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60 Tange to Burton

Minute, [CANBERRA], 9 November 1948

It seems to me that rejection of the Secretary-General's request for a trivial contribution of flour worth about �25,000 for emergency Arab relief is shortsighted.

In the light of the size of the problem and Australia's capacity to assist without sacrifice, it is unrealistic to permit Treasury considerations to dominate all others.

It is reasonable to expect that the grain producers would be called upon to make the first contribution, and particularly to bridge the gap before the full scheme comes into operation. In my opinion our unwillingness to meet the request now will lose us goodwill and diminish our delegation's opportunity to play any decisive part in the arrangements which the Assembly will undoubtedly make.[1] The tide of opinion in the Assembly, reflected in the voting on the use of the Capital Fund[2], and as reported by the delegation, will lead to a Fund being established. If our opposition is based on political antipathy towards the Arabs it is apparent from delegation reports that we are practically alone. There is nothing to be gained by refusing to feed people, given that the Assembly is now determined to consider the question separately from the Palestine political settlement.

There is little doubt that Australia will contribute eventually in terms of an Assembly resolution. But, as with the Post-UNRRA[3] Relief Debate in 1946, we shall appear to be drawn in unwillingly, and the opportunities of gaining political advantage from a quick recognition of our responsibilities will be lost.

There is, moreover, a humanitarian aspect to the starvation of non-belligerent refugees.

Our delegation has made its own judgment of the situation and their argument in favour of agreement to the Secretary-General's request for a small contribution should, in my opinion, be accepted.

The attached note sets out the position as I see it, and the course of action we should urge on the Treasury and Treasurer. There is every reason to expect that we shall get substantially what we asked for in earlier telegrams in the form of adequate contributions by major countries, and pressure upon others through adoption of a target scale of contributions when the Assembly finally adopts a resolution. �25,000 is not much to risk in anticipation of an Assembly resolution.

I have telegraphed Paris to advise immediately what response other Governments gave to Bernadotte. Would it not be possible to hold up a flat rejection of the Secretary-General's request until we see whether the response by others will make a contribution more acceptable to the Prime Minister.

[1] A reference to the resolution summarised in note 1 to Document 57.

[2] The Third Committee, in its draft of the above resolution, had voted authorising the Secretary-General to advance five million dollars from the Working Capital Fund of the United Nations to be used for the relief of Palestine refugees. The Secretary-General was also authorised to establish a Special Fund into which any nation could make voluntary contributions to reimburse the Capital Fund. (Cablegram Austdel 203, dispatched 11 November 1948.)
[3] The United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration.

[AA : A1838, 191/2/2, I]
Last Updated: 11 September 2013
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