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Historical documents

254 Cabinet Submission by Chifley

Agendum 1608, CANBERRA, 10 June 1949


1. The United Nations and five other associated international organisations of which Australia is a member are planning an expansion of operational work during 1950 in under-developed, backward countries. The programme would include technical missions, demonstrations, and arrangements for training personnel in health, agricultural, industrial, educational, and other fields.

2. The programme was initiated by the United States Administration which is expected to approach Congress in the near future for funds to pay a large share (50-70%) of the cost of a combined programme estimated at $25 million in 1950. A figure of $50 million has been mentioned for 1951.

3. The United States aim is to make a start towards providing the basis of essential knowledge with which the most backward countries, containing more than half the world's population, can gradually improve their living standards and efficiency of production. The present stagnation in living standards in the Middle East, Asia and elsewhere is a continuous obstacle to the building of stable democratic systems in the countries themselves, and to the raising of world production of food and raw materials. Australia is concerned because of proximity to one of the areas most concerned and because of her future political and economic relations with Asia.

4. It is desired to obtain an expression of Government policy in some detail, so that Australian representatives who are at present attending a number of different meetings of the various organisations will be able to state a consistent Australian policy and to announce the Australian attitude towards a contribution to the expanded operational work of the organisations.

5. These questions were raised by the Department of External Affairs in a joint discussion with the Departments of Treasury, Labour and National Service, Health, Commerce and Agriculture, Post-War Reconstruction, External Territories, Civil Aviation, and with the Commonwealth Office of Education, the Director-General of Agriculture, the Division of Agricultural Economics, and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (in respect of F.A.O. aspects). As a result of this discussion the following agreed recommendations are submitted:

i. Australia supports the general principle of international organisations being responsible for allocating international aid and will participate in the programme, subject to various conditions about the size and nature of the commitments in finance and personnel, and the direction of the aid. Australian policy should be as set out below and as elaborated in more details in paragraph 8 (pages 5-11 inclusive) of the attached agreed inter-departmental report.

ii. Australia will agree to contribute in 1950, in Australian currency or sterling or equivalent supplies and facilities, up to �200,000 towards the supplementary operational programmes of the United Nations and five specialised agencies listed[1], subject to ministerial reconsideration if the total assessments on Australia appear likely to exceed this figure.

iii. Australian representatives should stress the need for a reasonable allocation to the South Pacific and South East Asia areas to which Australia's contributions will be directed as far as practicable.

iv. Australia should support the creation, if practicable, of a single United Nations fund for financing the programme, or, alternatively, arrangements for the maximum consistency in methods of assessing contributions and distributing aid.

v. There should be a fair sharing of the cost:

(a) Australia should negotiate on the basis that an Australian contribution of 2% of the total is reasonable;

(b) Only hard currency countries should be asked to contribute in hard currency except for such small additions for administrative purposes as may be necessary;

(c) Firm arrangements should be made for beneficiary countries to pay a reasonable proportion of expenses in the country in which operations take place;

(d) Subject to the foregoing, contributions should be on a compulsory basis, this being more likely to lead to equitable results for Australia than appeals to Governments for voluntary contributions.

vi. Australian representatives should promote the most effective integration of the work of all the agencies in the various regions in which they operate.

vii. In order to relieve the strain on personnel for representation at international conferences Australian representatives should endeavour to reduce the number of international bodies and meetings of those bodies as far as possible and advocate the strengthening of the permanent staff of the organisations as a means of reducing the necessity for meetings of Government representatives.

viii. If Australia has to supply personnel for work with international organisations, short-term arrangements which offer experience likely to be of subsequent value will be preferable to longer-term engagements. Australia will consider favourably proposals for temporary training in Australia of persons from Asian and other countries within practical limits.

(The attached document, agreed upon between the departments mentioned above, gives in greater detail the grounds of these recommendations).[2]

[1] That is, the agencies listed in note 3 to Document 252 with the addition of the International Civil Aviation Organization.

[2] Cabinet discussed the agendum on 14 June, 26 July and 19 August 1949 but decided on each occasion to defer the matter. It does not appear to have been considered again by the Chifley Cabinet.

[AA : A2700, VOL. 38]
Last Updated: 11 September 2013
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