progress–especially on education, gender equality, hunger, maternal health and basic sanitation–was seriously insufficient. If the prevailing trends continued, at least several targets would not be achieved.830 The role of the global financial crisis in limiting progress towards the MDGs was widely acknowledged.831 Nevertheless, Rudd argued that 'World Bank intervention, bilateral official development assistance and the continued implementation of the Millennium Development Goals become essential elements in managing the effects of a crisis that will otherwise throw much of the developing world back into poverty.'832 Throughout that period, the Australian government continued to meet its aid commitments, with its aid budget the fastest growing among OECD members. Maintaining its commitment to the MDGs, the first priorities in Australia's aid budget have been the economically developing countries, particularly in Africa and the Pacific. Australia was also one of the top ten contributors to the WHO, the WFP, UNICEF and the Central Emergency Response Fund.

An MDG of particular importance to Australia is the third MDG: the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women. On the tenth anniversary of UN Security Council Resolution 1325833 the Gillard government noted that 'Australia's international support of the Resolution 1325 since 2000 has also included increasing women's participation in peacebuilding and rebuilding communities'.834 In her role since 2006 as UNIFEM Goodwill Ambassador, Australian–American actor Nicole Kidman has promoted the essential contribution of women to reconstruction and development and raised large sums of money for programs to address violence and empower women.835 Recognising the important work that UN agencies such as UNIFEM undertake in providing increased opportunities for women to participate in development work, Australia was, by 2010, the seventh largest contributor to the fund (from January 2011 reorganised as UN Women).836 To ensure that the interests of women and girls were properly represented in Australia's overseas development program, Prime Minister Gillard announced the appointment of Penny Williams as Australia's first Global Ambassador for Women and Girls on 13 September 2011.

With respect to the eighth MDG, regarding a global partnership for development, Australia aims to support activities that facilitate trade and business and to back the involvement of the economically developing countries in regional and multilateral trade agreements. The Port Moresby Declaration of March 2008 prepared the foundation for a new phase in Australia–Pacific development cooperation, introducing the Pacific Partnerships for Development concept to accelerate progress towards the MDGs. Development assistance has been increasingly provided for priorities identified in the Pacific Island states' own development plans. The Cairns Compact on Strengthening Development Cooperation in the Pacific, reached in August 2009, also aims at more rapid progress towards the MDGs.

Maintaining this momentum at the 2010 Millennium Development Goals Review Summit, Rudd–then Minister for Foreign Affairs–made it clear that the Australian government intended to continue influencing international development by example, especially with respect to progress towards the MDGs.837 Rudd added that Australia would continue efforts aimed at opening world markets to the less economically developed countries (LEDCs) so that private commerce, trade and investment could help lift them out of poverty.838 The decision to increase Australian ODA to 0.5 per cent of GNI by 2015–16, as noted above, supported Rudd's claims and demonstrated the Australian government's commitment to achieving international targets in development assistance to the economically developing countries.

Then, in January 2011, Prime Minister Gillard emphasised Australia's 'strong record' at the United Nations over the sixty-five years since its establishment. She spoke of Australia's 'vision for the future' of the organisation, and of its eagerness to be part of the solution to the major challenges of today's complex and interconnected world. Such challenges, she argued, necessitate 'nations working together across national boundaries to forge creative solutions'. In this vein, she highlighted the crucial role that Australian international development assistance continues to play in global peace and security:

Not since the founding of the United Nations have we faced such uncertain times, when the contours of a new world order are emerging but not yet apparent. The [UN Security] Council needs members who are not only willing to support it with words, but also through deeds. Australia is a long-standing, reliable and consistent contributor to the UN's work on preventative diplomacy, peacekeeping and peacebuilding … Our close partnerships with our neighbours––most of whom are developing countries––give Australians a deep understanding of the vital importance of development to human dignity and to stability. Australia is rapidly increasing its aid budget to meet today's development challenges … We are building partnerships to create development opportunities for the world's poorest. We are intensifying our efforts in the global fight to eradicate extreme poverty and achieve the Millennium Development Goals.839


Since the end of World War II there has generally been remarkable progress towards economic and social advancement, in both the industrialised and the industrialising nations. The United Nations has played a leading role in both determining and achieving national and international development objectives. Much of the work of the United Nations relates in one way or another to social and economic development, a key component of human security. UN leadership in promoting international development has been in some respects influential in seeing the agenda it set increasingly carried forward in the private sector. Yet this phenomenon also stems from longstanding difficulties within the UN system, critics drawing attention to financial waste, to work priorities lacking clear definition, and to an ever-expanding agenda leading to duplication and lack of coordination and supervision. Although there is evidence to support elements of such criticisms, Australia has maintained a consistent and leading engagement with the United Nations to facilitate poverty reduction throughout the world, while also seeking to help address problems in the organisation's bureaucratic capacity devoted to that objective.

Throughout this period, Australia has worked closely with the industrial powers and strengthened its collaboration with the developing countries at the United Nations. It has continued to speak candidly about the need for greater coordination and prioritisation within the UN system in order to maximise the use of available resources and thus achieve greater progress towards global poverty reduction. Since its initial engagement with the United Nations in the 1940s, Australia has emphasised the interdependence of international development and security as well as the need to focus efforts towards achieving both. This chapter presents an overview of progress towards global poverty reduction, peace and security in the context of the dominant themes evident in the history of Australia's involvement in UN development activities, while providing some food for thought about the crucial steps that will follow.


Missing media item.

The Australian Senior Deputy Director-General of the UN Relief and Rehabilitation Administration from 1945 to 1947, Robert GA Jackson, pictured following his appointment as UN Assistant Secretary-General, New York, 1948. [UN Photo]


Delegates attend one of the sessions at the UN Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East meeting, Lapstone, New South Wales, 1948. [Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade]

Delegates attend one of the sessions at the UN Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East meeting, Lapstone, New South Wales, 1948. [Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade]


The Secretary of the Department of External Affairs, John W Burton (centre), accompanied by the counsellor, UN division, within the department, Arthur H Tange (left), and the Australian Consul-General in Manila, J Keith Waller (right), attend the Baguio Conference, held to foster mutual protection and aid between Asian nations, Luzon, the Philippines, May 1950. Both attendees with Burton would also go on to head the department: Tange (1954–1965) and Waller (1970–74). [Department of Foreign Affairs and T

The Secretary of the Department of External Affairs, John W Burton (centre), accompanied by the counsellor, UN division, within the department, Arthur H Tange (left), and the Australian Consul-General in Manila, J Keith Waller (right), attend the Baguio Conference, held to foster mutual protection and aid between Asian nations, Luzon, the Philippines, May 1950. Both attendees with Burton would also go on to head the department: Tange (1954–1965) and Waller (1970–74). [Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade]


The Australian Ambassador to Paris, Dr E Ronald Walker (second right), attends the opening of the 33rd session of the UN Economic and Social Council as Australia's representative, New York, 3 April 1962. Left to right: First Vice-President Dr Alfonso Patiño Roselli (Colombia); Geraldo de Carvalho Silos (Brazil); Walker; and the UN Commissioner of Technical Assistance, Victor Hoo. [UN Photo/MB]

The Australian Ambassador to Paris, Dr E Ronald Walker (second right), attends the opening of the 33rd session of the UN Economic and Social Council as Australia's representative, New York, 3 April 1962. Left to right: First Vice-President Dr Alfonso Patiño Roselli (Colombia); Geraldo de Carvalho Silos (Brazil); Walker; and the UN Commissioner of Technical Assistance, Victor Hoo. [UN Photo/MB]


Students from Asia–Pacific countries visit a pineapple farm while attending an Australian regional course in agricultural marketing, Queensland, 1973. [National Archives of Australia]

Students from Asia–Pacific countries visit a pineapple farm while attending an Australian regional course in agricultural marketing, Queensland, 1973. [National Archives of Australia]


The Australian Minister for Health, Dr Neal Blewett (left), talks with the Medical Director, Singapore, Dr Luisa Lee (centre), and the Director-General of the World Health Organization, Dr Halfdan Mahler (right), at the 2nd International Conference on Health Promotion, Adelaide, South Australia, 5 to 9 April 1988. [National Library of Australia]

The Australian Minister for Health, Dr Neal Blewett (left), talks with the Medical Director, Singapore, Dr Luisa Lee (centre), and the Director-General of the World Health Organization, Dr Halfdan Mahler (right), at the 2nd International Conference on Health Promotion, Adelaide, South Australia, 5 to 9 April 1988. [National Library of Australia]


The Australian Executive Director of the World Food Programme from 1982 to 1992, James C Ingram (left), discusses a point with the Italian Foreign Minister and former prime minister, Guilio Andreotti, at a meeting marking the twenty-fifth anniversary of the program, Rome, 30 May to 10 June 1988. [James Ingram]

The Australian Executive Director of the World Food Programme from 1982 to 1992, James C Ingram (left), discusses a point with the Italian Foreign Minister and former prime minister, Guilio Andreotti, at a meeting marking the twenty-fifth anniversary of the program, Rome, 30 May to 10 June 1988. [James Ingram]


The Australian Minister for the Status of Women, Tanya Plibersek, addresses the observance of International Women's Day under the theme: 'Women and Men United End Violence against Women and Children', New York, 5 March 2009. [UN Photo/Evan Schneider]

The Australian Minister for the Status of Women, Tanya Plibersek, addresses the observance of International Women's Day under the theme: 'Women and Men United End Violence against Women and Children', New York, 5 March 2009. [UN Photo/Evan Schneider]


The Australian Ambassador for the Environment and Permanent Representative to the United Nations in Geneva, Penny A Wensley (back centre), with Australian officials, Charles Mott (back right) and Dr Peter Howarth (front left), at the UN Global Conference on the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States, Barbados, 1994. [Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade]

The Australian Ambassador for the Environment and Permanent Representative to the United Nations in Geneva, Penny A Wensley (back centre), with Australian officials, Charles Mott (back right) and Dr Peter Howarth (front left), at the UN Global Conference on the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States, Barbados, 1994. [Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade]


The Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs, Senator Bob Carr (right), speaking at the General Assembly's thematic debate on disaster prevention and response. Beside him is the Director of the General Assembly and the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) Affairs Division, Ion Botnaru, New York, 12 April 2012. [UN Photo/Devra Berkowitz]

The Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs, Senator Bob Carr (right), speaking at the General Assembly's thematic debate on disaster prevention and response. Beside him is the Director of the General Assembly and the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) Affairs Division, Ion Botnaru, New York, 12 April 2012. [UN Photo/Devra Berkowitz]


The Deputy Director-General for Global Programs of the Australian Overseas Aid Program, Catherine Walker, addresses the opening of a high-level conference on the Central Emergency Response Fund, organised by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, New York, 4 December 2008. [UN Photo/Mark Garten]

The Deputy Director-General for Global Programs of the Australian Overseas Aid Program, Catherine Walker, addresses the opening of a high-level conference on the Central Emergency Response Fund, organised by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, New York, 4 December 2008. [UN Photo/Mark Garten]


The Australian Prime Minister, Julia Gillard (right), and the UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, brief the press following their meeting in Canberra, 2 September 2011. [UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe]

The Australian Prime Minister, Julia Gillard (right), and the UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, brief the press following their meeting in Canberra, 2 September 2011. [UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe]

7. Australia and UN peacekeeping: Steady and unwavering support

Moreen Dee

In his plenary speech during the nineteenth session of the General Assembly in December 1964, Australia's Minister for External Affairs, Paul Hasluck, who almost two decades earlier had been part of the Australian delegation at the San Francisco Conference, reflected on the inapplicability of the UN Charter's collective security system to the crises of the day:

The framers of the Charter did not foresee all the contingencies that might arise. There are dangerous activities [in the world today] of a kind that are not fully covered by the provisions of the Charter on peaceful settlement and enforcement and even if they are covered by the document are likely to elude the range of feasible action.840

In short, the framers did not foresee a third option that would fall between mediation and enforcement: peacekeeping. Yet, sixty-five years on, what the United Nations calls 'this dynamic instrument … to help countries torn by conflict'841 has evolved continuously, meeting global security challenges and political realities. In his message honouring the sixtieth anniversary of UN peacekeeping in 2008, Srgjan Kerim, President of the General Assembly, declared that today, 'for many souls rising from the aftermath of a conflict, peacekeeping is the United Nations'.842

From the first deployments of UN military observers to monitor ceasefire agreements, peacekeeping operations have expanded as the nature of conflicts has changed, particularly since the end of the Cold War. The strictly military tasks undertaken by UN peacekeepers to deal with interstate conflict have diversified to include the wider range of tasks required to deal with intrastate conflicts and civil wars. Today, operations are complex multidimensional enterprises designed to ensure the implementation of comprehensive peace agreements and assist in laying the foundation for sustainable peace.

This chapter addresses the history of Australia's political and diplomatic involvement on peacekeeping issues at the headquarters of the United Nations in New York. Australia has been a longstanding supporter of UN peacekeeping and is currently the twelfth largest financial contributor to the UN peacekeeping budget. While not always in a position to contribute major peacekeeping deployments outside the region, Australian peacekeepers have been in the field with the United Nations continuously for over sixty years, contributing to some forty UN missions. Australian Defence Force (ADF) personnel have been part of the UN Truce Supervision Organization (UNSTO) in the Middle East since 1956 and Australian Federal Police (AFP) officers have been deployed continuously as part of the UN Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) since it was established in 1964. Five UN operations have been commanded by Australians and, with the full support of the United Nations, Australia has also taken the lead in several multinational peace missions in the Asia–Pacific region. While this chapter notes all the UN peace operations to which Australia has contributed, it does not discuss the operational history of these deployments.843


The term 'peacekeeping' is not to be found in the UN Charter. Focused on preventing a recurrence of the aggressive interstate conflicts of the previous fifty years, the Charter's formulators painstakingly drafted two chapters to provide collective security for member states. Conflicts would be resolved through negotiation and mediation under Chapter VI of the Charter and, failing that, the use of more forceful action would be authorised under Chapter VII. The need for a form of action that would fall somewhere between these two traditional methods of conflict resolution was not foreseen. There were two major reasons for developing an alternative method. The first includes the trend away from interstate conflict and towards intrastate conflict, resulting from the postwar decolonisation process and, increasingly over the past two decades, civil wars and collapsed states. The second reason, in play until the end of the Cold War, was the frequent vetoing, arising out of superpower rivalries, of Security Council affirmative action.844 In the first forty years of the United Nations, therefore, UN peacekeeping missions primarily meant deploying military observers and lightly armed troops with monitoring, reporting and confidence-building roles in support of ceasefires, troop withdrawals and limited peace agreements. The use of the term 'peacekeeping' to describe such activities, however, did not come into common usage until the early 1960s.845


The first official UN missions–UNSTO and the UN Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP)–continue to this day. The first was not created as UNSTO. The title would later come to be used to designate the group of military observers deployed to supervise the initial truce in Palestine and subsequent Armistice Agreements negotiated individually between Israel and Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan and Syria. In November 1947, the UN General Assembly, under HV Evatt's presidency, endorsed a plan to partition Palestine, creating an Arab state and a Jewish state. This plan was rejected by the Palestinian Arabs and the Arab states. With the formal outbreak of the Arab–Israeli war following the United Kingdom's relinquishment of its mandate over Palestine on 14 May 1948 and the creation of the state of Israel, the Security Council, on 29 May 1948, called for a cessation of the hostilities and appointed a mediator, to be assisted by military observers, to supervise a truce. The Armistice Agreements were negotiated over the first half of 1949. Australia showed little inclination to become involved in the Middle East at this stage and did not contribute observers to UNSTO until 1956.

Australia was reluctant to commit personnel to this UN operation because it was already contributing military observers to a mission closer to home: they had been in the Netherlands East Indies since mid- to late September 1947, during the Indonesian nationalists' struggle for independence from the Dutch colonial power. There is support for the contention that this was in fact the first UN 'peacekeeping' mission.846 On 25 August 1947, the Security Council, following simultaneous requests to do so from India and Australia, had called for a Consular Commission made up of the six Security Council members who had 'career consul' representation in the then Dutch-controlled Batavia (Jakarta)847–Australia, Belgium, China, France, the United Kingdom and the United States. The commission was:

to prepare jointly, for the information of and guidance of the Security Council, reports covering the observance of the cease fire orders (between the Dutch and nationalist forces) and conditions prevailing under the military occupation, or from which the armed forces now in occupation might be withdrawn by agreement between the parties.848

The consuls-general, at their first meeting on 1 September 1947, recognised that they would require assistance and recommended that their respective governments provide a 'total of 24 military officers to be attached as observers to either side for observance of [the] "cease fire" order and to obtain any other relevant information'.849 At the beginning of November the observers became part of the UN Good Offices Commission (renamed the UN Commission in Indonesia in late January 1949). There were no precedents, however, on which to base the organisation, tasking and reporting of the multinational observers. By February 1948 numbers had increased to sixty and, in March 1948, following a conference of the observers themselves, a directive entitled 'General Instructions for Military Observers' was issued–it was one of the earliest documents to set out the duties of such groups.850

Australia then became part of UNMOGIP. The first team of military observers–the nucleus of UNMOGIP–arrived in Jammu and Kashmir in January 1949 to assist the UN Commission for India and Pakistan (UNCIP). The Security Council had established the commission one year earlier to investigate and mediate the dispute between India and Pakistan that arose following the decision by the ruler of Kashmir to accede to India. With the Karachi Agreement on 27 July 1949 establishing a 800-kilometre-long ceasefire line, UNCIP was terminated in 1950 and a single mediator was appointed–the UN Representative in India and Pakistan (UNRIP). UNMOGIP was to remain, to continue supervising the ceasefire line.

Australia strongly supported the UN's efforts to mediate this dispute. Although it offered, Australia was not selected as a member of UNCIP but an Australian jurist, Sir Owen Dixon, was appointed in April 1950 as UNRIP. In October that same year, another Australian, Major General Robert Nimmo, became the Chief Military Observer, a position he would retain for fifteen years.851 In late 1951, the United Nations requested–and Australia duly supplied–eight military observers.852 Over the next thirty-five years, Australian contingents, as English speakers, would be the mainstay of UNMOGIP. Approximately 150 observers served with UNMOGIP from the first arrivals in January 1952 until the last officers were withdrawn in 1985, following the Australian government's decision in December 1984 to terminate this commitment.

In this same period, Australia's regional interest in Korea also led it to support the UN's efforts to resolve the unification question following the ad hoc division of the country at the 38th parallel, at the end of World War II, into separate Soviet and American zones of responsibility. In turn, Australia was a member of: the UN Temporary Commission on Korea (UNTCOK), set up in late 1947 to supervise national elections; the UN Commission on Korea (UNCOK), established following the May 1948 election to promote reunification and to observe the withdrawal of Soviet and US troops; the UN Commission for the Unification and Rehabilitation of Korea (UNCURK), set up to facilitate unification and assist in relief and rehabilitation after the Korean War;853 and the UN Command Military Armistice Commission in Korea (UNCMAC), established under the Armistice Agreement in 1953 to represent the United Nations in Korea and to monitor the armistice. Australia was a member of UNCURK until it was disbanded in 1973 and continues today to be a member of UNCMAC. At the Secretary-General's request,854 Australian military observers served with UNCOK from mid-1950, with significant impact on the course of events,855 with UNCURK in 1951, and with the Joint Observer Teams attached to UNCMAC, particularly in the immediate post-armistice years.

The Korean War was, at the time, the greatest military operation undertaken under the authority of the United Nations and each of the above 'peacekeeping' missions essentially continued the observation duties of previous missions. Australian government officials would later note the importance to the evolution of UN peacekeeping of the unique circumstances of the Korean conflict. The Soviet use of the veto to prevent Security Council action on the situation had led to the General Assembly adopting 'Uniting for Peace' procedures that would enable it to assume responsibility for the maintenance of peace in the event of the Security Council being paralysed by a 'lack of unanimity of the permanent members'.856 The procedures would be called into play during the very next conflict the United Nations would be engaged with, but this time they would be used to authorise the first UN 'peacekeeping' military force.

As noted above, Australia had not become involved in events in the Middle East, but when tensions rose dangerously in early 1956 and the United Nations asked for a contribution to its planned increase in UNSTO numbers, Australia obliged. The first of four requested Australian military observers arrived in the Middle East on 30 June. Peter Londey, in his comprehensive history of Australian peacekeeping, Other People's Wars, postulates that this 'surprising' turn of events may well have been because Australia 'had just begun its two-year term as a member of the Security Council and, in the view at least of the Department of External Affairs, was now obliged to exhibit more of an interest in Middle East affairs'.857 Within a month of the arrival of the first Australian observer, however, President Gamel Nasser of Egypt announced the nationalisation of the Suez Canal, in response to the United States, the United Kingdom and the World Bank withdrawing agreed funding to build the Aswan Dam.858 Given that the canal was a vital link on the major trade and passenger shipping route between Australia and the United Kingdom, the Australian government now had more substantial reasons to be keenly interested in Middle East affairs.

War broke out in the region when, on 29 October, Israeli forces penetrated deep into Egyptian territory and quickly gained control of the Sinai. Events in New York would see the next, and particularly significant, stage in the evolution of UN efforts to restore peace, still not termed 'peacekeeping'. The United Kingdom and France used their veto to prevent Security Council intervention, and the matter was then taken to a special session of the General Assembly, on 1 November 1956. British and French investors were the major shareholders in the Suez Canal Company that operated the canal. With Israel, both the UK and French governments sought a military solution to the crisis. The General Assembly responded otherwise: on 2 November it adopted a resolution calling for a ceasefire, the withdrawal of forces and the reopening of the canal.859 Recognising that the supervision of these actions would be beyond the capacity of a group of military observers but would not require an armed fighting force, the General Assembly voted over the next few days to establish the first UN Emergency Force (UNEF I).860 This outcome resulted from a call by the Canadian Secretary of State for External Affairs, Lester Pearson, to set up an international force to police the ceasefire and bring about a political settlement. Pearson won support for his proposal through skilful backroom diplomatic negotiation with key delegates over two days.861 UNEF I was the first armed UN peace mission and marked the birth of modern peacekeeping operations.

Australia welcomed the establishment of UNEF I 'as a constructive contribution in a difficult situation'. It was keen to participate, and immediately set about determining what forces could be made available.862 Australian participation in the force was unacceptable to Egypt, though, given Australia's close association with the United Kingdom and its vote against the November motion calling for the ceasefire and withdrawal of forces.863 Australian observers with UNSTO, however, carried out liaison work for UNEF I and, as noted in the introduction to this chapter, continue to serve in the region with the observer group, which has supervised subsequent ceasefires after the 1967, 1973, 1982 and 2006 Arab–Israeli wars.

The development of UN peacekeeping was now proceeding at some pace. Not only had the resolutions adopted between 2 and 7 November 1956 set up the first 'peacekeeping' force, they also placed executive responsibility for the force with the Secretary-General (as distinct from entrusting it to a member government, as in Korea). Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld was in effect made responsible for the formation of the force, the appointment of the commander, the definition of the role of the force, and the day-to-day control of it. A further development in the history of peacekeeping resulted from the experience Hammarskjöld gained in these roles. In reporting to the General Assembly on the establishment and operation of UNEF I in October 1958, he set out a number of political and legal principles which he believed should guide the operations of any future UNEF-type force, whether established by the Security Council or the General Assembly. The principles had a sound basis in international law and were generally regarded as reasonable and sound.864

The report also proposed the establishment of a UN force–permanent or stand-by. The Secretary-General's suggestion was that consenting member states set aside stand-by non-combat contingents in their own national forces for possible use by the United Nations in an emergency, to carry out tasks such as patrols, observation and truce supervision. Australian officials accepted that there were insuperable difficulties in establishing the alternative–a UN standing force, either combat or non-combat–and so were inclined to favour a stand-by force as presenting 'the best possibilities in the present circumstances'. They did not believe that the General Assembly would endorse Hammarskjöld's proposals but thought that 'this should not prevent him from seeking understandings with individual Governments'. The view was that these would be recorded, enabling the Secretariat to be better placed to set up a force in response to any future call by the Security Council or the Assembly.865

An issue that arose from the UNEF I experience that greatly concerned Australian officials was the lack of clarity on the financial aspects of the emergency force. The Australian government held strongly to the principle of members' collective responsibility for any UN mission and believed that UNEF's 'costs should be shared by all members in accordance with the approved scale of contributions for the UN regular budget'.866 Australia's assessed share of the initial costs of the force was paid within three months of its establishment. However, UNEF was financed partly on the basis of a general levy on UN funds and, as expenses mounted, partly on voluntary contributions. In practice, voluntary contributions were difficult to obtain, and a number of member states, including the Soviet Union and its communist satellites and France, also refused to pay their assessed contributions. With the costs of the force estimated to be 'in the vicinity of [US]50 million dollars' by the end of 1958, the scene was set for this first major peacekeeping mission to be the catalyst for the financial crisis–always imminent because of the great-power rivalries–that would cripple the United Nations over the next decade.867

By the 1960s, then, peace operations had become a permanent fixture of the United Nations. But Australia at that time was in an invidious position with regard to its support for them, given its forward defence policy, which was then focused on Southeast Asia. This was a period in which Australia was committed to assisting Malaysia, as a fellow member of the British Commonwealth, during Indonesia's Konfrontasi campaign against the newly formed state, and to providing support to its principal ally, the United States, in Vietnam. These were regional security issues of particular concern to Australia, but with which the United Nations had failed to deal effectively. As a country with a small population, Australia did not maintain large standing military forces, and the government had already introduced an unpopular and divisive National Service Scheme to meet its Commonwealth and allied obligations. Nonetheless, small numbers of forces were provided to: the UN Temporary Executive Authority and the UN Security Force in West New Guinea (Irian Jaya) from 1962 to 1963, established to supervise the transfer of the territory from Dutch to Indonesian administration; the UN Observer Mission in Yemen from 1963 to 1964, tasked with observing and certifying Saudi Arabia–United Arab Republic disengagement from Yemen's civil war; and the UN India–Pakistan Observation Mission from 1965 to 1966, to consolidate the ceasefire along the India–Pakistan border and supervise the withdrawal of forces after further fighting between the two countries. When the United Nations addressed the crisis situation in Cyprus in early 1964, however, Australia provided a police contingent, not a military one, marking the beginning of a remarkable chapter in UN–Australian peacekeeping that is still being written forty-seven years on.

Briefly, the situation which called for UNFICYP was the breakdown in the constitutional arrangements introduced when Cyprus obtained independence in 1960. These arrangements provided a balance in administration between the majority Greek Cypriot and minority Turkish Cypriot populations. Serious violence broke out in 1963 and the United Kingdom, the former colonial power, referred the matter to the Security Council. UNFICYP was mandated on 4 March 1964 to prevent a recurrence of fighting and to contribute to the maintenance and restoration of law and order and a return to normal conditions as necessary.868

Although it responded quickly and generously to the UN's call for financial contributions to UNFICYP, the Australian government initially saw the situation in Cyprus as falling well outside Australia's current areas of strategic concern, and declined to provide a troop contingent. A decision to respond likewise to a subsequent request for police officers, however, was quickly reconsidered, with ministers accepting advice on the importance of the peacekeeping functions of the United Nations and the value of maintaining Australian support for peace operations. There were, of course, additional reasons for the Australian government to accept that it was 'most desirable' to send a police contingent to Cyprus. First, as mentioned earlier in relation to the Suez Canal, the eastern Mediterranean was an important line of supply for Australia. Second, Cyprus was a fellow member of the Commonwealth, and Greece and Turkey, as members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, were regarded as allied member states.869 In 2012, Australia continues to meet the costs of its UNFICYP police element, and former foreign minister Alexander Downer continues as the Secretary-General's Special Adviser in Cyprus, with a mandate to assist the parties in the conduct of negotiations aimed at reaching a comprehensive settlement.


In advising the UN Secretary-General in 1964 of its decision to make a cash contribution to the cost of maintaining the UN peacekeeping force in Cyprus, however, the Australian government added a proviso. The contribution was considered 'to be without prejudice to the principle of collective responsibility for the financing' of such UN operations, as accepted by the General Assembly in December 1962, but also 'without prejudice to [Australia's] desire that a satisfactory permanent solution for the financing' of the operations would be adopted.870 The proviso was a reference to the financial crisis then threatening the United Nations, which had been building with the failure of some members to pay their assessed contributions to the special fund for the emergency force in the Middle East. With arrears totalling US$100 million by 1961, the problem was exacerbated by the crisis in the newly independent Republic of the Congo (Congo-Léopoldville), which led to the setting up of another fund to finance the UN Operation in the Congo (ONUC).

The unruly transfer of power to the Congolese in 1960, following the end of Belgian rule, saw the Republic of the Congo soon beset by civil war and beginning to disintegrate as a viable state. The former colonial power immediately sent in forces to protect Belgian citizens who were still in the country. In response to a request from the Republic of the Congo, the United Nations established ONUC to help restore law and order and to supervise the withdrawal of Belgian forces.871 Australia sent a small medical unit for a brief period to the Congo (the UN's preference was for African troops) and supported the operation through a financial contribution of just under US$5 million, but was concerned at the continued deteriorative effect the operation had upon the attitudes of some members, particularly the Soviet Union, towards UN peacekeeping. The special funding of the UNEF and ONUC operations was approved by the General Assembly as 'expenses of the Organization' and thus subject to mandatory assessments under Article 17(2) of the Charter.872 The Soviet Union, together with a number of communist and other countries, including those associated with the conflicts, such as France and South Africa, for differing reasons, continued to dispute the General Assembly's handling of these funds and to ignore their financial obligations for peacekeeping. The Soviet view was that there could be no division of the peacekeeping function between the Security Council and the General Assembly: peacekeeping was to be the concern solely of the Security Council and thus subject to the veto.873

By 1964, the arrears of most countries of the defaulting communist group had reached the total of the assessed contributions of those countries for all UN purposes for two full years–this was the condition for the application of Article 19, which stipulated that such countries 'shall have no vote in the General Assembly'.874 Soviet arrears alone totalled US$61 million. By this time, Australia had become a member of the working group set up by a special session of the General Assembly the previous year to examine the financial arrangements for peacekeeping operations in an effort to forestall the invoking of Article 19. The group could not reach consensus all through 1964.875 This lack of agreement did not remove the possibility of applying Article 19, but with no group of member states prepared to press the issue to the point of application, the nineteenth session of the General Assembly (1964–65) was effectively crippled by the peacekeeping issue, unable to conduct any substantive business. Resolutions adopted, primarily on administrative and procedural matters, were 'without vote'.876

While, as noted, Australia was more involved politically and militarily elsewhere than with the United Nations in this period, there was no diminution in support for the organisation and its peacekeeping efforts. Australian officials recognised that this threat to the financial standing and stability of the United Nations was as much political as it was administrative and budgetary. There was a need to establish a sounder financial basis for peacekeeping operations, to settle the roles of the great powers and to reconcile the conflicting ideas about the functions and responsibilities of the Security Council and the General Assembly in authorising peacekeeping operations if financial and military crises were not to recur. For Australia, it was 'impossible, and even undesirable, to turn the clock back completely' and place peacekeeping solely in the hands of the Security Council:

The solution therefore appears to lie in some arrangement which provides for transfer to the General Assembly of responsibility for a matter which has attracted a veto in the Security Council, but which makes this transfer of responsibility to the majority of the Assembly more difficult than at present, and which retains some checks and balances in the General Assembly.877

In an impassioned plenary speech during the nineteenth session, Australia's Minister for External Affairs, Paul Hasluck, accepted that the Security Council had proved incapable of meeting urgent peacekeeping demands and placed the blame for this squarely on the shoulders of the great powers and their inability to find common cause. He called for all members to honour their obligations under the Charter, in order to improve the machinery of peacekeeping, and cautioned:

Unless Members of the General Assembly are prepared to act on behalf of the general body of Members and to serve a common interest, and not to act on their own behalf and to serve their own interest individually, their record in peacekeeping will be little, if at all, better than that of the Security Council.878

With this point in mind, Australia 'press[ed] strongly' for inclusion among the thirty-three countries on a 'Special Committee on Peace-Keeping Operations' (first known as the C–33 and later the C–34), set up before the nineteenth session adjourned in February 1965 and tasked with seeking a solution to the problems of past and future operations.879 Hasluck believed it impossible to move forward without 'a reconciliation of views regarding peacekeeping arrangements'. In the months before the scheduled resumption of the session in September, the Australian government looked for the 'most helpful role' it could play in achieving its 'one main objective': 'to make it possible for the General Assembly to meet in circumstances that open up a reasonable prospect that it will be able to proceed with its agenda under normal rules of procedure'.880

This proved a frustrating exercise, and little progress was made in the first few months. What became increasingly evident, however, was that the majority of UN members were reluctant to support the application of Article 19 to the Soviet Union in the Assembly. In danger of isolation, the United States broke the deadlock in mid-August, stating in the C–33 that it recognised that the 'consensus of the membership' was that the General Assembly 'should proceed normally' and that it would 'not seek to frustrate that consensus'.881 The Soviet Union accepted this statement when assured that the committee would recommend that Article 19 not be applied with regard to UNEF and ONUC. With the Assembly's agreement on 1 September, the way was clear for the twentieth session of the General Assembly to open on schedule on 21 September. Australia's permanent representative to the United Nations, however, was subdued, believing that 'the practical consequences of the Assembly's failure to enforce the powers a majority of us previously held it to have' were not fully understood. Furthermore, the 1 September decision neither solved 'the financial problems of the debits nor the constitutional problems of the interpretation of the Charter'.882 In the end, the solution to the UN's immediate financial difficulties depended on voluntary contributions by member states. Accepting that this would be the future for peacekeeping financing, the Australian government approved an Australian contribution of up to US$2.2 million towards the debt in September 1965.883


For the remainder of the 1960s, the question of UN peacekeeping revolved around the financial and constitutional aspects of the activity. The C–33 found itself without any real impetus to its work, bogged down in discussions of various financing schemes and proposals that were, in the minds of the Australian representatives, 'rather like designs for icing a wedding cake–but there is no wedding'. They could only conclude that, while debate continued about the precise nature of, and the relationship between, the powers of the Security Council and the General Assembly, these proposals could not be 'anything more than academic exercises to create the illusion that the Committee of Thirty-three [was] doing something'. They were no more joyful about the status of the constitutional debate, which they saw as 'one not so much of paralysis as of a lack of any sense of direction and of lassitude, not to mention boredom'. There were promising signs, though, that there had been 'some increased recognition of the futility' of trying to lay down theoretical guidelines to cover all situations: 'on peacekeeping the United Nations will of necessity be dealing with specific crises which must be handled in the context of their own political circumstances'.884 On this issue, Australia maintained its opposition to any broadening of the General Assembly's powers with respect to peacekeeping, holding to the view that the Assembly might consider questions and make recommendations only if the Security Council was unable to act: 'Otherwise, its particular functions in this respect should remain indeterminate or in abeyance at this present period of the Organisation's history.'885 Improving procedures in UN peacekeeping, however, remained an ever-present goal. In the debate on the strengthening of international security at the twenty-fifth session of the General Assembly in December 1970, therefore, it was appropriate that Australia co-sponsored a draft resolution calling for, inter alia, 'more effective, dynamic and flexible' procedures and for 'reliable, equitable financing' of operations.886

While there can be no questioning of the strength of Australia's political and financial support of UN peacekeeping up to the 1970s, the provision of peacekeepers themselves, except for the UNFICYP contingent, was minimal because of the overlapping series of heavy military commitments within the region in Korea, Malaya, Malaysia and Vietnam. But the end of this military involvement and the change of government in the early 1970s saw a new willingness to provide personnel support for UN peacekeeping operations. When renewed fighting between Egypt and Israel reached a critical stage in October 1973 and the Security Council established the second UN Emergency Force (UNEF II) to supervise the disengagement of forces and form a buffer zone between them, the Australian government was eager to make a 'positive contribution'.887 While disappointed that the C–33 had not made 'any meaningful contribution' to strengthening UN peacekeeping activities, Australia saw the Security Council's mandate for UNEF II as representing 'an advance in peacekeeping operations'. Australia was not among the countries selected to provide troops: it was excluded by the politicisation of the decision on force composition that required the Security Council to choose contingents on the basis of 'equitable geographic distribution'.888 Australia did, however, contribute to the operation by transporting the Nepalese contingent. A second offer to provide forces the following May, after the withdrawal of the Irish contingent, was also declined.

In time, Australian forces did serve with UNEF II (July 1976 to August 1979) with the deployment of a Royal Australian Air Force helicopter contingent. Before that time, Australian military observers were also detached from UNSTO to serve with the UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) in 1974, to observe the disengagement of Israeli forces on the Golan Heights; and with the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) in 1978, to observe the withdrawal of Israeli defence forces from southern Lebanon. Australia also equipped the Royal Fiji Military Force's 600-strong battalion, which joined UNIFIL in June 1978, and assisted them with a rear communications link from Lebanon to Fiji. Additional support was provided by paying in full its assessed 1.54 per cent financial contribution for each of these missions. It was during this period that Australia lost its first peacekeepers in the line of duty: three police officers of the UNFICYP contingent were killed in Cyprus between 1969 and 1974.889

While these contributions in personnel and money demonstrated that Australia was very concerned with the maintenance of international peace and security, senior Australian officials believed that it was also time to do more politically. In their view, Australia's contributions to UN peacekeeping so far had 'been in response to particular situations or contingencies and our general obligations under the Charter. They were not part of an accepted or stated general attitude or commitment to peacekeeping operations.' What was needed was a general statement of Australia's willingness to provide a peacekeeping contingent to the United Nations.890 On 30 September 1974, Prime Minister Gough Whitlam, in reaffirming Australia's support for the UN's role in peacekeeping, told the General Assembly that 'Australia stands ready to participate in peacekeeping operations in whatever way would be most useful'. He went on to state that his government wanted Australia 'to be always among the first nations' asked for peacekeepers and promised that it would 'be among the first to respond'. To demonstrate the commitment behind these statements, Whitlam also informed the Assembly that Australia undertook to provide the UN Secretariat, on a regular basis, with a list of Australian units currently available.891

More worrying for Australian officials, at least until the end of 1974, was the inertia within the C–33. This caused some scepticism about the committee's capacity to make progress on the peacekeeping question, particularly in light of the procedural problems which tended to dominate deliberations–so much so that 'seemingly simple and straightforward courses of action tended to become bogged down'. Progress had been difficult to achieve either on practical matters, such as defining the terms of reference of UNEF II, or, more importantly, in reaching consensus on the roles of the Security Council and the Secretary-General in controlling peacekeeping operations.892 There was also increasing frustration in Canberra that the major barrier to this progress was the two superpowers' inability to agree on fundamentals and that, therefore, the organisation of peacekeeping operations remained 'largely dependent on the spirit of cooperation, or otherwise', displayed by these two nations.893 With the new sense of purpose on peacekeeping matters, it was decided to undertake departmental studies to identify 'possible initiatives which Australia might make, particularly in the C–33, in order to give new vitality and purpose to the consideration of [the] peacekeeping question in the United Nations'.894 There was cautious optimism when the committee's 1974 report showed signs that it was, at long last, managing to make some progress on the lessons to be learned from the creation of UNEF and UNDOF.

The Australian statement on the report in the Special Political Committee in November expressed the hope that this was 'a sign of great things to come', but also encouraged the peacekeeping committee to be less hesitant and more forthcoming in its reporting:

What is required, Mr Chairman, is the will. It's not difficult to devise language which bridges the gap between the various divergent positions taken by members of the Committee. But language which obscures fundamental differences of political views, while at the same time there is no real compromise between those views may not always be helpful.895

Australia could only keep a watching brief over the next few years, as progress in the committee was hamstrung by the seemingly irreconcilable viewpoints of the various political groupings within the committee's working group, particularly over the roles of the Council and the Secretary-General in managing peacekeeping operations. Without a report from the working group, it was unlikely that the C–33 could make any further useful contribution to peacekeeping practices. While accepting this, Australia was still anxious that the committee remain intact, not only because of the importance the government attached to peacekeeping operations but also because it 'provided a forum to express Australian views' on peacekeeping matters.896 As a non-member of the Security Council at the time, opportunities to do this were limited.

Meanwhile, along with its assessed contributions to other existing peacekeeping operations, Australia's financial and personnel contributions to UNMOGIP and UNFICYP continued. Some thought was given to withdrawing from UNFICYP in the mid- to late 1970s, but assessing the situation as one that remained 'unstable and potentially dangerous', it was decided that it 'would be inappropriate for Australia to withdraw support' at that time. Australia's Minister for Finance, Eric L Robinson, was also looking to financing a possible sizeable Australian contingent for the UN Transition Assistance Group (UNTAG) in Namibia. Though he agreed to make funds available for the continuation of Australian support for UNFICYP at current levels, he also felt there was a need for caution 'when confronted with pressures to participate in new activities':

I should record … that it is a matter of some concern to me that this and other UN peacekeeping programs to which Australia is contributing have been so protracted. I understand Australia has been involved in UNFICYP for some 13 years and has been participating in UNMOGIP for almost three decades. In view of this past record, we will be very fortunate if the UNTAG exercise, to which Australia has made a much larger and more expensive commitment, does in fact terminate after one year, as presently envisaged by the UN.897

Consideration of an UNTAG contribution began in August 1978, over six weeks before the Security Council approved the establishment of the mission on 29 September. The UN Secretariat had taken repeated affirmations through the 1970s of Australian willingness to contribute to UN peacekeeping activities and, in the lead-up to taking its recommendations for the proposed force to the Security Council, Australia was among the countries approached informally to provide troops.898 The proposed central task of UNTAG was to ensure that conditions were established to allow free and fair elections and an impartial electoral process, the withdrawal of South African forces and Namibia's transition to independence. Despite the strength of Australian support for UN peacekeeping, there were reservations as to whether or not Australia should be involved. Australians had 'not been used to thinking of Africa as an area of particular concern', and the proposed operations would be 'extremely difficult and delicate', given the volatility of the situation and the possible surge in guerrilla activity. On the other hand, there were 'valid foreign policy reasons' for an Australian contribution, particularly as Australia supported the principle of Namibian independence and was a member of the UN Council for Namibia. Furthermore, Australia's involvement was 'a means of endorsing a widely welcomed United Nations initiative' and of making a contribution to international peace and security generally, further demonstrating Australian support for the UN's role in peacekeeping.899 This view was supported by the Australian Mission to the United Nations, which advised that UNTAG had 'firm international backing' and that there was 'widespread hope that a successful implementation of the proposals might circumvent violent change in other parts of southern Africa still under minority rule'.900 On 20 February 1979, the Australian Prime Minister, Malcolm Fraser, announced that Australia would provide Australian engineers, with support personnel, for the UNTAG force.901 These troops were on stand-by by the end of March, but with the breakdown of the peace negotiations between Namibia and South Africa, the agreement to allow the deployment of UNTAG was not signed. The mission, including the Australian forces, did not now deploy until UNTAG was formally established in April 1989.902

The period from April 1978 to May 1988 was, in fact, a relatively quiet one for UN peacekeeping activities, with no new missions established and only five previously mandated missions still ongoing (UNSTO, UNMOGIP, UNFICYP, UNDOF and UNIFIL). This situation reflected not a more peaceful world,903 but the continuing struggle to find consensus among the differing political agendas of the East–West groupings and the increasingly forceful non-aligned group. Also, for much of this period both superpowers, the United States and the Soviet Union, were in arrears with their assessed contributions, again threatening the financial status of the United Nations. During this time, the Australian government continued to meet its assessed financial commitments to UN peacekeeping, as had always been its practice. It also kept the proposed engineer contingent ready for deployment with UNTAG, and maintained its UN contributions in the Middle East, Kashmir and Cyprus and its membership of the Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations. In a statement to the Australian parliament in May 1984, Minister for Foreign Affairs Bill Hayden declared that the government remained 'firm in its support for the role of the United Nations in the maintenance of international peace and security including its peacekeeping function'.904 Nonetheless, the following year, Australia's 35-year commitment to UNMOGIP was brought to an end, leaving UNSTO and UNFICYP as the only Australian deployments to UN missions. Within this period, however, there were two Australian peacekeeping contributions to multinational forces outside the auspices of the United Nations–the Commonwealth Monitoring Force in Rhodesia from December 1979 to March 1980, and the Multinational Force and Observers (MFO) in the Sinai from 1982 to 1986. The next Australian contribution to an official UN peacekeeping operation would be the military contingent for the UN Iran–Iraq Military Observer Group, to supervise the ceasefire at the end of the eight-year Iran–Iraq War; they deployed from 1988 to 1990.

In the forty years of UN peacekeeping prior to this deployment, Australia had proved itself a strong supporter both politically and financially. However, because of its regional military commitments and because global politics precluded its offers of assistance being accepted, Australia's personnel contributions in this period were limited. This would now change, as a result of the demise of the superpower rivalry and the surge in peacekeeping activities that came in its wake.

New beginnings

The end of the Cold War saw the number of peacekeeping missions increase substantially (from 1988 to 1994 alone, over twenty UN missions were mandated), and a shift to larger and more complex peace operations, established amid calls for the United Nations to do more in the field of conflict prevention.905 These changes reflected the Australian government's rethinking of the 'defence of Australia' mindset and, incidentally, coincided with the appointment of Gareth Evans as Australia's Minister for Foreign Affairs in September 1988. Evans was a proponent of the 'good international citizen' ideal. He strongly supported the United Nations as a forum in which the voices of the small and middle powers could be heard and believed it important that Australia work through the organisation. The establishment of additional missions in 1989, however, saw the United Nations once again having to face up to the financial pressures that an increase in peacekeeping responsibilities would bring. In his annual report in September that year, Secretary-General Javier Pérez de Cuéllar pointed out peacekeeping's poor financial history as a result of having to operate 'on a shoestring' and proposed that a special reserve fund be set up for peacekeeping purposes. He stressed that the cost of peacekeeping was minimal compared with the human, financial and military costs of the alternative.906 Evans agreed with de Cuéllar. He contended that the UN's working capital fund for peacekeeping should be doubled, and that there should also be an immediate injection of US$100 million. For Evans, delays in deploying troops risked compromising an operation.907 In addressing the General Assembly in October 1988, he reiterated what had been Australia's mantra during the financial crisis of the 1960s: 'All member states must abide by their obligations to the Charter' and 'All should pay their assessed contributions in full and on time.' He argued that:

an effective United Nations [in peacemaking and peacekeeping] requires the collective will and commitment of the whole international community. It is only when this is fully accepted by everyone that the recovery of the United Nations, with all its potential, will become permanent.908

In subsequent years Australian officials continued to stress that placing the funding of peacekeeping operations on a reliable basis and enhancing their effectiveness and efficiency should be key issues for member governments.909

As discussed in Chapter 3, Australia took a leading role in helping settle the conflict in Cambodia. This led to the first of Australia's major peacekeeping commitments in the region, the UN missions in Cambodia (1991–93). But before that, Australia deployed its stand-by UNTAG contingent to Namibia to support the mission's mandate to supervise the return of refugees, the holding of a general election, the withdrawal of South African forces, and Namibia's transition to independence (1989–1990). It also provided a police contingent to the UN Border Relief Operation on the Thai–Cambodian border to train police in restoring and maintaining law and order (1989–1993) and deployed a mine clearance team to Pakistan (and later to Afghanistan itself)910 as part of the UN Mine Clearance Training Team that was training Afghan refugees in recognition and clearance techniques (1989–1993).

Following the invasion of Kuwait by Iraq in August 1990, public opinion in Australia was divided on what the degree of Australia's involvement should be. The Australian government was not involved in the UN Iraq–Kuwait Observation Mission, which was in place from 1991 to 2003, but did provide ships to the multinational flotilla to assist in enforcing UN sanctions against Iraq from 1990 to 2003.911 Australia also contributed forces to the UN-authorised humanitarian assistance operation in northern Iraq in mid-1991 and to the UN Special Commission in Iraq, from 1991 to 1999, whose task was to locate and supervise the destruction of Iraq's nuclear, chemical and biological weapons capabilities.

There were other Australian contributions to UN peacekeeping operations in the 1990s. Australian forces deployed to the UN Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara from 1991 to 1994, to the first UN Operation in Somalia (UNOSOM I) from 1992 to 1993, to the Unified Task Force in Somalia (UNITAF) from 1992 to 1993, and to the second UN Operations in Somalia (UNOSOM II) from 1993 to 1994. Australia also provided a small number of military liaison officers to the UN Protection Force in Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (UNPROFOR) in 1992.912 From 1993 to 1995, AFP fingerprint experts were deployed to UNOSOM II to aid the United Nations in crime investigations, an ADF medical support force was provided to the second UN Assistance Mission for Rwanda, and ADF and AFP personnel contributed de-mining and rule-of-law instructional support in the UN Operation in Mozambique from 1994 to 2002.913 The most significant contribution, however, was in East Timor. ADF, AFP and electoral personnel deployed with the UN Advance Mission in East Timor from June to October 1999 to assist in the conduct of the independence/integration referendum. This contribution was extended, with the ADF becoming the major component of the Australian-led International Force for East Timor (INTERFET), authorised by UN Security Council Resolution 1264 of 15 September 1999, and deployed from September 1999 to February 2000 to restore law and order amid the post-referendum violence.914

Increasingly, post–Cold War peacekeeping involved more and more non-military elements–to ensure the proper operation of civic functions (such as elections), humanitarian aid, governance and the rule of law. All these elements were encapsulated in the UN's peace operations in Cambodia, established between 1991 and 1994, to which, as noted above, Australia made a major commitment: the UN Advance Mission in Cambodia (UNAMIC) from 1991 to 1992; the UN Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC) from 1992 to 1993; and the UN Military Liaison Team in late 1993. After the withdrawal of the UNTAC force in late 1993, ADF personnel returned to train Cambodians in de-mining and communications activities from 1994 to 1997 at the UN-mandated Cambodian Mine Action Centre, to which Australia has been a major contributor.

As seen in Chapter 3, from its inception, the UN peace plan for settling the Cambodian conflict involved the deployment of a UN supervisory and peacekeeping force. Given Australia's diplomatic initiatives in the settlement process, the government believed that Australia's participation in such a force would be 'an appropriate follow-up'. It also signalled its willingness to provide the force commander.915 Indeed the government had indicated that it was prepared to make a major military contribution as early as September 1990.916 Planning for this military contingent was underway more than three months before the 23 October 1991 signing in Paris of the Agreements on a Comprehensive Political Settlement of the Cambodian Conflict (Paris Agreements), which provided for the establishment of UNTAC. Even before the force preparations were made, the government also worked to establish an informal trust fund to help the Secretariat plan the proposed mission.917 UNTAC was to be a significant milestone in the history of UN peace operations: it would be the first time the organisation had taken over the administration of a member state. Its key tasks were to foster a neutral political environment and to organise and conduct free and fair elections. The mission, however, was not mandated until 28 February 1992.918 The delay highlighted the administrative, logistical and political difficulties within the UN system of organising a complex, multi-component operation919 and filling a planned establishment (the largest since the Congo mission in the 1960s) of over 16,000 military personnel, 3,500 civilian police and up to 1,149 international civilian administrators.920 Furthermore, at this time UN staff were also setting up UNPROFOR, which was mandated on 15 February, and undertaking ongoing and preparatory planning for a number of other missions.921

Meanwhile, the ADF contingent representing Australia's commitment to provide the communications for the UNAMIC mission arrived in Phnom Penh on 10 November 1991.922 Australians also served around this time as members of the UN's Electoral Planning Mission to Cambodia. The first UNTAC units arrived in Phnom Penh on 15 March 1992. Australia's contribution was to include up to 550 ADF personnel for the main force plus a number of smaller contributions to other UNTAC components. An AFP contingent for the UN's civilian police component was soon added. In response to an urgent UN request in early May, movement control personnel were provided to help with the rapid deployment of the UNTAC troops into the Cambodian countryside to overcome the difficulties in implementing the ceasefire and disarming the factional armies.923 The principal task for the UN peacekeepers was to establish the security conditions in which the election could take place. Faced with the continued intransigence and lack of cooperation of the Khmer Rouge, this implementation phase continued for over a year: the elections were held from 23 to 28 May 1993. The UNTAC peacekeepers were withdrawn in October and November.

Reflecting the uncharted territory into which the United Nations was moving with the UNTAC mission, the mandate, particularly the civil administration component, was seen as perhaps 'unrealistic, overly ambitious and some aspects … clearly unachievable'.924 But even if not all the parties adhered to all the commitments of the Paris Agreements, and not all wrongs were addressed in Cambodia, UNTAC was successful in repatriating some 370,000 refugees and fulfilling its primary task, which was to conduct free and fair elections–registering 96 per cent of eligible voters and achieving a 90 per cent turnout. The Australian government recognised, as did the United Nations, that subsequent missions would be better positioned at the outset if planners built on the experiences of the international effort in Cambodia.925 Australia's contribution to UNTAC was its largest to a UN-mandated peacekeeping operation to that time, not least because this was a response to a crisis in its own region. Australia's neighbours responded similarly. Furthermore, the mission's leadership was drawn from the region. Yasushi Akashi from Japan served as the special representative of the Secretary-General and Lieutenant General John Sanderson from Australia as the force commander. These appointments would provide valuable lessons learned for future regional operations. For the Australian Minister for Defence, Senator Robert Ray, the Cambodian experience highlighted, in particular, the value of regional support to a UN mission: there were 'potential benefits … to the effectiveness of UN operations' of a 'more cooperative regional approach' to 'meeting the expanding needs of the UN for assistance'.926 This notion of a 'more cooperative regional approach', although not in the form the minister envisaged, would be tested at the end of the decade, as would be the capacity of the United Nations to take all necessary action and of Australia to demonstrate political will and commitment to peace and security in its region.

Regional peacekeeping

Presciently, a 1984 Department of Foreign Affairs policy planning paper on the ADF in relation to the conduct of Australian foreign policy had noted that:

The difficulties confronting the United Nations in establishing peacekeeping operations … will mean, realistically, that non-UN peacekeeping operations … may be more feasible in some future disputes of concern to Australia. We should expect as a … cooperative partner and member of regional organisations in South East Asia and the South Pacific, to be on the list for approaches on future non-UN peacekeeping operations.927

By the 1990s, the United Nations was acknowledging its limitations with regard to peace enforcement operations under Chapter VII of the Charter, and 'sanctioned' rather than mandated operations by coalition, alliance or regional forces considered better placed to intercede militarily in crisis situations. Australia contributed to several of these coalition or multinational forces, including those raised for the operation in Haiti (1994–95), the Maritime Interception Forces (MIF I and II) in the Persian Gulf (1990–2003), and the MFO in the Sinai, from 1982 to 1986 and 1993 to the present.

By the mid-1990s, therefore, there were precedents when Australia took a more proactive role in helping the United Nations maintain peace and security in the Asia–Pacific region and assemble regional coalitions for peacekeeping. In September to October 1994, Australia led the South Pacific Peacekeeping Force (SPPKF), including contingents from Fiji, Tonga and Vanuatu with additional New Zealand aircraft, in Bougainville, Papua New Guinea (PNG). The operation was an effort to protect a peace conference that would begin the resolution of a civil war between PNG government security forces and the Bougainville Revolutionary Army, with a view to holding free and fair elections in the long term. The SPPKF carried the endorsement of the United Nations with a letter from the Secretary-General, not a mandate. With the peace conference aborted, however, this unprecedented armed regional peacekeeping force withdrew two weeks after deployment. Three years later, Australia and New Zealand combined to assemble and deploy to the area a second regional peacekeeping force, comprised of Australian, New Zealand, Fiji and Vanuatu contingents, including civilian peace monitors drawn from Australian government departments. New Zealand led the first deployment of this force, the Truce Monitoring Group (TMG), until the signing of a ceasefire agreement, the Arawa Agreement of 30 April 1998. In accordance with the New Zealand-brokered Lincoln Agreement on Peace, Security and Development on Bougainville of January 1998, an Australian-led Peace Monitoring Group then replaced the TMG; they remained until June 2003. At that time the UN Observer Mission on Bougainville, deployed from the end of July 1998, verified that sufficient weapons had been contained to allow the final implementation of the 2001 Bougainville Peace Agreement–the amendment of the PNG Constitution to pave the way for elections for the establishment of an autonomous Bougainville government.

In November 2000, Australia contributed AFP, ADF and civilian government personnel to the International Peace Monitoring Team (IPMT) in the Solomon Islands. The IPMT was a neutral international presence supporting implementation of the 2000 Townsville Peace Agreement, which required ethnic militias engaged in an internal factional struggle to disarm. However, the violence grew beyond the scope of the agreement, and the team withdrew in 2002. Following a request for assistance from the Solomon Islands Prime Minister, the Regional Assistance Mission to the Solomon Islands (RAMSI), under Australian leadership, deployed in July 2003. RAMSI has been a partnership between the Solomon Islands government and fifteen Pacific contributing countries, with Australia being the largest contributor.928 Its deployment was also unanimously endorsed by the Solomon Islands parliament and the foreign ministers of the Pacific Islands Forum. Although the mission is not a UN operation, its establishment was welcomed by the president of the Security Council and commended by Secretary-General Kofi Annan. The police, military and civilian components of RAMSI have helped stabilise the security situation, foster economic recovery and rebuild government institutions. In 2009, a 'Partnership Framework' was concluded with the Solomon Islands under which the mission withdraws from specific activities as the country's capacity grows.

Australia's contribution to the non-UN peace enforcement mission, INTERFET, to restore security in East Timor in response to post-ballot violence, from September 1999 to February 2000, has been discussed in Chapter 3.929 Australia believed that there were several important lessons to be learned for UN peacekeeping. Critical to the success of the INTERFET operation were the strong support of the international community and the provision of an appropriately robust mandate from the Security Council; lack of these had often been the major inhibiting factor to success in previous operations. Another 'powerful' lesson from the East Timor experience was the recognition that the international community's responsibility does not end with the peacekeeping phase: peacebuilding and nation-building are tasks that require sustained commitment.930

In February 2000, the Australian forces with INTERFET transitioned to the UN Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET), forming the largest contingent of this mission. UNTAET was an integrated, multidimensional peacekeeping operation, fully responsible for the administration of East Timor during its transition to independence–it was the first UN mission to be mandated to exercise legislative and executive authority. In addition to its national contingent, Australia provided the deputy force commander and essential logistic support to the mission. It also supported UNTAET with police and government officers to help the nascent state establish the conditions that would sustain peace and stability and national recovery on independence. Importantly, within the UN Secretariat's Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO), Australia had provided assistance to the UN military adviser and the over-extended, small military planning staff, in the lead-up to the 30 August 1999 referendum in East Timor, as they planned for a possible peacekeeping force requirement following the ballot.931 A small Australian military team also deployed to New York to assist the DPKO plan the transition of INTERFET to UNTAET. The transition took place progressively from 1 to 21 February, with INTERFET formally handing over authority to UNTAET on 23 February 2000.

UNTAET's mandate, which had been renewed on 31 January 2001 and 2002, expired with East Timor's independence on 20 May 2002. Throughout the life of the mission, Australia worked to ensure that, with each renewal, its mandate included sufficient funds and personnel as well as a continued peace and security mandate. These stipulations were essential to the mission's ability to succeed in its dual functions of peacekeeping and peacebuilding. UNTAET was replaced by the UN Mission of Support in East Timor (UNMISET) to assist the new Timorese government with security and capacity-building. Australian peacekeepers continued to serve in numbers with the new mission until the expiry of its mandate on 20 May 2005.

The UNTAET and UNMISET commitments reflected Australia's firm belief in the need for a strong security component, not only to support the missions, but also to build Timorese police and security capacity. In all, more than 32,000 Australian peacekeepers contributed to the UN's missions in East Timor between September 1999 and
May 2005. While Australia's strong commitment to the UN's East Timor peace operations effectively ceased with the closure of the UNMISET mission, a small contingent helped the special representative of the Secretary-General coordinate the UN Office in Timor-Leste (UNOTIL) until its closure in May 2006, and Australia continues to provide police personnel to the current UN Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT), which replaced UNOTIL.932 Although Australian peacekeepers are no longer in Timor-Leste (East Timor) under the 'blue beret', a large contingent continues to serve in the small nation with the Australian-led International Stabilisation Force (ISF). The force was established at the request of the Timorese leadership to restore stability following outbreaks of violence and unrest in April to May 2006. The UN Security Council welcomed the ISF and issued a press release supporting the four countries–Australia, Portugal, Malaysia and New Zealand–that initially provided defence and security forces.933 The ISF operates in support of, but independently from, UNMIT.

The Cambodian and subsequent missions marked a significant change in Australia's attitude towards peacekeeping operations and reflected an approach first enunciated in Australia's Strategic Review 1993. The review confirmed the Australian government's commitment to UN peace operations but stated that the needs of the region would have priority. Speaking in the C–34934 in February 2000, the Australian representative noted that:

Australia is a long-standing supporter of the UN's peacekeeping role. We have also long been of the view that there are circumstances where regional countries acting collectively outside the organisational framework of the UN–but with the authority of the Security Council–are better placed to contribute in a timely and effective way to the resolution of regional conflicts.935

This approach is in line with the UN's interpretation of 'cooperation with regional arrangements' as set out in Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali's An Agenda for Peace:

It is not the purpose of the present report to set forth any formal pattern of relationship between regional organizations and the United Nations, or to call for any specific division of labour. What is clear, however, is that regional arrangements or agencies in many cases possess a potential that should be utilized in serving the functions covered in this report: preventive diplomacy, peace-keeping, peacemaking and post-conflict peace-building. Under the Charter, the Security Council has and will continue to have primary responsibility for maintaining international peace and security, but regional action as a matter of decentralization, delegation and cooperation with United Nations efforts could not only lighten the burden of the Council but also contribute to a deeper sense of participation, consensus and democratization in international affairs.936

The United Nations has fully supported Australian efforts to provide military and police assistance in peace operations in the region, and the DPKO, as well as the C–34, have been actively engaged in lessons learned from these, particularly in regard to Timor-Leste (East Timor) and the Solomon Islands. 937

As well as its considerable regional commitment, Australia has maintained a contribution to a number of UN peacekeeping operations outside the Asia–Pacific region. Between 2001 and 2005, Australia provided small contingents to the UN Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea, the UN Assistance Mission in Sierra Leone, the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission for Iraq, and the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan. An Australian contingent has continued to serve with the UN Mission in Sudan since 2005 and with the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq and the UN Mission in Darfur since 2008. From September 2009, a Royal Australian Navy ship has been part of the US-led Combined Task Force combating piracy off the Horn of Africa. While not a contribution to a UN peace operation, this commitment is seen as a positive Australian contribution to global maritime security, supporting Security Council Resolutions 1846 and 1851 of 2 and 16 December 2008, which call on states to take an active role in the fight against piracy off the coast of Somalia.

Peacekeeping reform and the Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations

The Australian government's commitment to UN and regional peace operations in the post–Cold War period was not seen only in its peacekeeping responses. Recognising the practical implications for the Secretariat of the increased demand for UN peace operations, Foreign Minister Evans' statement to the General Assembly in 1989 was devoted largely to peacekeeping and peacemaking. In outlining a number of proposals to upgrade the roles and capacity of these activities, he argued that:

[t]he United Nations needs to have in place not only access to funds, but structures and machinery which can spring readily into action. It cannot afford to re-invent the peacekeeping wheel each time the Organisation is called on to exert its peacekeeping mandate.

Australia's approach was now to look beyond a reactive role to focus on how the United Nations could improve its peacekeeping function and how Australia might contribute to that process. As discussed earlier, Evans supported a special peacekeeping reserve fund. He also urged the Secretariat to commit greater high-quality human resources to work on peacekeeping issues, supported a review of the structure of the Secretariat to look at bringing all peacekeeping functions under a single entity within that body, and offered to provide a senior army officer to work with the UN's military planning staff.938 Within the C–34, the Australian representative encouraged members not to miss the 'unique opportunity' for achieving change that 'the renewed vitality and international interest' in the role of peacekeeping provided.939

As the expansion of peacekeeping operations continued in the early 1990s, Australia felt encouraged by the 'heightened sense of common purpose' in the committee made possible by the removal of the superpower rivalry and the Permanent Five becoming more committed to improving the overall efficiency and effectiveness of UN peacekeeping. It also welcomed the committee's greater interaction with the Secretariat, believing that this would bring enhanced transparency to planning and implementation. But with the continuing trend towards increasingly diverse operations, Australian officials strongly urged that the C–34 give priority to 'addressing those issues which provide the greatest practical benefit when implemented' and so overcome the problems posed by a continued 'lack of coordination and cohesion'. Foremost of these issues was that the Secretariat be provided with the necessary resources to plan, support and coordinate the increasing number of missions.940

As one of many countries actively seeking the establishment of a more unified and integrated structure in the Secretariat to deal with peacekeeping, Australia saw the establishment of the separate DPKO by Boutros-Ghali as the first step in this process, and began work with like-minded member states to support it.941 In January 1992, the government welcomed the UN's formal recognition of the challenges posed by new complex, multidimensional operations, and its move to find 'ways of strengthening and making more efficient' its capacity for preventive diplomacy, peacemaking and peacekeeping, which resulted in the release of Boutros-Ghali's An Agenda for Peace.942

As part of its ongoing support for the development of UN peacekeeping, in March 1993 Australia convened an international peacekeeping seminar in Canberra, 'UN Peacekeeping at the Crossroads', to develop ideas about the future of UN peacekeeping and how it might be improved. In his opening remarks, Senator Evans called for an honest assessment of peacekeeping's effectiveness in its current format, and the impediments to keeping and securing the peace, and asked participants to make recommendations for improvement, particularly in relation to mandates and operations, matching response to situation and putting peacekeeping on a more secure organisational and financial footing.943 In the general debate of the General Assembly in September that year, he presented an Australian publication, Cooperating for Peace: The Global Agenda for the 1990s and Beyond. The 'Blue Book', as it came to be known, represented Australia's most significant contribution to the debate on enhancing international security that had been stimulated by An Agenda for Peace. It provided an analysis of the security problems then facing the international community and suggested strategies for responding to them that emphasised prevention, peacebuilding and cooperative security.944

In the mid-1990s, the failure of some missions to fulfil their mandates, prevent genocide and massacres, provide humanitarian aid and curb peacekeeper misbehaviour resulted in persistent calls for further reform in UN peacekeeping. Throughout this period, Australia remained engaged in working on how to strengthen the planning and management of peacekeeping operations and on general peacekeeping reform issues but, as discussed in Chapter 11, was disinclined to be part of the UN's Standby Arrangements System, preferring to decide participation on a case-by-case basis. Nonetheless, since the mid-1990s, the Australian government has regularly provided the United Nations with a list of Australian military units available for possible UN peace operations.

An early, welcome reform was the agreement by the Security Council to improve its consultation with troop-contributing countries. There was concern, though, that the United Nations was 'overstretched, with a level of organisation, resources and procedures no longer adequate to cope with the demands and complexity of modern peacekeeping'.945 The views of Australian officials working on peacekeeping reform were put clearly in a brief for the incoming Minister for Foreign Affairs with the change of government in 1996:

Australia could encourage measures to strengthen the UN planning of operations and making them more effective, for example by supporting efforts to build the UN's headquarters capacity–to enable it to better conceptualise operations, construct their mandates, plan and organise them, and rapidly set them in train. If there can be a really major enhancement of the UN's strategic and operational planning capacity, in a way that generates a confidence in that capability now largely lacking, then member states are likely to be much more willing to earmark and deliver military units for rapid reaction purposes.946

For Australia, the primary objective of peacekeeping reform in the C–34 was 'to strengthen the DPKO's capacity to execute its mandated functions' but it cautioned that reforms should not 'hinder the practical capacities' of that department, particularly staffing levels. It strongly supported, therefore, the consolidation of expert military and civil police personnel into a coordinated grouping in the department, and initiatives to coordinate and rationalise training activities.947

As UN peacekeeping entered the new millennium and there was satisfaction in New York with the success of the INTERFET operation and its transition to UNTAET, Australia was keen in the C–34 to see that the lessons were heeded–particularly that the issue of rapid deployment 'should continue to be considered in parallel' with other reform issues. The principal matter for reform continued to be the fact that the critical planning capacity of the DPKO remained 'badly stretched by current demands'. The progress that had been made in restructuring the department, improving procurement procedures and enhancing communication with member states, however, was very welcome. In what was becoming a familiar refrain, the Australian representative reminded the committee that 'the political commitment to peacekeeping embodied in a resolution of the Security Council is a hollow commitment if it is not followed up with provision of resources'.948 The overall view was that reforms were being implemented 'piecemeal rather than as a whole'. Australia supported a 'broader, more holistic approach as being vital not only to the success of peacekeeping reform but to maintaining the UN's capacity and effectiveness in this area'.949 It was with anticipation, therefore, that Australia, along with all member states, awaited the report of the Brahimi Commission, set up by the Secretary-General to assess the shortcomings of the existing peacekeeping system.

The recommendations of the Brahimi report, presented to the presidents of the General Assembly and the Security Council on 21 August 2000,950 would take time to implement, and Australia remained concerned over the capacity of the DPKO to function effectively. A joint standing committee of the Australian parliament appointed to consider 'Australia's Role in United Nations Reform' noted that the department's function was 'essential to the successful conduct' of peace operations but that 'the reality [was] that the Department was critically understaffed and under-resourced'.951 In this period, the Australian government also remained engaged on peacekeeping matters in the Security Council, contributing particularly to the debate on the need for exit strategies in determining mandates for UN operations and for 'substantial and timely' consultation with troop-contributing countries, as identified in the Brahimi report.952

The recommendations of the Brahimi report set in train a new era of concerted effort to meet the challenges of increasingly complex UN peace operations and to improve effectiveness. They covered the politics and strategy of peace operations, as well as operations and organisational areas of need in peace operations, particularly the requirement for robust doctrine, realistic mandates, and enhanced planning and support capacity within the Secretariat. While a number of recommendations have yet to be fully implemented, Australia is continuing to support the DPKO's endorsement of the report and to work with other member states and in the C–34 towards its better implementation. In particular, Australia strongly supported the recommendation to elevate the role of police in operations so that they would serve alongside military personnel and responded to the call to develop standing police capabilities for peace operations, establishing the International Deployment Group within the AFP. The group's pre-deployment training was the first recognised by the United Nations as fulfilling its requirements. With its longstanding police experience in Cyprus and the lessons learned from operations in East Timor and elsewhere in the region, Australia is well placed to assist with the continued professionalising of UN policing. An area of particular interest is the strengthening of the police and justice sectors in peacekeeping operations, particularly police–military collaboration. Australia's support for UN policing was recognised in 2007 with the appointment of an AFP officer, Andrew Hughes, as Police Adviser to the United Nations.953

Australia is strongly committed to the need for all personnel deployed to UN peace operations to have an appropriate standard of training for these operations. Such training is a fundamental element in the training of ADF personnel, particularly in the army. A designated ADF Peace Operations Training Centre conducts the required courses and also provides a UN military observers' course which prepares selected military personnel from Australia and overseas for service as military observers in UN or multinational peacekeeping operations. Components of this course focus on meeting the standards stipulated by the DPKO's Integrated Training System and as such have been merged with the AFP's international police training. As a broader, whole-of-government strategy, relevant parts of this training are also provided to Australian personnel outside these two groups who are deploying to UN operations; Australian government agencies also actively pursue opportunities to deploy senior officers to UN missions and to UN headquarters in New York. As an additional means of improving international peacekeeping standards, the Australian government gives a high priority to exchange programs and joint exercises with personnel from countries relevant to peacekeeping operations in the region and supports the work of UN agencies and regional organisations in capacity-building for countries involved in peace operations.954

The way ahead

Australia has long promoted the importance of well-informed, clear mandates, achievable goals and adequate funding as fundamental enablers of peace operations success. In looking to the future, the government fully supported the DPKO's 'Peace Operations 2010' reform agenda in 2005, and in 2008 welcomed the joint DPKO–Department of Field Support publication, UN Peace Operations: Guidelines and Principles, the first capstone-level document developed for the guidance of peacekeepers in the field. Given its firm advocacy of the development of guidelines on civil-military coordination, when these two departments asked member states to help them work through the problems facing peacekeeping, Australia was a willing partner to the consultations and to the resultant 'non-paper', 'A New Partnership Agenda: Charting a New Horizon for UN Peacekeeping', published in July 2009.955 Speaking in the Security Council's open debate on peacekeeping following the release of this publication, Australia's representative urged 'all parts of the UN community [to] contribute to a re-energised global partnership on peacekeeping'. He stressed that it was essential to 'redouble … efforts to take forward the reform agenda' if the challenges awaiting UN peacekeeping were to be met.956

The three policy areas in which there is not yet clear understanding, as identified in the New Horizon 'non-paper', are robust peacekeeping, protection of civilians, and critical peacebuilding tasks for peacekeepers. Australia's support for robust peacekeeping in the C–34 and other forums is of long standing, but it is on the issue of the protection of civilians in peacekeeping operations that Australia has assumed a role in international initiatives. Peacekeepers are currently tasked to protect civilians in over half of all UN peace operations, raising expectations, both internationally and among those in the operational area. Australia and other member states recognise that guidance is required for peacekeepers: they need to have a common understanding of what is expected of them and of the specific mandate under which they are operating.957 In the C–34, Australia's representatives ensured that the special committee's 2009 report for the General Assembly dealt with this issue. This report was important in that it was a consensus-based report and that it was the first time that the protection of civilians had been referred to in any substantive way by a General Assembly body. In line with the Security Council's focus on the issue throughout 2009 and 2010, Australia and Uruguay co-hosted three workshops in New York, providing a forum for the peacekeeping community to discuss and work towards consensus on protection of civilians issues.958 With the majority of current peace operations' mandates in Africa including protection of civilians, Australia has undertaken to work with the African Union and the UN Secretariat to strengthen these capabilities in peace operations. Additional forums for this issue have been opening up–in 2010, protection of civilians was the subject of a symposium co-hosted by Australia and the African Union in Ethiopia and the topic at the Third International Forum for the Challenges of Peace Operations, held in Australia. Most recently, the Australian government, through the Australian Civil-Military Centre,959 partnered with the UN Institute of Training and Research to produce a documentary titled 'Mandated to Protect: Protection of Civilians in Peacekeeping Operations', which is intended to further the common understanding of the requirement among member states to help develop practical tools for training peacekeepers.

Australia has also been an active participant in the international community's efforts to incorporate women into peace and security operations, security decision-making processes such as peace negotiations, and post-conflict reconstruction and peacebuilding. Australia has supported the full implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on women, peace and security since its adoption in 2000 and has co-sponsored subsequent Security Council resolutions on this issue.

Australian female military, police and civilian officers have been part of Australia's peacekeeping contingents continuously since 1990. Their overall numbers in each deployment, however, remain low. An Australian Agency for International Development submission to an Australian Senate standing committee inquiring into Australia's involvement in peacekeeping operations in 2008 noted that 'the role of women should be identified as early as possible in peacemaking processes and women's inclusion at all levels be adequately supported'. The committee agreed, and recommended that 'greater impetus' be given to implementing Resolution 1325 and that Australian agencies take 'concrete actions to encourage greater involvement of women in peacekeeping operations'.960

In March 2012, the government launched the Australian National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security 2012–2018, to guide and strengthen Australia's ongoing commitment to implementing the resolution. The plan is the outcome of close consultation across government agencies and non-government organisations, and improves the integration of gender equality in all Australia's peace and security efforts. It identifies strategies and actions for Australia, domestically and internationally, to execute the UN's women, peace and security agenda, promoting women's involvement in building and maintaining peace and supporting work to eliminate violence against women in situations of armed conflict.961

Internationally, Australia is engaged in various forums on women, peace and security, including the Group of Friends on Women, Peace and Security. Australia supported the joint 'Analytical Inventory' developed by DPKO and the UN Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM, now UN Women), under the auspices of the inter-agency network UN Action Against Sexual Violence in Conflict. This is key to improving the UN's ability to protect women from conflict-related sexual violence as part of peacekeeping operations. Australia is supporting its UN partners to fully operationalise this tool. In August 2012, the government launched a documentary and educational toolkit, Side by Side: Women, Peace and Security, developed in partnership by the Australian Civil-Military Centre and UN Women Australia to help educate military, police and civilians on the issues they will face when deployed on peace operations.962

Finally, the increased complexity of peace operations requires the international community to take an integrated approach to peacekeeping and peacebuilding, one that involves coordination among all stakeholders, including local authorities, financial institutions, non-government organisations and donors. With its considerable experience in East Timor, the Australian government recognises the importance of peacebuilding in preventing a return to conflict, and with like-minded countries understands that 'peacekeeping and peacebuilding are not distinct and sequential tasks, but rather interwoven elements' of the transition from conflict to a sustained peace.963 Australia welcomed the convening of the UN World Summit in New York in September 2005 and the important step taken at that time: the creation of a Peacebuilding Commission 'to help countries transition from war to peace, backed by a support office and a standing fund'.964 In 2010, Australia was an active member of the commission and is currently contributing to the UN Peacebuilding Fund and supporting peacebuilding initiatives, identified as priorities by the commission, in Burundi and Sierra Leone.


UN peacekeeping has developed as an adaptable mechanism that enables the United Nations to 'meet the demands of different conflicts and a changing political landscape'; it assists countries torn by conflict by helping 'create conditions for sustainable peace after settlements have been reached'.965 Since the first military observers were deployed in the late 1940s, there have been sixty-four UN peacekeeping operations. In that time peacekeeping has changed dramatically, shifting from the strictly military tasks of maintaining ceasefires and stabilising situations on the ground to complex, multidimensional operations, characterised more by prevention, intervention and reconstruction.

Australia has emerged as a reliable and consistent contributor to UN peacekeeping operations, reflecting its strong belief that there is an obligation on member states to support efforts aimed at maintaining international and regional peace and security. Where the United Nations has not been able to act politically or logistically, Australia has met this commitment to international peace and security, as set out in the Charter, through its contributions to multilateral peace operations. Since 1947, over 65,000 Australians have deployed to more than fifty UN and other international peace and security operations.

Successive Australian governments have been steadfast in their support for UN peacekeeping efforts and have shown Australia to be a capable and dependable partner, sharing its peacekeeping experience with other member states and contributing to international concepts and norms that will reform and improve the peacekeeping system. Australia's peacekeeping deployments have been matched by the active role that it has maintained in the C–34 and other committees, and in a number of initiatives to support capacity development within the United Nations to meet the challenges of increasingly complex and multidimensional operations and international expectations. With its firmly held belief that the organisation cannot act effectively unless the member states provide the necessary resources for it to do so, Australia remains a committed financial contributor to UN peacekeeping through timely payment of its assessed share of the budget and through payments to the budgets of the various UN agencies.966

UN peacekeeping has evolved to incorporate the interconnected tasks of peacemaking, peace enforcement, peacekeeping and peacebuilding. The increased demand for these complex operations is likely to continue and Australia is hopeful that with the concerted efforts and input of the member states, working together with the Secretariat and the Security Council, the challenges facing UN peacekeeping will be addressed.


Australian military officers are greeted by local officials at Djokjakarta (Yogyakarta), 14 September 1947—the first military observers requested by the Consular Commission established by the Security Council on 25 August 1947 to arrive in the Netherlands East Indies. [National Library of Australia]

Australian military officers are greeted by local officials at Djokjakarta (Yogyakarta), 14 September 1947–the first military observers requested by the Consular Commission established by the Security Council on 25 August 1947 to arrive in the Netherlands East Indies. [National Library of Australia]


The UN Military Observer Group meet with Indian and Pakistani officers on the ceasefire line in Kashmir, 1 January 1955. Left to right: Two Pakistani officers; Major JD Murray (Australia); Major Emilio Altieri (Uruguay); Lieutenant Colonel RH Marson (Australia); an Indian officer; and, back to camera, Major FH Moy (Australia). [UN Photo/SC]

The UN Military Observer Group meet with Indian and Pakistani officers on the ceasefire line in Kashmir, 1 January 1955. Left to right: Two Pakistani officers; Major JD Murray (Australia); Major Emilio Altieri (Uruguay); Lieutenant Colonel RH Marson (Australia); an Indian officer; and, back to camera, Major FH Moy (Australia). [UN Photo/SC]


The Australian Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Dr E Ronald Walker (left), consults with the Canadian Secretary of State for External Affairs, Lester B Pearson, during the emergency special session of the UN General Assembly on additional plans for UNEF I, New York, 7 November 1956. [UN Photo/AF]

The Australian Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Dr E Ronald Walker (left), consults with the Canadian Secretary of State for External Affairs, Lester B Pearson, during the emergency special session of the UN General Assembly on additional plans for UNEF I, New York, 7 November 1956. [UN Photo/AF]


An Australian police officer from New South Wales, Sergeant Robert Macdonald (left)—a member of the UN Civilian Police attached to the UN Force in Cyprus—talks with the force commander, General Kodendera Thimayya (India), during the commander's tour of peace force units, 1965. [New South Wales Police]

An Australian police officer from New South Wales, Sergeant Robert Macdonald (left)–a member of the UN Civilian Police attached to the UN Force in Cyprus–talks with the force commander, General Kodendera Thimayya (India), during the commander's tour of peace force units, 1965. [New South Wales Police]


The Australian Minister for External Affairs, Paul Hasluck, addresses the General Assembly, New York, 9 October 1968. On the rostrum (left to right): UN Secretary-General U Thant; Iceland Permanent Representative to the United Nations Hannes Kjartansson; and UN Under-Secretary, General Assembly Affairs, CV Narasimhan. [UN Photo/National Archives of Australia]

The Australian Minister for External Affairs, Paul Hasluck, addresses the General Assembly, New York, 9 October 1968. On the rostrum (left to right): UN Secretary-General U Thant; Iceland Permanent Representative to the United Nations Hannes Kjartansson; and UN Under-Secretary, General Assembly Affairs, CV Narasimhan. [UN Photo/National Archives of Australia]


Four Australian officers of the New South Wales, Victorian and Tasmanian Police Forces on operations for the UN Civilian Police attached to the UN Force in Cyprus, Polis district, Cyprus, 1972. [Australian War Memorial/D Percy]

Four Australian officers of the New South Wales, Victorian and Tasmanian Police Forces on operations for the UN Civilian Police attached to the UN Force in Cyprus, Polis district, Cyprus, 1972. [Australian War Memorial/D Percy]


An Australian field engineer serving with the UN Transition Assistance Group (UNTAG), Sapper Robert Wickham (centre), conducts mine awareness training for Kenyan battalion engineers at Okahandja, Namibia, June 1989. [Australian War Memorial]

An Australian field engineer serving with the UN Transition Assistance Group (UNTAG), Sapper Robert Wickham (centre), conducts mine awareness training for Kenyan battalion engineers at Okahandja, Namibia, June 1989. [Australian War Memorial]


An Australian soldier serving as part of the UN's Unified Task Force (UNITAF) assists a Somali woman at a food distribution centre in the Bay Region, southern Somalia, March 1993. [Australian War Memorial/Gary Ramage]

An Australian soldier serving as part of the UN's Unified Task Force (UNITAF) assists a Somali woman at a food distribution centre in the Bay Region, southern Somalia, March 1993. [Australian War Memorial/Gary Ramage]


The Australian UNTAC Force Commander, Lieutenant-General John Sanderson (right), and the Japanese Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Yasushi Akashi, speak to the press early in the UNTAC mission, Phnom Penh, 1992. [John Sanderson]

The Australian UNTAC Force Commander, Lieutenant-General John Sanderson (right), and the Japanese Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Yasushi Akashi, speak to the press early in the UNTAC mission, Phnom Penh, 1992. [John Sanderson]


The Australian Force Commander, UN Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC), Lieutenant-General John Sanderson (second left), and the commander of the Malaysian contingent, Colonel Arshad Md Raji (centre), discuss plans for the conduct of the election with an UNTAC election supervisor, Battembang, 1992. [John Sanderson]

The Australian Force Commander, UN Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC), Lieutenant-General John Sanderson (second left), and the commander of the Malaysian contingent, Colonel Arshad Md Raji (centre), discuss plans for the conduct of the election with an UNTAC election supervisor, Battembang, 1992. [John Sanderson]


The Australian Federal Police Commander of the Regional Assistance Mission Solomon Islands (RAMSI) Participating Police Force, Assistant Commissioner Ben McDevitt (second right), negotiates with self-proclaimed warlord, head of the Guadalcanal Liberation Front, Harold Keke (left), accompanied by the RAMSI Special Coordinator, Nick Warner (right), and the RAMSI Taskforce Commander, Lieutenant Colonel John Frewen (third right), Nera Isuna, August 2003. [Australian Federal Police]

The Australian Federal Police Commander of the Regional Assistance Mission Solomon Islands (RAMSI) Participating Police Force, Assistant Commissioner Ben McDevitt (second right), negotiates with self-proclaimed warlord, head of the Guadalcanal Liberation Front, Harold Keke (left), accompanied by the RAMSI Special Coordinator, Nick Warner (right), and the RAMSI Taskforce Commander, Lieutenant Colonel John Frewen (third right), Nera Isuna, August 2003. [Australian Federal Police]


The official transfer of full military authority from the International Force East Timor (INTERFET) to the UN Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET), Dili, 23 February 2000. Left to right: East Timorese Independence leader, Kay Rala Xanana Gusmão; Philippine UNTAET Force Commander, Lieutenant-General de los Santos; Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Sergio Vieira de Mello; Australian INTERFET Commander, Major General Peter Cosgrove; and Catholic Primate of East Timor, Bishop Carlo

The official transfer of full military authority from the International Force East Timor (INTERFET) to the UN Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET), Dili, 23 February 2000. Left to right: East Timorese Independence leader, Kay Rala Xanana Gusmão; Philippine UNTAET Force Commander, Lieutenant-General de los Santos; Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Sergio Vieira de Mello; Australian INTERFET Commander, Major General Peter Cosgrove; and Catholic Primate of East Timor, Bishop Carlos Belo. [Department of Defence]


The Australian UN Police Adviser, Andrew Hughes (third right), and members of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations assessment team (right) meet with the Timor-Leste Prime Minister, Kay Rala Xanana Gusmão (third left), Minister for Foreign Affairs, Zacarias da Costa (second left), and Minister for Justice, Lúcia Lobato (left), to review key areas of support provided by the United Nations Mission in Timor Leste, Dili, 18 March 2008. [UN Photo/Martine Perret]

The Australian UN Police Adviser, Andrew Hughes (third right), and members of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations assessment team (right) meet with the Timor-Leste Prime Minister, Kay Rala Xanana Gusmão (third left), Minister for Foreign Affairs, Zacarias da Costa (second left), and Minister for Justice, Lúcia Lobato (left), to review key areas of support provided by the United Nations Mission in Timor Leste, Dili, 18 March 2008. [UN Photo/Martine Perret]


The Australian Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Gary Quinlan (left), the head of the New York Office of the UN Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR), Yvonne Lodico (centre), and the Executive Director of Australia's Asia Pacific Civil-Military Centre of Excellence, Michael G Smith, at the launch of the Australian-UNITAR documentary, Mandated to Protect: Protection of Civilians in Peacekeeping Operations, New York, 3 November 2011. [Department of Defence/Trevor Collens]

The Australian Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Gary Quinlan (left), the head of the New York Office of the UN Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR), Yvonne Lodico (centre), and the Executive Director of Australia's Asia Pacific Civil-Military Centre of Excellence, Michael G Smith, at the launch of the Australian-UNITAR documentary, Mandated to Protect: Protection of Civilians in Peacekeeping Operations, New York, 3 November 2011. [Department of Defence/Trevor Collens]


The Australian Commander of the Regional Assistance Mission Solomon Islands Participating Police Force, AFP Commissioner Wayne Buchhorn (back right), the acting Commissioner Royal Solomon Islands Police Force, Walter Kola (front, third right), and Deputy Commissioner Eddie Sikua (front, second right), with officers of the Participating Police Force and soldiers from the Combined Task Force, celebrate International Women's Day with local community women, Honiara, 2 March 2011. [Department of Defence

The Australian Commander of the Regional Assistance Mission Solomon Islands Participating Police Force, AFP Commissioner Wayne Buchhorn (back right), the acting Commissioner Royal Solomon Islands Police Force, Walter Kola (front, third right), and Deputy Commissioner Eddie Sikua (front, second right), with officers of the Participating Police Force and soldiers from the Combined Task Force, celebrate International Women's Day with local community women, Honiara, 2 March 2011. [Department of Defence]

8 Arms control and disarmament

Matthew Jordan

Arms control and disarmament967 issues have been a dominant feature of the work of the United Nations since its foundation in 1945. The proliferation of ever-more destructive weapons–especially nuclear weapons–by the great powers in the decades after World War II produced a common desire to reduce, if not eliminate, the danger of a war of annihilation. Progress was slow, largely because of Cold War rivalry between the United States and the Soviet Union, but by the late 1960s a number of international agreements were in place, most notably the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which contributed to a stabilisation of the number of nuclear-weapon states in the world. A significant relaxation of superpower tension in recent decades has produced further advances in the field of arms control and disarmament–both multilateral and bilateral–including a complete ban on chemical weapons, near-universal support for the prohibition of nuclear testing and a decline in nuclear arsenals from a high of 70,000 warheads in the 1980s to the present level of about 23,000.968

While Australia later became an energetic campaigner for arms control and disarmament causes, it was initially unenthusiastic about such initiatives in the United Nations. This position, which stemmed fundamentally from its sense of strategic vulnerability in the Asia–Pacific region, had informed Australian attitudes to disarmament for some years. When, following the carnage of World War I, the League of Nations proposed large-scale disarmament measures to prevent another conflict of such unmitigated destruction, Australia was variously supportive or indifferent according to its perceived national self-interest. Thus Australia throughout the 1920s and 1930s strongly advocated naval-arms limitations in the hope that such benchmarks would restrict the growth of Japanese power in the Pacific. When, however, disarmament efforts in the League appeared to be against its strategic interests, Australia, like many countries at the time, insisted that its peculiar geopolitical circumstances made it an exceptional case. In 1923, after the League had called on member states to accept a general reduction of armaments, Prime Minister Stanley Melbourne Bruce responded by reaffirming the Australian government's 'earnest' commitment to 'World Peace' but rejecting the application of the scheme to Australia. Being a young country, he wrote:

Australia, in the adoption of measures for her own defence, has not yet attained to the lowest point consistent with national safety; and therefore the obligation relating to reduction or limitation of armaments is without the special significance for us which it has for other and older States.969

These same broad concerns, reinforced by the coming of the Cold War to Asia in the late 1940s and early 1950s, dominated Australian attitudes and policies towards arms control and disarmament initiatives in the United Nations until the emergence in the 1970s of a more favourable geopolitical environment. Less anxious about its vital security interests, Australia from that time renounced weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and adopted a more proactive role in this aspect of the UN's work, most notably by promoting comprehensive bans on chemical and biological weapons and nuclear weapons testing, and contributing to the creation of legislative and normative barriers to nuclear proliferation.970

Early UN disarmament proposals and the coming of the Cold War: 1945–1952

When the Allied nations met at San Francisco in April 1945 to draft the UN Charter, there was surprisingly little attention paid to arms control and disarmament issues. Whereas the League of Nations had explicitly committed its member states to 'the reduction of national armaments … to the lowest point consistent with national safety', the UN Charter noted, somewhat vaguely, the Security Council's obligation to formulate 'plans … for the establishment of a system for the regulation of armaments' (Article 26). Equally vague (though subsequently vital) was the power accorded to the General Assembly to 'consider … the principles governing disarmament and the regulation of armaments' (Article 11).971The absence of any real urgency in these provisions was perhaps understandable given that World War II was still in progress. Even more importantly, the great powers at this point anticipated that the military organ of the Security Council–the Military Staff Committee–would need arms to maintain international security, and so were keen to avoid terms that suggested a reduction of armaments, let alone the more ambitious objective of disarmament.972

This situation, however, changed dramatically a few months later with the advent of the most destructive weapon in history. The dropping of atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki made the challenge of supervising and controlling atomic energy a key issue for the United Nations, one that would dominate the great bulk of disarmament and arms control talks in the world body for the next fifty years. Indeed, during the opening session of the United Nations in January 1946, the first resolution passed by the General Assembly focused on the 'problems arising from the discovery of atomic energy and related matters'. Under Resolution 1(I) of 24 January 1946, the General Assembly not only established an Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) dedicated to ensuring that atomic energy was used 'only for peaceful purposes' but also called for 'the elimination from national armaments of atomic weapons and all other major weapons adaptable to mass destruction'.973

Australia from the beginning threw its whole support behind American efforts to prevent the spread of atomic weapons. Known as the Baruch Plan–after its author, Bernard Baruch–the US proposal called for a comprehensive system of control over nuclear technology and wide-ranging sanctions against countries which violated the rules: 'an international law with teeth in it', as Baruch put it in June 1946.974 This would then be followed by the destruction of all existing US stocks of atomic weapons and the creation of an agency which would have possession of all information relating to the production of nuclear energy. Minister for External Affairs Dr Herbert Vere Evatt, who chaired the first meeting of the AEC, told those attending that the Australian government was 'in general agreement' with the Baruch Plan. At the same time, he was critical of the counterproposal from the Soviet Union, which, reversing Baruch's proposed benchmarks, demanded the immediate destruction of all US atomic weapons after which a control and sanctions regime administered by the Security Council might be implemented. This last provision was especially objectionable to Evatt, who, like Baruch, insisted that the veto privilege enjoyed by the great powers must not extend to atomic energy issues. In a paper written specifically for the commission, Evatt agreed with Baruch's view that such an arrangement would only undermine the process of inspection and control:

It should be understood from the outset that every party to the Treaty must be subject to the rules of conduct laid down in the [T]reaty or by the agency. For this reason no system of veto should be permitted in the procedure of the atomic energy agency for that would mean a right or privilege to claim a special immunity or exemption from the general rules of conduct.

When the requisite controls and sanctions had been established, Evatt said, reaffirming Baruch's sequencing order, atomic information sharing could occur and 'the manufacture of atomic weapons and the stockpiling of material for military purposes [would] cease and … existing stocks of bombs [would] be dismantled'.975 In July 1946, after two weeks of 'unacceptable demands' from the Soviet Union for the adoption of its own system, Evatt, in 'a protracted tussle' with the Soviet Ambassador, Andrei Gromyko, 'pointed out firmly that renunciation of atomic weapons and exchange of information would be effective only when there was some assurance of control and inspection'.976

While Evatt was critical of the Soviet proposal, he was also perturbed, like most Australian officials at the time, by rising Cold War tensions. He distanced himself from former British prime minister Winston Churchill's reference to 'iron curtain' countries in Eastern Europe and warned against accepting 'the postulate that conflict with Russia was inevitable'. Such a view, he said, would be 'utterly inconsistent with the principles of the United Nations Organisation'.977 So in January 1947, when the United States and Soviet Union could not agree on the best way forward in disarmament negotiations, Australia was reluctant to accept that this was symptomatic of a permanent rift in East–West relations. Paul Hasluck, then a member of the Australian delegation in New York, was suspicious of Soviet motives and, alluding to growing international tension, told Evatt in January 1947 that 'all Soviet activities within [the] United Nations clearly subserved current contests in Europe'. The Soviet Union, he said, despite what the optimists were saying, 'clearly thinks about disarmament in different terms to others' and was engaged in a propaganda campaign 'to represent the Soviet as the only power genuinely serving peace'. According to Hasluck, the Soviets remained obdurate on the fundamental issue of the veto and it was 'still uncertain exactly what meaning they give to controls and safeguards'. And yet he advised against repeating the recent tactic of 'moves and counter-moves'. Australia's 'best line', he counselled, 'would surely be to … act with confidence that Soviet intentions are good until the Soviet itself gives any cause for doubt'.978

The Department of External Affairs (DEA) agreed, advising the Australian delegation a few days later that on such 'a vital matter' as disarmament every effort should be made 'to avoid wherever possible [a] line up of [the] Soviet Union and Poland on one side and all other members of [the Security] Council on [the] other'. Favouring a positive approach, as Hasluck had advised, the DEA insisted that the American and Soviet proposals were 'not necessarily inconsistent' and that the Soviet Union, 'if given reasonable time and handled with care, … may be prepared to co-operate in a substantial degree'. The following day, Evatt cabled Hasluck personally and emphasised the same point, saying that the 'problems raised by [the] USSR and US are not mutually exclusive but are co-related and … a parallel approach to these problems should be pursued with vigour'.979 In accordance with these instructions, the Australian delegation worked hard to find a 'middle way' by promoting the professed similarities between the American preference for maintaining the Security Council's focus on the work of the AEC and the Russian proposal for a new, more broad-ranging commission which would cover all aspects of disarmament. By taking such an approach, Norman Makin, the Australian Ambassador to the United States, told the Security Council in January 1947:

we would have initiated on parallel lines a useful series of concurrent activities, … and it might well lead within the course of the next two or three months to rapid progress in accordance with the unanimous wishes of all members of the United Nations.980

Privately, however, the Australian delegation was less confident, telling Canberra that 'the outlook is by no means bright' and that this situation largely derived from the 'various conflicting purposes' arising out of increasing East–West rivalry.981

While Evatt continued to resist the looming ideological polarisation of the world, claiming that 'a more positive' approach to the emergent dispute was offered by UN 'principles of justice rather than policies of strategy and expedience', the coming of the Cold War to Asia in the late 1940s increasingly drew Australia into the Western camp.982 In July 1947, therefore, when discussing the conflict between the Dutch authorities and Sukarno's nationalists in Indonesia, Evatt, using the very language he had previously eschewed, called for the urgent settlement of the dispute otherwise Russia could 'spread onto that area as she had done in Europe'.983 The success of the communists in China in October 1949 and the outbreak of the Korean War in June 1950 reinforced Australia's alignment with Western Cold War assumptions. Robert Menzies, who led the Liberal–Country Party coalition to office in December 1949, embraced the primary supposition of Australia's 'great and powerful friends'; namely, that the Soviet Union was a menace to Western security. His first Minister for External Affairs, Percy Spender, not only spoke of the Soviet Union's 'ultimate objective' of 'world communism, a universal form of communism with Moscow as the controlling centre', but also focused on the danger to Australia following the arrival of the Cold War in Asia. In his first address as Minister for External Affairs, in July 1950, Spender warned that 'no nation can escape its geography':

We live side by side with the countries of South and South-East Asia, and … it is in our interest to foster commercial and other contacts with them and give them what help we can in maintaining stable and democratic governments in power, and increasing the material welfare of their peoples. In doing so we take the long view. We will be helping to provide them and ourselves with the best defence against the effective penetration of Communist imperialism …

The People's Republic of China (hereafter China) figured prominently in these new strategic calculations. While Spender attempted to be objective when commenting on the situation in China, insisting that 'we should very much dislike seeing the traditional contacts severed between China and the Western world', he noted the avowed intention of Beijing to strengthen ties with the Soviet Union and directly associated China with the spread of communist insurgency in Southeast Asia.984

Given this perspective on East–West tensions, which hardened following the Soviet Union's successful detonation of a nuclear device in August 1949, Australian policymakers, not surprisingly, understood the disarmament debate in the United Nations in stridently Cold War terms. When, in November 1951, therefore, the United States attempted to wrest back the initiative and overcome the disagreements that had stifled negotiations between the great powers since the late 1940s by seemingly accommodating the Soviet position and agreeing to establish a new disarmament commission which would consider the control of both atomic and conventional weapons,985 Menzies was quick to dismiss the idea. Replying to the new Minister for External Affairs, Richard Casey, who was in New York at the time, Menzies set down the major principles that would dominate Australian thinking on the question of disarmament in the United Nations for the next two decades.

First, he warned that advancing proposals which were seemingly 'designed primarily to wrest the propaganda initiative from the Russians' was dangerous, especially in dealing with an adversary like the Soviet Union, with its 'genius' for dissimulation: 'I would anticipate that the Russians will show considerable skill in using the American proposals as a means of trying to force the Western powers into some top level conference which is unlikely to succeed', but which would nevertheless allow the Soviets to advance their 'propagand[a] for peace' campaign.

Second, and connected to this point, Menzies feared that any Western effort to play the Russians at their own game might 'lessen the sense of urgency amongst the Western powers which is vital to sustain our common defence effort'. This was extremely unwise, he said:

I should have thought the experience of the victors in the first world war in voluntarily reducing their armaments–particularly naval armaments–to such a point that they subsequently avoided defeat by a miracle would have made them extremely cautious in putting forward disarmament proposals.

Third, and perhaps most importantly from Australia's point of view, he claimed that vital national security interests were at stake. Reinforcing his strong aversion to the very concept of Western disarmament given the state of international tensions and the perceived intractability of Cold War politics, Menzies, reiterating the concerns of Prime Minister Bruce and other senior policymakers in the 1920s and 1930s, argued for an increased rate of armament:

The Western Powers, including Australia, are still in the early stages of their defence preparations and could not by any stretch of the imagination be said to have reached the point where they could readily disarm.

This seemingly paradoxical position–accepting the desirability of disarmament efforts in the United Nations but insisting that practical disarmament would only be possible after the West had armed itself sufficiently against the threat of Soviet aggression–would feature prominently in Australian attitudes to disarmament over coming years, especially given the superiority in military manpower of both the Soviet Union and China. It would also play a central role in Australia's own nuclear ambitions during the 1950s and 1960s.

Menzies' fourth and final point was that since Australia could exert only limited influence on its great-power allies, it would have to express its dissent with subtlety and restraint. While concluding that Australia could not 'play the part of a "knocker"', especially given the importance of Western unity, he advised Casey that 'you should express privately to the representatives of the[se] … countries our apprehensions and … for the time being, you should give general rather than particular and detailed support to the proposals'.986

Actor or spectator? The 1950s and 1960s

Given the fixed nature of these convictions, Australia did not take any initiatives on disarmament in the United Nations throughout the 1950s. Indeed, during the early years of the decade it stuck closely to the prime minister's plan: publicly supporting Western disarmament proposals–albeit cautiously–while privately expressing reservations over the benefits to the West generally, and indeed the likely disadvantages, to Australia in particular, of moving too hastily on disarmament issues. This attitude was evident when, as part of the US proposal of November 1951 to establish a new disarmament commission, France, the United States and Britain issued a statement calling for the regulation, limitation and balanced reduction of all armed forces. This plan was endorsed by the General Assembly in January 1952 and reinforced in a working paper presented by the Americans in May that year. While not overtly opposed to the plan, Australia, in accordance with Menzies' earlier response, privately told Whitehall that 'any simple formula for disarmament criteria needs to be approached with caution'.987

A DEA brief prepared for the Australian delegation was similarly 'dubious about the effectiveness of the United States initiative'. Like Menzies, the DEA noted the seemingly intractable nature of the disagreement between the United States and Soviet Union on atomic weapons. This remained 'the crux of the problem', according to External Affairs, and despite the best efforts of Western countries to accommodate the Soviet viewpoint, the newly established Disarmament Commission was 'still faced with the fundamental task of trying to reconcile the Majority [Baruch] and Minority [USSR] Plans for atomic energy control, since the Soviet attitude has changed little in the last five years'–indeed, the Americans and Soviets had failed to reach agreement 'even on basic principles'. Thus, while Australia had 'played a considerable part in sponsoring limited moves in the atomic energy field, in line with the Majority Plan', Canberra's approach to these American proposals was neither very enthusiastic nor hopeful. According to the DEA, Australian support was 'eventually' given, in part because 'the importance of East–West exploratory talks should not be underestimated', but mainly because of 'the favourable effect of making such proposals on world opinion'.988

Although the Australian government was forced to tread a fine line between public support and private reservation when its great-power allies presented disarmament proposals in the United Nations, there was no such ambivalence when dealing with Soviet proposals. When, during 1953, the Soviet Union responded to a series of American disarmament initiatives by staunchly reasserting its established position, Spender, now Ambassador to the United States, criticised the Soviets for putting forward the same tired proposals only to have them 'thrown out just as regularly as an inebriated toper who returns to the tavern'. While Spender's attack on the Soviet Union was not unusual in the context of the Cold War, some of his comments betrayed Australia's general sense of despair over the issue of disarmament during these years. He thus insisted, like Menzies, that because of the 'menace of Soviet aggression', Western countries had no alternative but to 'build up and maintain our defences at the highest level for many decades to come'. With that in mind, he expressed only grudging support for a draft General Assembly resolution calling on the Disarmament Commission to convene a subcommittee of the 'powers principally involved' which would be charged with the task of reaching an acceptable solution in closed sessions. Noting 'the unenthusiastic reaction of most of us here', he said plainly: 'let us not delude ourselves that this resolution achieves very much'.989

Despite its negative appraisal of UN efforts to accommodate the seemingly irreconcilable positions of the Western and communist camps, the DEA initially responded favourably to the next round of negotiations. Indeed, following the detonation of a highly powerful hydrogen bomb by the United States in March 1954, Casey himself urged that the Disarmament Commission be reconvened at an 'early date'.990 This occurred the following month and a subcommittee was duly formed. It deliberated in secret during May. On an Anglo–French initiative, the Western camp in July 1954 put up new proposals, which, as a sop to the Soviet Union, explicitly prohibited the use of nuclear weapons–'except in defence against aggression'–pending their complete destruction. At the same time, the proposals maintained that the first step must be the creation of a control agency; this could then be followed by phased reductions in both conventional armaments and nuclear weapons.991 The DEA supported these proposals since they were broadly consistent with Australian defence considerations. They also 'enabled the Western Powers to seize the initiative in the disarmament and atomic energy fields with imaginative and constructive proposals'.992 Menzies, for his part, was less optimistic than the DEA–indeed, he claimed to be 'somewhat concerned' by these latest developments. Reiterating his misgivings of 1951, he cabled Casey and Spender in New York and again warned that playing the Soviets at their own game could backfire. He was concerned in particular about the implications of the Soviet Union actually accepting the new proposals. The Soviets, he said, were in a better position than the West to conceal their weapons program, and if the United States and its allies began implementing the present proposals, 'how can we reverse this process if Russian performance did not match up to promises?'993

The prime minister's reservations were prescient. In September 1954, the Soviets, in an effort to win back the initiative, put forward their own proposals. These superficially accepted the Anglo–French plan but contained fundamental differences: most notably, a provision for the creation of a 'temporary' control organ that was objectionable not only because the proposed agency would be under the control of the Security Council–and therefore subject to the veto–but also because its powers of supervision and inspection were 'entirely vague and unsatisfactory'. The DEA felt that the only proper course would be to draw the Soviets out on the true nature of their proposals and demonstrate that 'substantial disarmament (except of the West) is neither the purpose of the Russians, nor likely to occur with any degree of safety for us under the present proposals'. Not surprisingly, DEA Secretary Arthur Tange was bluntly advised that the disarmament question should be approached in the United Nations 'with the greatest of caution and the minimum of optimism'.994

As long as the Soviet Union remained intransigent on the question of disarmament, the Menzies government was never forced to reassess its primary assumptions. Indeed, it was not only opposed to the West–and the United States especially–surrendering its nuclear deterrent without corresponding cuts in the numerically superior armed forces of communist countries (and China in particular); it also harboured its own atomic energy and weapons ambitions. As historians Alice Cawte and Wayne Reynolds have shown, this was mostly manifested in Canberra's enthusiastic support for British efforts to perfect its nuclear arsenal, most notably by allowing the British to conduct tests at Monte Bello and Maralinga throughout the 1950s.995 This cooperation was driven at least in part by Empire solidarity. When, in January 1957, the Australian delegation to the United Nations sought advice on an American initiative for a treaty to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons to other nations, the DEA was unenthusiastic:

[W]e want [the] United Kingdom to have every reasonable opportunity to test and accumulate stocks of nuclear weapons before controls come into effect, as this would help to preserve [the] United Kingdom's position as a great power, being one of only three nations with nuclear weapons … Best tactics in [the] General Assembly seems to be to avoid any firm expression of opinion on these points …996

More importantly, Australia's willingness to allow British tests on Australian territory was part of an overall desire to keep its own nuclear options open. Senior policymakers–especially Menzies–remained ambivalent about procuring nuclear weapons, but they were determined to secure an open-ended commitment from Britain that such weapons would be made available in the event of a serious deterioration in Australia's geopolitical circumstances. Throughout the late 1950s and early 1960s, Australia's efforts in this direction waxed and waned in accordance with the nature of any perceived threat. Concerned especially about China's growing capacity to develop nuclear weapons, the Australian Cabinet, after actually rebuffing British offers in the late 1950s to discuss the feasibility of procurement, nevertheless demanded in 1961 'recognition now of the United Kingdom's obligation to provide Australia, if ever necessary, with a nuclear capability'.997

Meanwhile, disarmament negotiations between the United States and Soviet Union remained deadlocked. In August 1957, after months of what seemed like fruitful negotiation, talks collapsed and the Disarmament Commission became moribund. When the Ten-Nation Disarmament Committee–established by a UN resolution in 1959 and made up of equal numbers of Western and Soviet bloc representatives–was unable to find any common ground on general and complete disarmament, it disbanded as well. A new body, the Eighteen-Nation Disarmament Committee (ENDC), was established two years later along the same principle of parity as its predecessor, but importantly, the ENDC was more circumspect in its objectives. Accordingly, it called not for the comprehensive disarmament of the past but for 'the widest possible agreement at the earliest possible date'.998 As this statement implied, the great powers–including France, which became the fourth nuclear weapons state (NWS) in 1960–were now convinced that complete disarmament was currently unattainable, and that arms control agreements were perhaps more realistic. This new mood was reflected in the growing acceptance among NWS and non-NWS alike that the task of preventing the spread of nuclear weapons was too urgent to await a comprehensive disarmament settlement. In December 1961, in response to the Soviet Union's resumption of atmospheric testing in September that year, the General Assembly unanimously adopted a resolution–initiated by the Irish–calling upon all states:

and in particular upon the States at present possessing nuclear weapons, to … secure the conclusion of an international agreement containing provisions under which the nuclear States would undertake to refrain from relinquishing control of nuclear weapons and from transmitting the information necessary for their manufacture to States not possessing such weapons, and provisions under which States not possessing nuclear weapons would undertake not to manufacture or otherwise acquire control of such weapons.999

Consistent with its general attitude to disarmament throughout the 1950s, Australia showed little enthusiasm for this proposal. While unwilling to isolate itself by voting against the 'Irish Resolution', the Australian government was at pains to qualify its support for the principle of renouncing all future nuclear programs and ambitions. Accordingly, in March 1962, in response to a letter from the acting UN Secretary-General seeking Australia's views on the matter, Minister for External Affairs Sir Garfield Barwick, stated that 'Australia neither manufactures nuclear weapons nor at present has such weapons in its territory' and that it had 'long recognised the dangers which could arise from the emergence of additional nuclear powers'. However, Australia also affirmed the right of NWS to station their atomic arsenal 'wherever military necessity requires'–including, presumably, Australia–and therefore 'cannot undertake that under no circumstances will Australian forces in the future be armed with nuclear weapons'. In stating this case, Barwick referred cryptically to 'the emergence in the area of East Asia and the Western Pacific of a military power of great dimension and some ambition'. This power, he said, was publicly committed to the elimination of democratic societies such as Australia, possessed 'massive conventional forces' and had 'indicated that the production of nuclear weapons is indeed its aim'. Given these geopolitical concerns, Australia could not accept an open-ended commitment to non-dissemination 'without the participation of the nuclear powers themselves, without the certainty that all militarily significant States would be covered, and without some assurance that adequate verification procedures could be initiated'.1000

While this went against the thinking of its two great-power allies–especially the United States, which increasingly regarded non-dissemination as a major objective of its arms control policy–Australia was at this stage relatively free from any pressure to adjust its views. Despite the General Assembly's unanimous resolution of December 1961, negotiations had again faltered because of disagreements between the Western and Soviet bloc countries: Moscow would only agree to a proposal in which the West abandoned any plans for a North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) nuclear force in Europe.1001

The matter of non-dissemination went on hold for several years, and the United Nations now focused its energies on promoting other partial disarmament measures. The tone had already been set by the negotiation and signature in December 1959 of the Antarctic Treaty, to which Australia was an original signatory and which established the Antarctic as the world's first nuclear-free zone.1002 This spirit of cooperation was given a new urgency by the near-catastrophic nuclear brinkmanship of the Cuban Missile Crisis of October 1962. Sufficiently disconcerted by these events, the United States and Soviet Union opened a 'hotline' between Washington and Moscow and negotiated a partial test ban treaty (PTBT), which prohibited nuclear tests in the atmosphere, in outer space and under water.1003 Australia expressed 'strong approval' for the agreement, which it ratified in 1963. In asserting this position, David Hay, Australia's Ambassador to the United Nations, urged all countries to not only accept the terms of the PTBT but also embrace the idea of a comprehensive test ban, which would additionally prohibit underground testing.1004 This view, which was at odds with the US and UK position, was motivated by a shrewd appreciation that Australia would probably never need to test its own nuclear weapons–it would look to its allies for these weapons in the event that the acquisition of a nuclear capability was ever deemed necessary. The Department of Defence, which expressed support for the PTBT in July 1963, did so on the basis of similar reasoning, claiming that 'the Treaty as drafted does not preclude our getting weapons for our own defence, but only experimenting with explosions'.1005 At the same time, a PTBT would bring international pressure to bear on China and might at the very least slow down China's development of a nuclear weapons program. Thus Barwick, when announcing Australia's support for the PTBT, congratulated the three NWS for providing 'a lead to the whole world'. With China clearly in mind, he said:

It was the earnest wish of the Australian Government that all other powers, particularly those who aspired to develop their own nuclear capability, would follow this lead and would decide to become parties to the agreement, thus widening its operation and making it more effective.1006

The same anxiety about Chinese intentions in the Asia–Pacific region, while producing strong support for the PTBT, prompted Australia to take a fundamentally opposite view of nuclear-free zones following the introduction of a draft Latin American resolution which called for the voluntary denuclearisation of their region. Reluctant to create a precedent which might extend to the Pacific–and thus further limit Australia's nuclear options–Canberra expressed considerable doubts about the general principle and practicability of nuclear-free zones. In October 1963, Hay told the General Assembly that Australia approached the issue 'with caution, though not with a closed mind'. While partly justifying this position with the somewhat roundabout argument that nuclear-free zones by their very nature were limited 'to nuclear weapons alone' and 'we must all of us work for disarmament that covers all forms of weapons including so-called conventional armaments', Hay came to the crux of the matter when emphasising the unacceptability, from Australia's point of view, of a nuclear-free Asia–Pacific region. Again, China figured prominently in these strategic calculations:

[W]e believe that the prohibition of nuclear weapons in this area would create a serious imbalance on account of the enormous manpower resources and the capacity of conventional warfare of at least one power in this region. The prospect that Communist China may explode its own nuclear device within a few years would only aggravate this imbalance …1007

Australia, like the United States, eventually supported the idea of a denuclearised zone in Latin America, but with strong qualifications. On 19 November 1963, when Hay again addressed the First Committee of the General Assembly, he could barely disguise Australia's continuing opposition to the principle of denuclearised zones. Thus he grudgingly conceded Australia's support given that the resolution 'does not call for the actual establishment of a nuclear-free zone in Latin America but rather expresses the hope that the states in Latin America will, as they deem appropriate, initiate studies of the question'. As if to leave the First Committee in no doubt about Australia's attitude, Hay said bluntly: 'we would have preferred that there be no draft resolution at all at this stage'.1008

When in the mid-1960s the issue of non-dissemination re-emerged, Australia, once again concerned about China's nuclear ambitions, exhibited the same unwillingness to forgo atomic weapons. By this time, international attitudes to disarmament had undergone a profound transformation. The Cuban Missile Crisis had convinced the great powers that although they themselves were fit to possess nuclear weapons, uncontrolled proliferation might have catastrophic results.1009 At the same time, a number of Asia–Pacific countries were deeply disturbed by China's burgeoning nuclear program. In 1964, India, alarmed by Beijing's successful detonation of a nuclear device in October, showed increased interest in non-dissemination. While adopting the main points of the 'Irish Resolution', the Indians devised a third category, with China in mind: 'States embarking on a nuclear programme'. These states would be expected to discontinue any such programs. The United States was privately indicating that negotiations were probably past the point of assuming that China would remain a 'non-nuclear' power. Far from falling in behind the Americans, who increasingly sought to bypass Soviet objections to the possibility of a NATO nuclear force by emphasising non-acquisition over non-dissemination–that is, by placing the onus for limiting the spread of nuclear weapons on non-NWS–Australia complained that the resolution as it stood excluded the possibility of an independent Australian nuclear capability but left China free to develop and accumulate a nuclear arsenal. In what basically amounted to a rejection of the unqualified support sought by the Americans, the DEA advised the Australian delegation to:

safeguard our position by stating that our support (if this is decided on) for any resolution which might emerge was being given in existing circumstances and reserving our right to reconsider the position should the conditions materially change.1010

But shifting international opinion made Australia's reservations about signing any non-dissemination treaty increasingly difficult to sustain. In June 1965, the General Assembly expressed deep concern over the lack of progress on non-dissemination. The ENDC was thus urged to 'accord special priority to the consideration of the question of a treaty or convention to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons'.1011 The Soviet Union, meanwhile, having since the early 1960s recognised the benefits of maintaining the status quo on nuclear weapons, was moving ever closer to the Western position. Continuing objections to the prospect of a NATO nuclear force were overcome throughout 1966 and 1967 as the Soviet Union and the United States, in the words of US President Lyndon Baines Johnson, sought to find 'acceptable compromise language'.1012 Australia, while content to observe proceedings from the sidelines, nevertheless did so with growing disquiet. In April 1967, as a non-dissemination treaty agreeable to both the United States and Soviet Union approached reality, a meeting between senior Australian officials produced an animated discussion of Australia's options. Sir Leslie Martin, a commissioner on the Australian Atomic Energy Commission (AAEC), was 'a little distressed at the apparent readiness by some to accept a treaty', saying that 'he could not understand [an] approach that would in effect relegate Australia to the ranks of the non-owners'. With the quiet approval of another long-time advocate of an Australian nuclear capability, AAEC Chair Sir Philip Baxter, Martin hoped that Australia would 'drag its feet' on the treaty. The DEA, though sharing these reservations, felt that 'it would be difficult not to sign'. According to Sir Laurence McIntyre, a deputy secretary in the department, 'we would be under strong compulsion to do so, unless there were an unexpectedly large number of Governments which jacked up and decided not to'.1013

External Affairs, having earlier supported the view that Australia should keep all its nuclear options open, now became the strongest advocate within the Australian policymaking community for signing a non-dissemination treaty. So in late 1967, when the United States and Soviet Union tabled an agreed text on non-proliferation to the ENDC, the DEA urged accession. Faced with accepting the terms of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, commonly known as the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT)–which was officially opened for signature on 1 July 1968–or isolating Australia over the increasingly unlikely possibility that it would develop its own nuclear program, Minister for External Affairs Paul Hasluck warned that failure to adhere to the treaty:

would inevitably provoke a sharp protest from [Australia's] major allies, who will no doubt be looking for Australian support. It would be undesirable for Australia to oppose both the United States and the Soviet Union on this issue, particularly when the Treaty will have strong support from Australia's other Western associates … Moreover, Australia's Asian neighbours, including Indonesia, might well regard such an attitude with considerable suspicion and any influence we might have in restraining their nuclear ambitions might be much diminished.

As well as emphasising these political considerations, Hasluck cited the opinion of the Joint Planning Committee (JPC), an advisory body in the defence establishment, which was increasingly convinced of the desirability of signing the treaty on strategic grounds. According to Hasluck, the JPC felt that 'Australia is not in a position to develop a credible nuclear deterrent against the only country, communist China, which is likely to offer a nuclear threat to Australia by the mid-1970s'. The cost of a delivery system would be 'enormous', and at any rate Australia 'would have virtually no capacity to survive a "first strike" '. On this basis, Hasluck warned that refusing to sign the treaty would only antagonise Australia's great-power allies at a time when its 'interests will continue to be best served by the retention and strengthening of the ANZUS Treaty, and the maintenance of a close United States interest and responsibility in South East Asia and the Pacific'. The advantages of signing the NPT, he thus concluded, 'greatly outweigh the disadvantages'.1014

Throughout 1968, the DEA continued to argue this position despite considerable opposition from influential sections of the policymaking community that disagreed with the assessment of both the JPC and, increasingly, the defence committee itself, which now supported the NPT.1015 Even so, Prime Minister John Gorton was at this point unwilling to commit Australia to the treaty, and the government, in accordance with the needs-based criteria that had underpinned Australia's nuclear ambitions since the 1950s, embarked on a series of projects to establish and build the country's nuclear infrastructure, the most notable of which was a planned nuclear power reactor on Commonwealth territory at Jervis Bay in southern New South Wales.1016 The ostensible purpose of these projects was to develop alternative sources of energy in Australia, but the primary objective was to maintain a nuclear weapons option. As Baxter publicly admitted in August 1969:

The growth of this industry and the expertise and the facilities which it will create will provide a basis from which an Australian government, at any future date, feeling that nuclear weapons were essential to provide this nation's security, could move with a minimum of delay to provide such means of defence.1017

Gorton remained hostile, publicly declaring his opposition to the treaty and, during the election campaign of 1969, promising that he would not sign the NPT if returned to government.1018 In early 1970, however, West Germany and Japan joined nearly a hundred other nations in signing the NPT. Both were 'near-nuclear' states whose signatures Canberra viewed as a prerequisite to any shift in attitude by Australia. Faced with an ever-decreasing number of fellow 'hold-out' states, Australia in February 1970 agreed to sign–'but with reservations', as Gorton put it–becoming the second-last country to do so before the NPT entered into force a week later. The prime minister, who specifically cited the actions of 'like-minded signatories such as Japan and West Germany', insisted that Australia, like these countries, wanted to 'make it clear that our decision to sign is not to be taken in any way as a decision to ratify the Treaty, and of course, the Treaty is not binding on us until it is ratified'.1019

As the grudging nature of Gorton's statement suggested, Australia's position on the NPT had changed very little. At the official level, the Department of Defence and even sections of the by-then Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) maintained that although Australia should not attempt to acquire or develop nuclear weapons at this point 'the opportunities for decision open to the Australian Government in future would be enlarged if the lead time for the acquisition of a nuclear weapons capability could be shortened' by promoting 'the future development of Australia's nuclear capacity for peaceful purposes'.1020

In accordance with this position, the government remained committed to the Jervis Bay reactor until early 1971, when Gorton was ousted by the Liberal Party and the new prime minister, William McMahon, shelved the scheme. McMahon had supported the NPT, and although he did not move to ratify the treaty, events were quickly moving Australia in that direction. In April 1971, the DFA advised Foreign Minister Leslie Bury that a number of 'significant' states were on the verge of ratifying the treaty and that 'these developments will result in pressure on Australia to ratify'.1021 The AAEC, meanwhile, having fought so hard to prevent Australia supporting the NPT, now recommended ratification in the belief (not discouraged by the Americans) that Australia's failure to do so 'might adversely affect the United States' attitude to cooperation with us in a multi-national project for establishment of a uranium enrichment plant in Australia'.1022 But even this limited objective was losing its appeal, as Australia's relations with China–the country that had animated these nuclear ambitions since the 1950s–thawed during the early 1970s. In 1971 the Department of Defence noted Chinese efforts to develop 'a more flexible international posture' and judged China 'unlikely to embark on massive overt aggression against neighbouring states'.1023 By the following year, Defence had completely abandoned any plans for a needs-based nuclear weapons program and, in supporting ratification of the NPT, focused instead on 'the danger which could arise from the spread of nuclear weapons and from an increase in the number of nations possessing such weapons'.1024

This view was warmly welcomed by the Labor opposition, led by Gough Whitlam, who promised to give Australia's total support to the NPT if elected to government. Accordingly, in January 1973, Whitlam, in his capacity as prime minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs, ordered ratification. In doing so, he said that it not only fulfilled 'a pledge I gave on behalf of my Government in my first week in office' but also reflected the new government's 'strong and unequivocal support for efforts to check the spread of nuclear weapons'.1025

Balancing act: The 1970s and 1980s

Australia's decision to ratify the NPT after years of resistance was not only symptomatic of the Whitlam government's determination to promote 'peace and progress in the Asian and Pacific region to which Australia belongs', as the new prime minister said in January 1973, but also–and indeed, more importantly–it reflected Australia's declining security anxiety in the more benign geopolitical environment of the late 1960s and early 1970s.1026 By now, the Cold War orthodoxies of the previous two decades had been undermined, if not completely invalidated, by a number of important developments: Australia's (and America's) rapprochement with China, the obsolescence of Western notions about monolithic communism following the Sino-Soviet split, and the stabilisation of Southeast Asia despite earlier fears that defeat in Vietnam would trigger a 'domino effect' in the region. Indonesia, which had loomed large on Australia's strategic horizon during the 1950s and 1960s, was preoccupied with internal security and showed a strong urge, as did Australia, to develop a closer and more cooperative relationship. Australia, for the first time in two decades–and perhaps for the first time since the 1870s–felt relatively unthreatened in its own region.1027 According to the 'Strategic Basis of Australian Defence', written in June 1973, 'the present strategic situation contrasts strongly with that which faced Australia ten years ago and which contributed to the substantial expansion of Australian defence forces and capabilities in the 1960s'. While the regional withdrawal of great powers made it incumbent upon Australia to develop 'a greater self-reliance and the ability to act independently', Australia was 'at present one of the more secure countries in the world'. It was 'a difficult country to invade, conquer and occupy', but even more importantly, 'the present and likely trends … have not indicated any likelihood of threat of direct attack on Australia'.1028

In the less threatening circumstances of the early 1970s, Australia became more responsive to arms control and disarmament issues in the United Nations. Along with accepting the terms of the NPT, Australia supported a number of new initiatives, including the Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America (the Treaty of Tlatelolco). In 1971, when a group of eighteen Latin American states submitted a draft resolution calling for universal support of the treaty, Australia not only voted for the resolution, but also commended it to the First Committee.1029 The same year, Australia, after withholding support for a sea-bed treaty in the late 1960s on the grounds that such a treaty would prevent its allies from installing defensive nuclear weapons in its territorial waters, ratified the Treaty on the Prohibition of the Emplacement of Nuclear Weapons and other Weapons of Mass Destruction on the Sea-Bed and the Ocean Floor and in the Subsoil Thereof (or the Sea-Bed Treaty).1030

Australia had also shown considerable reluctance to support a UN convention calling for the prohibition of chemical and bacteriological (biological) weapons; indeed, in 1969, it was one of only three countries which opposed a general UN resolution declaring 'as contrary to international law … the use in international armed conflicts of any chemical agents of warfare and any biological agents of warfare'. The sticking point for Australia was the resolution's extension of the 1925 Geneva Protocol–prohibiting the use of poison gases–to include non-lethal chemical agents such as tear gas which, as the DFA put it in 1970, 'we regard as permissible in warfare because of its humane nature'.1031 However, when the two issues were separated and a draft treaty focusing only on biological weapons was presented to the General Assembly in late 1971, Australia not only agreed to sign but also subsequently ratified the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC).1032 By 1974, the Australian government's hardline attitude towards the idea of a chemical weapons convention had also softened somewhat; the general view now was that phrases such as:

'chemical weapon' and 'chemical methods of warfare' can be interpreted, and have been consistently so interpreted by many countries including Australia in the past, as not necessarily including a number of agents, and specifically herbicides and incapacitating agents, which have both peaceful, law and order, and warlike applications.

Accordingly, in November that year, the Australian delegation co-sponsored a General Assembly resolution reaffirming the 'high priority' of finding international agreement on a treaty prohibiting the development, production and stockpiling of chemical weapons. Significantly, in justifying this position, the DFA noted that 'the Government wishes to display an active interest in disarmament issues' in the United Nations.1033

One issue on which Australia showed increasing activism was that of a comprehensive test ban treaty (CTBT) on nuclear weapons. As early as 1963, at the time of the PTBT, External Affairs Minister Barwick had told the Australian parliament that the government 'would have preferred a total ban on all nuclear weapons testing, including underground testing'. He acknowledged, however, that 'any agreement on a subject of such crucial importance to the defence positions of the major world powers must be capable of effective verification', a condition he believed could only be satisfied with on-site inspections.1034 But continuing disagreement between the United States and Soviet Union over verification procedures for a CTBT prompted several members of the Conference of the Committee on Disarmament (or CCD, which in 1969 had taken over the functions of the ENDC) to suggest that on-site inspections, a US demand, were no longer essential for the successful detection of underground nuclear tests. Particular emphasis was placed on new seismic technology which, it was believed, was capable of registering even low-yield nuclear explosions. Australia, for its part, welcomed these developments. During the early 1970s, the Australian delegation not only co-sponsored General Assembly resolutions urging governments to improve worldwide seismological capabilities, which would further efforts towards a CTBT, but also demonstrated a 'forthcoming and constructive' response to the UN's request for information on Australia's own detection facilities.1035 While still convinced that a certain number of on-site inspections would be needed to properly enforce a CTBT, Australia from the late 1960s consistently supported UN resolutions which urged the NWS to suspend nuclear tests in all environments. So enthusiastic was Australia's public support for a CTBT that the Department of Defence in August 1972 felt obliged to remind the DFA that because the United States remained opposed to such a treaty, the government's increasingly outspoken support was probably 'an undesirable position'.1036

The need to be circumspect in its dealings with the NWS was also evident in Australia's criticism of Chinese atmospheric tests in the late 1960s and early 1970s. This stemmed in part from the fear, as DFA Secretary Keith Waller admitted to Whitlam in March 1973, that public criticism of Beijing 'could interfere with the development of a substantial relationship with China'.1037 And yet, though strategic considerations required caution, Australia remained fundamentally committed to the termination of nuclear testing in all environments. Thus while the Australian government refrained from subjecting China to world censure in the United Nations, from 1973 it issued a litany of strongly worded written and oral protests to Beijing, the latter of which included a 'spirited and forthright presentation of Australia's position' by Whitlam during a conversation with Chairman Mao in November that year.1038 Likewise, despite growing indications that the United States was unlikely to embrace a CTBT any time soon, Australia actually became more strident in the United Nations in subsequent years. In 1974, it co-sponsored a resolution 'condemning' all nuclear weapons tests in all environments, expressing concern at the lack of progress towards a CTBT, emphasising the urgency of concluding such a treaty, reminding the major powers of their 'special responsibility' to initiate proposals to this end, and calling upon all states to adhere to the PTBT and refrain from all nuclear testing until a CTBT was in place.1039

The seriousness with which Australia viewed the question of nuclear weapons testing–especially atmospheric testing–was manifested most strongly during its acrimonious dispute with France over the latter's decision in the early 1960s to carry out nuclear tests at Mururoa Atoll, in French Polynesia, after being forced to abandon its former test site in Algeria. When France conducted its first test at Mururoa in 1966, Australia protested strongly to Paris; similar notes were issued in 1968, 1970, 1971 and 1972, by which time the French had conducted a total of 31 atmospheric nuclear explosions in the Pacific. In 1973, after Australia again protested France's intention of conducting atmospheric tests at Mururoa, the government threatened to take the matter to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on the grounds that the tests were a health hazard to Pacific nations and contrary to international law as established under the PTBT (even though France, along with China, was not a signatory).1040

France's unwillingness to stop the tests and Australia's subsequent decision to submit its objections to the ICJ led to frequently testy public exchanges between senior representatives of the two governments. Canberra's strong criticism of France was certainly tempered by an equally strong desire to avoid offending the other NWS–especially the United States and China–which could undermine the security afforded by the extended nuclear deterrence system. So in mid-1973, when it was suggested that the ICJ case should extend beyond French atmospheric testing and categorise the use, manufacture and stockpiling of all nuclear weapons as contrary to international law, the idea was soon quashed by senior policymakers. The DFA accordingly noted Australia's special interest in preserving the existing strategic order:

[C]onsider the political effects of advancing such a proposition. To do so would mean that not only France but also the United States, the Soviet Union, China and Britain would be faced with direct attack by us on their possession of nuclear weapons … The advancement by us of such a proposition which ignores the importance to peace of the present nuclear balance could lead to the destruction of ANZUS. It is not at this time the Government's policy to demand that the nuclear powers should unilaterally rid themselves of nuclear weapons …1041

The fundamental point for Australia was not that the French nuclear program was somehow less justifiable or legitimate than those of the other NWS; it was primarily a feeling that the French were showing little regard for the rightful demands of Pacific nations and peoples. It may have been true, as critics of Australia's position pointed out, that the site of the Chinese tests (Luobupo, in western China) was the same distance from Australia as Mururoa Atoll, and that the fallout from the French tests was so small that Australians received more radiation exposure from their televisions or from a plane flight between London and Sydney.1042 But the Australian government and people resented the double standard which made nuclear contamination of the environment acceptable in the Pacific but not in Europe; as Whitlam put it when responding to French claims that Australia's concerns were unfounded, 'if these tests cause nobody any harm, why doesn't France save money by conducting them in Corsica … Or if it promotes good neighbourly defence, why not in Elba?'1043 As this slightly mischievous comment implied, Australia's sense of grievance derived not from anti-French sentiment but from the fact, as Whitlam said a few months later, that 'France carried out her tests in the Pacific on our doorstep'.1044 This indignation was exacerbated by the seemingly aloof approach of the French to Australian concerns. Despite the ICJ's interim injunction that the French should avoid atmospheric tests causing fallout on Australian territory pending the court's judgment, France conducted a further five tests during July and August 1973, which, according to Whitlam, demonstrated 'the disregard of the Government of France for the well-being of the peoples of the Pacific region' and 'an open disregard … for international law and for the International Court of Justice'.1045

When, partly in response to the continuing objections of Pacific countries, the French government announced a year later that it was switching to underground testing–but not before conducting another seven atmospheric tests between June and September 1974–the ICJ dismissed Australia's claim against France on the grounds that its objective had 'in effect been accomplished, inasmuch as France has undertaken the obligation to hold no further nuclear tests in the atmosphere in the South Pacific'. While France cited the development of more sophisticated techniques as the reason for the change, the acting prime minister, Dr Jim Cairns, saw the judgment as a resounding victory for Australia. For him, 'the influence of the application to the Court must have been of great significance in persuading the French' to end atmospheric tests in the South Pacific.1046

Australia's strong desire to take a more active role in disarmament issues in the United Nations was also reflected in its attitude to the NPT. Having been one of the last states to come on board, Australia, recognising the security benefits of maintaining the nuclear status quo, now worked assiduously to achieve the widest possible support for the NPT. Accordingly, Australia from this time not only renounced any ambitions to acquire nuclear weapons but also became one of the NPT's firmest advocates.1047 So in May 1974, when India successfully detonated a nuclear device for 'peaceful purposes'–the same defence China had used a decade earlier before embarking on a full-scale nuclear weapons program–Australia, while welcoming reassurances from the Indian government that it had no intention of producing nuclear weapons, nevertheless expressed 'regret that a number of countries, including India, had not become parties to the Non-Proliferation Treaty'.1048 For all the treaty's many deficiencies, as one DFA policy paper put it in August 1974, 'including its innately discriminatory character and shortcomings in the implementation of a number of its articles', the NPT:

is the most comprehensive international non-proliferation measure available. We consider we should revitalise international concern over proliferation and strengthen and widen support for the NPT. At the same time, we should resist the development of nuclear explosive capabilities by nation-states for peaceful purposes … and support critical international re-examination of the extent to which parties to the NPT (in particular the nuclear powers) have fulfilled their obligations under the Treaty.1049

Whitlam agreed. In September 1974, he made the subject of non-proliferation central to his address to the General Assembly. While noting the disappointing lack of mutual restraint between the two superpowers on the issue of disarmament, Whitlam argued that this 'should not be made an excuse for indifference or indecision on the part of the rest of us'. He expressed Australia's 'deepest anxiety' over the continuing proliferation of weapons by existing NWS as well as 'the prospect of an ever-increasing number of nations possessing nuclear weapons, and an even greater number possessing the capability of exploding nuclear devices'. Whitlam promised that Australia would pursue a series of measures in the United Nations to strengthen the NPT, and called for universal support for the treaty, agreement on a CTBT and the introduction of more effective arrangements to govern and control nuclear experiments for 'peaceful' purposes.1050 To this end, the Australian delegation worked assiduously in the ensuing months to draft a UN resolution that reaffirmed these key objectives. Considerable effort was put into producing a text that would gain support from both the NWS (which feared condemnation for failing to stem the production of nuclear warheads) and the non-aligned states (which, it was feared, might throw their support behind India). On 20 November 1974, in a resounding success for Australia as a co-sponsor, the United Nations passed a resolution which contained the essential points of Whitlam's September address.1051

These activities reflected Australia's growing investment in the promise and politics of international disarmament–especially nuclear disarmament–from the mid-1970s. The extent of this commitment was further reflected in Australia's evolving policy on uranium mining. In 1976, the Ranger Committee, which had been appointed by the Whitlam government to examine Australia's uranium-exporting policy, concluded that uranium mining contributed to the nuclear arms race and increased the risk of nuclear war. If Australia, which at that time was estimated to possess about 20 per cent of the world's uranium deposits, were to maintain its policy of mining and exporting uranium, the committee advised, it should only export to countries that had signed the NPT. At the same time, the committee stated bluntly that NPT safeguards were seriously flawed and provided 'only an illusion of protection'; it therefore recommended that Australia develop and implement a set of more stringent safeguards and controls to prevent Australian uranium from finding its way into nuclear weapons.1052 While the new government of Malcolm Fraser was critical of some aspects of the Ranger Committee's report, it welcomed–and indeed pre-empted–the recommendations pertaining to non-proliferation. By 1977, the government, in accordance with the committee's recommendations, was imposing safeguards 'more rigorous than [those] adopted to date by any supplier country'.1053 At the same time, Australia co-sponsored or supported a series of UN resolutions calling (again) for a CTBT and criticising the lack of progress in negotiations between the United States and Soviet Union for a further Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty (SALT). Negotiations on SALT had stalled, and, as a result of its failure to prevent spiralling 'vertical proliferation', Australia joined other concerned nations in recommending that the General Assembly convene for the first time a special session devoted entirely to disarmament issues.1054

Australia, which was not only appointed to the preparatory committee of the special session but also elected as one of its vice-chairs, regarded the forthcoming debate as sufficiently important to warrant an address to the General Assembly by the prime minister. Accordingly, on 5 June 1978, Fraser eschewed 'idealism severed from reality' and, consistent with the evolution of Australian policies and priorities in recent years, maintained that 'the realistic approach to disarmament lies in the step-by-step development of arms control'. Focusing especially on nuclear arms control, Fraser, like Whitlam, said that on this matter the Australian government's position was 'clear and unequivocal': 'We oppose further escalation of the nuclear arms race. We oppose the spread of nuclear weapons.' These complementary objectives, he said, could be accomplished by focusing on three interrelated areas:

First, the nuclear weapons powers must take effective action to limit and reduce their nuclear arsenals. Second, there must be an end to nuclear testing in all environments. Third, the international non-proliferation system must be strengthened … Australia believes that all three objectives are realistic and attainable.

Fraser believed that further SALT talks, the adoption of a CTBT and 'universal acceptance' of the NPT could reduce suspicion and tension between nations, increase mutual confidence and establish a firm bedrock for the eventual attainment of comprehensive disarmament.1055 In September 1978, when the United Nations formally created a new multilateral disarmament forum–the Committee (later the Conference) on Disarmament (CD), which replaced the CCD–Australia was invited to become a member.1056

As a member of the CD, Australia maintained its three-tier policy of promoting a program of both vertical and horizontal non-proliferation and pressing (annually) for the adoption of a CTBT. But by the early 1980s, the prospect of genuine progress in the disarmament field had been seriously undermined by the rapid deterioration of relations between the United States and the Soviet Union and the emergence of what some contemporary observers referred to as the 'new' or 'second' Cold War.1057 The promise of US President Jimmy Carter's reinvigoration of SALT talks in the late 1970s had collapsed following the Soviet Union's invasion of Afghanistan in 1979. When Russia deployed SS-20 intermediate-range nuclear missiles in Eastern Europe in 1977, the US government under new president Ronald Reagan responded by putting Cruise and Pershing II missiles in Italy, West Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands and Britain. In 1983, Reagan also committed large sums of money to the development of the Strategic Defense Initiative, or 'Star Wars', a land- and space-based missile defence system which, it was hoped, would protect the US from a 'first strike' nuclear attack. There was a discernible loss of confidence in the doctrine of strategic nuclear balance–or Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD)–and some officials even talked of limited, winnable or survivable nuclear wars.1058 As suspicion between the superpowers increased, proposed talks on a Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) and to limit intermediate-range nuclear forces (INF) in Europe were abandoned.1059

Altogether these developments led to a perceptible decline in international confidence and produced the lowest ebb in disarmament talks since the mid-1960s. While remaining upbeat and reaffirming the Australian government's commitment to 'the goal of disarmament and the negotiation of balanced and verifiable measures of arms control', Foreign Minister Tony Street was nevertheless forced to admit in October 1981 that 'the current international climate was not favourable to the successful negotiation of disarmament and arms control measures'. The primary reason for this, he claimed, 'was the Soviet Union's extensive armament program, and the instability which the Soviet Union had created by its invasion and occupation of Afghanistan'.