Skip to main content

Historical documents

200 Bruce to Curtin

Cablegram 95A LONDON, 26 May 1943

Post War Relief Recent developments in the progress of the war and
the appointment by the United States of Governor Lehman have
under-lined the necessity of working out now some broad principles
upon which provision should be made to meet the needs of the
people of occupied countries. Duncan and I have had discussions
with United Kingdom Ministers, Leith Ross and Treasury officials
on the matter with a view to advising you of the trend of thought
now current here.

While the problem of providing foodstuffs, medical supplies,
clothing, agricultural seeds and appliances and possibly some
essential raw materials had originally been viewed as an immediate
post war problem, it is now felt that relief will arise as an
immediate problem of the prosecution of the war. As occupied
territories are cleared, essential supplies will have to be
provided and this task will be part of the military
administration. At a later stage as Governments are re-established
they will become recipients and be responsible for distribution
subject to supervision by the United Nations Relief and
Rehabilitation Administration.

The discussions with Lehman have been down the lines that the
existing wartime organisation for the procurement, allocation and
transport of supplies, namely the several Combined Boards, should
be utilised. When it is set up the United Nations Relief and
Rehabilitation Administration will provide machinery for the co-
ordination of relief requirements and present to the Combined
Boards a balanced import programme for countries needing relief.

The Combined Boards will consider these requirements as demands
additional to those before them for the United Nations and will
co-ordinate the provision of relief supplies with the total
programme. The Combined Boards will also allocate sources of
supply and shipping based on convenience and the efficient and
economical use of ships.

Finance is the most troublesome aspect of the problem. Some
countries, for example Poland, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, will be
without external resources. Others will have resources. It is
contemplated that the former will have relief provided free of all
liability while the latter will no doubt wish and may be expected
to pay for supplies. In these cases finance will be settled
separately from allocation by arrangement between the supplying
and receiving countries direct.

Co-ordination is contemplated in order to secure that prices
charged and terms of payment are comparable and also to ensure an
equitable distribution among supplying countries of the task of
meeting requirements of recipients unable to pay.

In relation to their requirements all United Nations will be asked
to associate themselves with the Relief Organisation and this will
involve an obligation:

(i) to put their requests for relief through the Relief machinery
which in turn will put them to the appropriate Combined Board; and
(ii) not to use financial and shipping resources to purchase in
outside markets to the possible detriment of countries without

The above is a synopsis of the proposals which are in the minds of
the United Kingdom representatives and Lehman has been informed by
the Chancellor that in principle the United Kingdom will be ready
to make available from the United Kingdom goods of which the
appropriate authority decides United Kingdom should be the
convenient supplier. In practice as we see it such supplies would
probably consist of coal, some manufactured goods, food and
textiles from Army stocks, shipping, possibly some wool, cotton

While we assume that you will desire to associate the Commonwealth
with the scheme on humanitarian grounds it is realised that the
volume of goods you can make available will be determined by the
extent of the demands made upon you in Australia, the requirements
of the United Kingdom population, your limited manpower resources
and not least your budgetary position now and after the war. We
laid some emphasis in our discussions on all these aspects and
especially that last named. Attention was drawn in this connection
to the respective financial positions of the Commonwealth and
other members of the Commonwealth of Nations notably Canada, and
there seemed to be acceptance in principle of the view that not
only convenience but also financial capacity will have to be
considered in the working out of the arrangements.

It seems fairly clear that world supplies of essential
commodities, especially foodstuffs, will only be capable of
meeting world demands for some time if restricted consumption is
continued in the countries now practising restriction and that in
some countries it may have to be intensified.

As we are able to gauge the position, Australia, after meeting its
own needs and supplying the United Kingdom, will only have a
limited range of commodities to offer, possibly wheat, flour,
fruits, and maybe some wool etc. There will arise for your
determination the proportions which could be made available by way
of gift and payment respectively in order to maintain economic
stability and in this latter connection consideration will have to
be given here to the assistance which would be forthcoming from
possibly some financial pool within the Empire.

I gather that a conference of the United Nations will be convened
shortly to discuss the matter of relief, possibly towards the end
of June.

I have set out for your information the problems in broad outline
and the way thoughts are running here, and in due course would be
glad to have your views.


[AA:M100, MAY 1943]
Last Updated: 11 September 2013
Back to top