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251 Department of External Affairs to Australian Delegation, United Nations

Cablegram 119, CANBERRA, 28 February 1949, 7.45 p.m.


Your UN. 146[1], 147 and 148.

1. Subject to what follows you should support United States resolution, stressing our prime interest in Asian and Pacific areas and neglect of these areas in past.

2. Any financial commitment by Australia must be avoided at this stage. We suggest your approach be as follows:

(a) Welcome United States initiative.

(b) Draw attention to (1) the large contribution already made by Australia to economic reconstruction[2] and (2) o[ur] activities to aid technical training in South East Asia.[3] (It might be mentioned that Australia and few others have in the past borne a rather more than equitable share of the burden of reconstruction aid.)
(c) Draw attention to Australian statement on economic development[4] and insistence on I.T.O. particularly devoting itself to this objective and our reasons.

(d) Indicate that main practical problem is to get a picture of form which dissemination of technical knowledge would take, the extent to which for example actual physical supplies are involved, and the over-all financial implications in local or foreign currency. So far as Asia and the Far East is concerned this might best be done by seeking advice of E.C.A.F.E.[5]

(e) When these are clearer the prospects of contributions by recipients and by developed countries other than United States will be easier to judge and at the stage Australian Government would be able to decide the extent to which it could participate.

(f) You should ask Council and Secretary-General's Committee to take realistic view of limits on facilities and technical personnel for training and field work available in countries such as Australia.

(g) We would prefer use of international agencies for this purpose. These include regional agencies such as South Pacific Commission. Dependent territories which are capably administered may well show results before other less well governed areas. Such Commissions should be kept fully informed concerning availability of technical assistance. This point could be mentioned to other members of South Pacific Commission.

3. We have three points to raise concerning the United States draft:

(a) The words 'technical assistance' are much wider than dissemination of knowledge and if emphasis on the latter is intended the draft might be amended accordingly.

(b) There is some danger that the Administration Committee will produce a much too ambitious proposal, with each agency vying with the other. It is true that results will be scrutinised by the Council (and in our view the matter should ultimately go to the Assembly so that all countries can be brought to consider the implications). The resolution might at least direct the Secretary-General to be guided by the views of council members especially on financial limits when he discusses details. Has appointment of an advisory committee of Council been considered?
(c) If any such plan eventuates special measures will be required for over-all accounting to show where aid is going and in what form and from whom. Even present level of operations by specialised agencies calls for this and if any expansion were agreed to it might be necessary to establish a small and possibly full-time co-ordinating committee of Council, and to bring each agency to accept it as co-ordinator.

4. We agreed that detailed debate on allocation and administrative machinery could best take place subsequently and points in previous paragraph could at your discretion be used in private discussion rather than in debate. Apart from disadvantage of commitment on specific administrative points, we would not wish to appear generally committed too far to participation in plans which are still extremely nebulous.

5. Finally, it is suggested that paragraph 4 of United States resolution might be reworded to read, 'calls upon Member Governments to promote by all means considered by them to be appropriate the expansion ' It seems that a blanket exhortation of this kind should make it clear that the definition of 'appropriate means' i[s] left to the individual country, except for specific commitments separately undertaken.[6]

[1] Document 250.

[2] See, for instance, Volume 12, Document 76 and note 2 to Document 151. In the present Volume see Document 348.

[3] See Volume 14, Document 155.

[4] Plimsoll made a statement on the world economic situation to the Economic and Social Council on 21 February 1949.

[5] Economic Commission for Asia and the Pacific.

[6] Plimsoll spoke in support of the US initiative on 2 March 1949 and made the main points discussed above.

[AA : A1838, 856/10/1/4]
Last Updated: 11 September 2013
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