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185 Statement by Makin to the United Nations General Assembly

Extracts [NEW YORK, 30 October 1946, 11 a.m.]

The General Assembly of the United Nations is meeting once again,
this time in the hospitable city of New York, to exercise its
responsible functions under the Charter. I think we need to remind
ourselves from time to time how important are its
responsibilities. In this Assembly all the members of the United
Nations meet on a footing of strict equality, to discuss with the
utmost frankness and freedom the problems of the day. The Assembly
meets but rarely-in ordinary circumstances only once a year. When
it meets, every Member Nation, irrespective of the size of its
territory, the number of its population or the range of its
resources, has both the right and the duty to contribute to the
formulation of world opinion by expressing its own views
responsibly and fearlessly on all matters within the scope of the
Charter. This great world forum is the most democratic element in
the structure of the United Nations. It is a matter of major
concern to us all that the primary function of the Assembly as a
forum for open discussion should be maintained and strengthened as
the authority of the United Nations itself grows. If other organs
of the United Nations have failed to function satisfactorily since
the last session of the Assembly, it is in the Assembly that the
opportunity is given to draw attention to such weaknesses and
inadequacies and to make appropriate recommendations. Strenuous
efforts were made at San Francisco by the Australian Foreign
Minister, Dr. Evatt, to safeguard the Assembly's overall rights of
discussion and recommendation, now guaranteed by Article 10 of the
Charter, and the Australian Delegation attaches special importance
to the recognition and maintenance of this right. In recent days
it has been suggested that the General Committee should exercise
the function of deciding which of the items duly placed on the
provisional Agenda should be permitted to go to the Assembly for
discussion. This view gained little support [1], and in the
opinion of the Australian Delegation is quite without

It is to be expected and to be desired, therefore, that
differences of opinion on current international affairs should be
expressed in the Assembly boldly, clearly and publicly, and that
every member nation should feel completely free to express its
views. Only in such an atmosphere can solutions of international
problems be found that will be based, not merely on national
interest, but on the interests of the world community as a whole.

It is essential that the members of the United Nations should keep
clearly in mind at all times the purposes and principles of the
Charter which they have solemnly undertaken to observe. These
purposes and principles are binding in every field of
international activity, and not merely in relation to the
activities of the organs of the United Nations. At the recent
Paris Conference, the Australian Delegation made clear from time
to time its opinion that some of the peace settlements proposed by
the Council of Foreign Ministers were not based upon the purposes
and principles of the Charter; that these settlements were likely
to give rise to discontent and discord and, for this reason, to be
short-lived, thus endangering peace and security.

In our view, peace can be won and maintained only if settlements
are reached by democratic methods and are based upon principle
rather than mere expediency and national self-interest. It is in
this spirit that we should examine the important items listed on
the agenda of this General Assembly, keeping in mind throughout
the obligations under the Charter accepted by all members of the
United Nations.

Experience in the first part of this session of the General
Assembly in London causes the Delegation of Australia to express
concern lest the committee system established under Part XVI of
the Provisional Rules of Procedure may have the effect of reducing
the function of the Assembly to rubber-stamping the reports of its
main Committees. This, in our opinion, would be fatal to the
prestige and authority of the Assembly.

If items on the Agenda are immediately referred, without debate,
to one or other of the main Committees, the consideration and
substantial determination of Agenda items will take place in
Committee. Plenary sessions will tend to become a series of mere
formalities. We fully appreciate the importance of saving the time
of the Assembly. But the prime necessity is to carry out the
obligations of the Charter which give the Assembly, and it alone,
the right to discuss in public all matters within the scope of the

To relegate to committees meeting concurrently the substantial
discussion of important matters adds materially to the
difficulties that small delegations must have in contributing
effectively to the discussions of the Assembly, and reduces the
likelihood that important matters can be dealt with by the senior
representatives of Members.

The Provisional Rules of Procedure should ensure adequate
opportunity for Assembly discussion in principle, before Agenda
items are referred to committees. Indeed, special committees
appointed occasionally as and when necessary are more in keeping
with the powers and functions of the Assembly, as specified in the
Charter, than committees of the whole, the functions of which may
be used to limit the discussions in full Assembly in a way not
authorised by the Charter.


[matter omitted]

Specialised Agencies, Subsidiary Organs, or Expansion of

One of the outstanding tasks of the United Nations is to promote
and facilitate international co-operation in the economic, social,
cultural and related fields. Difficulty may arise at the outset,
and in some cases has already arisen, as to the best method of
organising the activities and functions concerned. One method, as
the Secretary-General stated in his oral supplementary report to
the present session, is to develop an appropriate section or
division of the Secretariat. Another is to establish a new
subsidiary organ of the United Nations in the form of a commission
or other appropriate body responsible either to the General
Assembly or to the Economic and Social Council; yet a third method
is to establish, and bring into relationship with the
Organisation, a new specialised agency, or to make appropriate
provision for the carrying on of the activities concerned by some
existing specialised agency. The co-ordination of the work of
existing specialised agencies and the examination of the
desirability of establishing new specialised agencies are very
important tasks. It is essential that Members of the United
Nations should do their utmost to ensure that there is no
avoidable overlapping of functions as between international
agencies, with consequent dispersal of effort, involving
additional and unnecessary financial burdens. The cost of
organised international action in the post-war world must be
reduced to a minimum if the interest and effective support of the
peoples of the world, who in the long run have to meet these
costs, are to be maintained.

For this reason the Australian Delegation strongly endorses the
comments about the creation of new specialised agencies made by
the Secretary-General in his oral supplementary report. New
agencies should not be created unless it is clear that the
functions which they are to perform cannot be carried out with
reasonable efficiency by existing organs of the United Nations, or
existing specialised agencies. It is the opinion of the Australian
Delegation that this Assembly should scrutinise with the utmost
care proposals which come before it to establish new specialised
agencies, and should reject such proposals, however attractive, if
it appears that less elaborate and less expensive alternative
means exist for dealing with the particular problems involved.

[matter omitted]

I turn now to consideration of the work of the Security Council,
which in its short life of some nine months has been called upon
to deal with a series of difficult political problems. The
Security Council has not yet fulfilled the hopes of those who
accepted the United Nations Charter, while its working has
justified some of the fears which members had at San Francisco.

We direct particular attention to the application of one of the
basic theories on which the working of the Security Council rests,
namely the theory that the five permanent members will devote
their power unitedly and beneficently to the maintenance of peace
and security on behalf of and in the interests of all member
nations. This theory finds expression in the doctrine of great
power unanimity. Up-to-date the theory has not worked in practice.

At San Francisco the Australian Delegation fought strenuously to
limit the veto rights of the permanent members of the Security
Council to matters of enforcement action. Dr. Evatt argued that
there was no justification of any kind for retention of the veto
in relation to pacific settlement of disputes. There is no doubt
that the great majority of countries represented at San Francisco
endorsed this view and that Article 27 in its present form would
not have been carried but for the fact that undertakings were
given. It was hoped that in due course the permanent members of
the Council would come to see the necessity for amendment of the
voting provisions of the Charter. In addition, it was hoped that
the indications given by the Great Powers that the veto right
would not be misused in practice would be realised.

The following extract from the speech of the Australian Foreign
Minister on this subject at the close of the San Francisco
Conference is of considerable interest today. He said

'I can only hope, Mr. President, that during the next few years
the Great Powers will demonstrate to the world by their actions in
the Council that they will not in practice exercise to the full
the veto rights which they possess under the Charter. Certain
public indications along these lines have already been made, and
we all accept these indications thankfully and in good faith. If
it can be agreed that all peaceful means of settling disputes must
be adopted and exhausted and that in practice the veto will not be
used to block such procedures, I am convinced that we will make a
great step forward. This would remove many of the doubts which
middle and smaller countries have felt regarding acceptance of the
present text..... The Great Powers can perform a great service to
the world if they demonstrate in practice that the powers given to
them under the Charter will be used with restraint and in the
interests of the United Nations as a whole.'

Unfortunately these hopes have not been realised and it has been
necessary for the Australian Delegation to protest on several
occasions against the use of the veto.

It is a matter for encouragement that the views consistently
advocated by the Australian Delegation at San Francisco and since
have been supported recently not only in public utterances by
representatives of countries who contested the veto power at the
San Francisco Conference, but also by some of the permanent
members of the Security Council who at San Francisco expressed
contrary views.

The records of the Security Council show that the veto was first
employed on 16th February, the day after the General Assembly had
adjourned. Again and again, both in London and more recently in
New York, the veto was used by one of the permanent members to
thwart the will of the clear majority of the Council and in most
cases it was applied in matters, not vital to the security of the
Great Powers themselves, not involving any great responsibility or
risk on their part, but in matters relating to the exercise by the
Council of the procedures it is obliged to exercise under the
Charter. After having seen the veto rule at work, and after having
heard the unreasonable claims which have been advanced by the
Soviet Union to block every proposed recommendation which the
Council was asked to make, Australia felt impelled to request the
inclusion of the present item No. 32 on the agenda for this
session. [2] The proceedings of the Council since July have
supplied further evidence that the Australian misgivings were not
unfounded. The threat to exercise the veto now dominates the
proceedings of the Security Council and influences the actions of
members the moment a proposal is received to place an item on the
agenda. For example, the handling of the question of the admission
of new members was from the commencement clouded by the
expectation that in certain circumstances certain applications
might be vetoed by one or other of the permanent members and at
times there even appeared indications that the veto might be used
as a counter for bargaining for the admission of certain
candidates to whom objections had been expressed. The Australian
Delegation considers that the application of Article 27 in the
proceedings of the Security Council in 1946 should be thoroughly
examined and appropriate steps taken by this Assembly with a view
to the prevention of such practices as are not in accordance with
the principles and spirit of the Charter of the United Nations.

[matter omitted]

New members
The Australian Delegation desires also to call the special
attention of the General Assembly to the question of applications
for admission of new members to the United Nations. When the
question came before the Security Council, the Australian
representative abstained from any recommendation regarding the
admission of new members. [3] This course was followed because it
seemed to us that the procedure adopted was the wrong procedure
and that, under the Charter, the initiative in the exercise of the
joint responsibility by the General Assembly and Security Council
was confined to the General Assembly. The Australian
representative in the Security Council suggested, therefore, that,
before deciding on the procedure for the admission of new members,
a Committee of the Security Council should confer with the
standing Committee on Procedures of the General Assembly, but this
suggestion for working out a procedure acceptable to both organs
was rejected by the majority.

We are still of the view, however, that the meaning of the Charter
is that the initiative in regard to the admission of new members
lies with the General Assembly and that the appropriate procedure
would be for applications to be transmitted first to the General
Assembly, which would decide whether or not the applications were
admissible. These applications which were admissible would be
referred to the Security Council for report, in accordance with
Article 4, on the ability of the applicant to carry out its
obligations in respect of those functions of the organization
which are the primary responsibility of the Security Council. If a
favourable recommendation were received from the Security Council,
the General Assembly would decide whether or not to admit the
applicant state. Such a procedure would be strictly constitutional
and would also reduce the political complexities with which
applications may sometimes be surrounded.

There are, however, two objections to be made at this stage
regarding the manner in which the Security Council handled the
applications placed before it. First, it is the view of the
Australian Delegation that when applications for membership come
up for consideration, decision should be based on an impartial
appraisal of the merits of each case, having regard to the
attainment of the purposes of the Organization; second, we cannot
admit that any application can be rejected for any reason except
the reasons contained in the Charter. The fact that certain
applications were vetoed simply because a permanent member
objected appears to us to be based upon an interpretation of
Article 4 which is completely unjustified. Although Australia
abstained from voting in favour of the admission of any candidate,
this is not to be understood as constituting an objection by
Australia to the merits of any application or that we would not be
prepared to support an application at the appropriate time.

[matter omitted]

1 See Document 179.

2 See Document 172.

3 See Document 94.

[AA:A4387/2, A/46/16c]
Last Updated: 11 September 2013
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