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325 Australian Delegation, United Nations, to Department of External Affairs

Cablegram UN1028 NEW YORK, 15 December 1946, 5.49 p.m.


Assembly 426. Fourth Committee Trusteeship. Further to our
telegram Assembly 424. [1]

Trusteeship Agreement.

Three chapters of the Charter dealing with non-self-governing
peoples (11, 12 and 13) have given rise to some of the most
intensive work of the session, and fulfilled expectation at San
Francisco that these chapters were among the most significant and
original features of the Charter.

The most striking practical achievement of the Session has been
the approval of agreements submitted by Australia, Belgium,
France, New Zealand and United Kingdom bringing under
International Trusteeship System eight of the territories formerly
held under mandate. This has made possible the establishment of
the Trusteeship Council and completion of the permanent
institutional framework of United Nations.

All eight draft agreements were exhaustively discussed for a
month. Some two hundred and thirty individual proposals were put
forward for modifying the text submitted. The Australian agreement
was approved exactly as submitted, with the addition of one
article spelling out in somewhat greater detail Charter provisions
for the benefit of native inhabitants, e.g. protection of native
lands, promotion of education, progressive participation of
indigenous inhabitants in administrative services etc. New Guinea
now enters into a new international system under the agreement
which is better than mandate both for inhabitants of the territory
and the administering authority.

The Australian agreement, like others, was subject to vigorous
attack, particularly by the Soviet Union and India. The object of
the attack was-
(a) To eliminate the Government's power to administer the
territory as an integral part of Australia and establish
appropriate form of organic association with adjacent territories,
e.g. through administrative union or common services.

(b) To prevent the Government from establishing military bases in
the territory except with the consent of the Security Council.

(c) To write into the agreement clauses providing for strict
equality of treatment between Australian nationals and all other
nationals of members of the United Nations in respect of entry
into the territory and of economic and social activities within

The Australian Delegation argued that the agreement as it stood
was fully consistent with the Charter, and that changes proposed
would either be inconsistent with Charter or injurious to the
interests of the native inhabitants or both. Power to administer
as an integral part was the essential characteristic of the 'C'
mandate, and has been exercised to promote the welfare of

To make the Australian defence programme in New Guinea subject to
consent of the Security Council would be to run a grave risk of
leaving territory defenceless for an indefinite period.

Australia had assumed vis a vis other members of the United
Nations the new obligations contained in Article 76, but could not
undertake to observe complete equality of treatment because that
would be injurious to the welfare of the native inhabitants which
the Charter made the paramount objective.

None of these attacks resulted in modification along the
abovementioned lines of the agreement submitted. From the United
States, which took a leading part throughout the work of the
Fourth Committee, Australia received strong and effective support,
also from the
United Kingdom, New Zealand and other members of the British
Commonwealth. India, though strongly criticising some individual
articles, abstained in the final vote in the Assembly for approval
of the agreement.

Chapter II. The majority of the Fourth Committee showed a strong
tendency to widen scope of Chapter XI altogether beyond what was
decided at San Francisco, and to set out (under cover of the
proposition that what the Charter does not forbid it permits) upon
a policy for creating machinery of United Nations supervision of
obligations undertaken by unilateral declaration under Article 73.

Critics of colonial powers tended to ignore the fact that
implementing of Chapter XI is a task not for the United Nations
but for the national administrations themselves. The main role in
New York of Australia (along with the United States, Britain and
other colonial powers) was to clarify the difference between the
system envisaged by Chapter XI [and that] of the International
Trusteeship System.

The opinion at all stages was closely divided on this matter. At
one of its closing meetings the General Assembly adopted a
resolution recommending that members should convene conferences of
representatives of non-self-governing peoples, preferably elected
by the peoples themselves, in order to implement Chapter XI and to
give the inhabitants of non-self-governing territories an
opportunity to express their wishes and aspirations. This asserts
interventionism of rather an extreme kind. Opposition by Colonial
powers was successful to the extent of modifying proposals in such
a way that initiative in calling conferences will remain with
individual members. The Australian Delegation was at pains to make
clear that initiative in South Seas Regional Conference was and
must remain with convoking Governments and not with United

The General Assembly also adopted, against opposition from
Australia and from other colonial powers, a procedure for handling
the technical information about economic and social conditions in
non-self-governing territories received by the Secretary General
under Article 73(e). The proposal is to establish an ad hoc
Committee, to meet for a month or so before the next session of
the General Assembly and prepare a report for the General Assembly
on information received from the administering powers and
summarised and analysed by the Secretary General. Such a body
could easily be made a means of launching at the next session of
the General Assembly a detailed attack on colonial
administrations. In the Australian Government's opinion no special
procedure was necessary. The Secretary General could make
information available to all members before the Assembly met and
any member could raise questions if it so desired. The task will
now be to make sure that this Committee works along constructive

South West Africa-The Government of the Union of South Africa
reported to the Assembly that European inhabitants of mandated
territory of South West Africa unanimously, and African
inhabitants by a very large majority, desired incorporation in the
Union of formal termination of mandate. They asked the Assembly
what implementation should be given to wishes of inhabitants. The
proposal to incorporate the territory produced widespread and
violent reaction in the General Assembly. India and Soviet Group
played a leading part in denouncing the Union's racial policy. The
majority of the Assembly was definitely anxious to adopt a
resolution which declined to consider incorporation or annexation
in any form, and by way of support were inclined to accept the
Soviet contention that for mandatories, trusteeship system was not
optional but obligatory. Eventually a formula, more courteous in
character and more considerate of the difficulties of the South
African Government, was devised by way of compromise. The essence
of this formula was to revive the invitation given in February
1946 to all mandatories to bring mandated territories under the
trusteeship system, and to remind the Union Government of its
undertaking to administer in the terms of mandate until some other
agreement had been reached with the United Nations as to the
future of South West Africa. This resolution, however, was based
partly on the extreme view that African inhabitants and territory
are in too backward a condition to exercise any recognisable
political choice in so difficult a matter. This motion was
eventually carried by a large majority of the Assembly, but South
Africa could not accept this verdict and abstained from voting,
along with the United Kingdom, Australia and other members of the
British Commonwealth.

1 Replying to a request from Dunk for a report on Australia's
'successes and failures', Watt had cabled in Assembly 424,
dispatched 15 December, that pressure of work would limit him to a
summary of major issues.

[AA:A1838/1, 306/1/4]
Last Updated: 11 September 2013
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