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192 Mr T. Elink Schuurman, Netherlands Consul-General in Sydney, to Lt Col W. R. Hodgson, Secretary of Department of External Affairs

Letter SYDNEY, 22 April 1938

You remember the articles in the 'Sydney Morning Herald' of 6th
and 7th April 1938 regarding Anglo-Dutch defence co-operation. I
telephoned to you and also had a talk since with Mathew [1] about

I had hoped that after a disclaimer I had published in the paper
on 8th April the matter would die down but I now see that the
'Bulletin' of 13th April devotes its leading cartoon to what must
practically be the same rumours. This cartoon is not only silly in
the way it deals with the defence question, but it also brings in
the matter of the trade balance, which has its very special
features (oil).

I fear that the general public is led to believe that these
rumours about defence co-operation are proved by the invitation
extended to the Governor General and Lady Gowrie by the
Netherlands Indian Government. [2] That such a formal invitation
was sent by us is true, but you know as well as I do that the
initiative came from Australia.

It has always been our aim not to give a political background to
that visit, which otherwise we greatly welcomed. This seems not to
be appreciated by the press, which not only has more than
necessary stressed our parallel interests in the Pacific, but has
also credited rumours regarding defensive alliances which are
absolutely groundless and even absurd for those who know something
of the policy of neutrality which the Netherlands Government has
followed now for many years.

It is my definite impression that publications as referred to
cause the Netherlands a great deal of unnecessary embarrassment,
not so much in Australia as in certain quarters abroad, where such
expressions of opinion, even if they are only made by the press,
do not pass unnoticed.

The Governor General's visit to Java was meant to bring Australia
and the Netherlands Indies closer together and to establish more
intimate personal contacts. As far as I know this purpose has been
achieved. It is therefore all the more regrettable that, from our
point of view, this success is marred by a wholly incorrect
interpretation placed upon this visit by certain sections of the
press here.

I do not know whether your Minister intends to make a statement in
the House regarding the relations of the Commonwealth with other
countries. [3] I wonder whether in that case it might be possible
to make a reference to Lord Gowrie's friendly visit to Java,
winding this up with a remark regarding the inaccurate rumours it
has given rise to in certain newspapers. I feel that by such
action the Minister would render a service to my country and also
facilitate the possibility of a return visit by the Governor
General of the Netherlands Indies [4], which the Commonwealth
Government and Lord Gowrie are anxious to arrange, but which for
us would be all the more difficult to accept if wrong
constructions are placed upon it.

I am leaving on a fortnight's trip to New Zealand on the 29th but
would be willing to talk this over, if desired, before that date.


1 Theobald Mathew, member of Department of External Affairs.

2 See Document 117. Lord Gowrie's visit to the Netherlands East
Indies aroused press speculation in Australia about Anglo-Dutch
defence co-operation. No documentary evidence has been found,
however, to suggest that defence was discussed.

3 Prime Minister Lyons made such a statement in the House of
Representatives on 27 April 1938, in which he referred to Lord
Gowrie's visit and emphasised that, contrary to press speculation,
the visit 'had no political or military significance whatsoever'
(Commonwealth Parliamentary Debates. VOL 155, P. 539).

4 Dr A. W. L. Tjarda van Starkenborgh Stachourwer.

[AA : A981, NEI 48]
Last Updated: 11 September 2013
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