Skip to main content

Historical documents

195 Burton to Halligan

Memorandum, CANBERRA, 18 March 1948

Further to my memorandum of 11th March concerning the Administrative Union of Papua and the Trust Territory of New Guinea, and in response to your verbal requests for the views of this Department on the matters to be covered in the proposed legislation it is suggested that the inclusion of provisions in the legislation to cover the points contained in the attached statement[1] is desirable in order to secure the Trusteeship Council's approval to the action taken and to evoke a favourable reaction in interested international quarters.

2. You will note that in a number of places we suggest consultation with the administration of the territories. We fully realise, of course, that before any final decision is possible on several of the issues raised by our suggestions (particularly under the headings of Section 2) in order to reach realistic and workable solutions, information will be required from the administration and its views obtained.

3. In the course of the statement we make reference to the desirability of maintaining the separate identity of the Trust Territory. This consideration may lead to certain administrative complications in implementing the scheme for administrative union. It may even appear to run counter to the legitimate desire of the administration to diminish the feeling that may still exist in certain circles in Papua and the trust territory of New Guinea in favour of two separate administrations. The importance of the maintenance of the separate identity of the Trust Territory, in the eyes of the Trusteeship Council cannot, however, be exaggerated. You will recall in this connection the assurance given to the United Nations General Assembly in 1946, when the Trusteeship Agreement for New Guinea was approved, that the Australian Government had no intention of taking action which would amount to virtual annexation of the territory. The Trusteeship Council, therefore, will seek evidence of our good faith in this respect. There is little reason, moreover, to believe that, in making the formal arrangements for maintenance of the identity of the trust territory in the manner proposed in various parts of the attached statement, we would seriously embarrass the administration in the pursuit of its legitimate objective of developing a favourable atmosphere for the successful functioning of the combined administration of the two territories. One aspect, incidentally, of the plans for administrative union in which the principle has already received recognition is in the matter of the title for the territories which, it is understood, is to be 'the Territory of Papua and New Guinea'.

4. The statement attached is not intended to be exhaustive and to cover all matters which might be included in the draft legislation. We have simply dealt with subjects which have significance from the international point of view particularly in so far as that point of view is expressed through the Trusteeship Council. We are not aware, however, whether there will be any reference in the legislation to the question of customs duties and a customs union, matters which raise complex and important international considerations involving interpretation of the United Nations Charter and the Trusteeship Agreement. We should be glad, therefore, if you would inform us of any additional matters of that nature which it is intended to include in the legislation and which would require consideration by this Department.

5. I should emphasise also that the observations contained in the statement are of a preliminary nature. It may well be necessary to vary and supplement them as the formulation of the required detailed draft legislation proceeds. For this purpose it would be very much appreciated if you would also inform us as to the progress made in the formulation of any such draft thus enabling this Department to put forward any additional comments which it may deem necessary.

6. It was considered desirable, however, to communicate this preliminary draft to you so that you might have an expression of our views for use as a guide in the preparation of the draft legislation which, it is understood, is being treated as a matter of some urgency in view of your Minister's desire to submit the legislation, if possible, to this session of Parliament.

[1] Not published. The statement was headed Draft New Guinea Bill and can be found on file AA : A1838, 891/1/10, i.

[AA : A1838, 301/2/1, I]
Last Updated: 11 September 2013
Back to top