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Historical documents

204 Curtin to Chifley

Letter CANBERRA, 1 June 1943

You will have seen telegram No. 95 from Mr. Bruce regarding
postwar relief. [1] The value of the United Nations relief
organisation in affording a practical approach to many post-war
problems has been recognized by the Commonwealth Government for
some time, and last December we expressed a general agreement with
the broad lines of the draft proposals for a United Nations Relief
and Rehabilitation Administration, at the same time expressing our
special interest in any regional committees for the Far East or
the Middle East (see telegram 11390 to Mr. Bruce of 12th December

Since December, progress towards the setting up of the United
Nations organisation has been slow and there have been indications
that the original proposals regarding structure may be
considerably modified. Meanwhile, the Post-war Requirements
Bureau, under Sir Frederick Leith Ross, in London, and the Office
of Foreign Relief and Rehabilitation under Mr. Lehman, in
Washington, are proceeding with their investigations.

It is to be expected that, at an early date, the Commonwealth will
be required to enter more actively on the tasks of post-war
relief, and it is desirable that we should do so. In preparing for
this contingency, there appear to be three matters for urgent
consideration, namely:

(1) Australia must be ready at an early date to supply information
regarding the foodstuffs, drugs, raw materials and 'other articles
of prime necessity' which can be made available by the
Commonwealth for relief purposes, having due regard to our
obligations in respect of supplies for war purposes and for our
own civil population. It will be necessary not only to estimate
quantities, but also the time and place at which they will be
available, and to provide for continuous adjustment of estimates
in accordance with changing needs and circumstances.

(2) Consideration will have to be given to the terms under which
these supplies can be made available, whether by gift or payment,
so as not to endanger the economic stability of our own country.

(3) Arising out of these tasks, and, irrespective of our eventual
representation on any inter-Allied board, I assume it will become
necessary to devise an Australian relief organisation for the
purpose of:

(a) co-ordinating the information obtained regarding relief
supplies and directing the attention of the co-operating
departments to new lines of inquiry;

(b) providing liaison between Australian agencies and whatever
United Nations organisations may be set up for the procurement and
distribution of relief in various regions of the world;

(c) advising the Australian Government in regard to external
relief, so far as it affects Australian production and supply, and
coordinating our relief obligations with the general requirements
of a stable Australian economy.

The machinery necessary for the third of these tasks can only be
evolved in due course and with due regard to existing agencies of
the Government. I suggest that this matter should be kept in mind,
so that, at an early date, the appropriate action may be taken by

As an immediate measure to carry out the first and second tasks
listed above, I would appreciate it if, in your dual capacity of
Treasurer and Minister for Post-war Reconstruction, you would
instruct the Acting Director of Post-war Reconstruction [3] to
call together the representatives of the Departments of Supply,
Commerce and Agriculture, Health, Labour and National Service, and
the Rationing Commission, in order to undertake an inquiry along
the lines indicated in paragraph (1) above; and instruct the
Secretary to the Treasury to report on the financial aspects of
post-war relief.

It is my wish that the Department of External Affairs should also
be associated with both these inquiries so that, as far as may be
necessary, it can advise on international aspects of the matter
and be in a position to co-ordinate the main conclusions for
communications when the time comes to other Governments and so
that, as the inquiries proceed, the results may be directly
applied in the formulation of the Commonwealth's external policy.

I feel that I can rely on the assistance of your department in
carrying out this inquiry as a matter of urgency.


1 Document 200.

2 On file AA:A2937, Post War-Relief.

3 Probably J. G. Crawford.

[AA:A1608, C23/3/2, i]
Last Updated: 11 September 2013
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