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14 Cablegram from Department of External Affairs to Posts

Canberra, 3 January 1950


Australian Relations with Asia

On the eve of his departure for the Conference of Commonwealth Foreign M inisters which opens at Colombo on 9th January, 1950, the Minister for External Affairs, the Hon. P.C. Spender, K.C. said that Australia must orientate its foreign policy towards Asia.

'The vast and far-reaching events of the last ten years', said Mr. Spender, 'have led to a shift of the centre of gravity of the world's affairs�at least for the time being�from the Atlantic to the Pacific, and this movement has been and still is proceeding with gathering momentum. Geographically, Australia is next door to Asia and our destiny as a nation is irrevocably conditioned by what takes place in Asia. This means that our future depends to an ever increasing degree upon the political stability of our Asian neighbours, upon the economic well-being of Asian peoples, and upon the development of understanding and friendly relations between Australia and Asia. Whilst it remains true that peace is indivisible and that what takes place in any part of the world may affect us, our vital interest are closer to home. It is therefore in Asia and the Pacific that Australia should make its primary effort in the field of foreign relations.

'The rising and menacing tide of Communism in the East presents us with a definite threat�and not a remote threat either�to our national existence. But the threat is also a challenge. Australia, who with new Zealand has the greatest direct interest in Asia of all Western peoples, must develop a dynamic policy towards neighbouring Asian countries, whose people we must live with, not only to-day and to-morrow, but for all times. We should give leadership to developments in that area.

This in no way implies a lack of recognition of the extreme importance the Government attaches to our continued intimate association with the British Commonwealth; on the contrary, it reinforces it. It must be made stronger, not weaker, Commonwealth relations themselves strikingly manifest the movement of the world's centre towards the East. Of the eight countries of the Commonwealth, there is not one without vital territorial and strategic interests in either the Pacific or the Indian Ocean. The location of the forthcoming Commonwealth Conference at Colombo reflects the importance attached to this area. This Conference, it is to be hoped, will produce a positive contribution by Commonwealth countries towards securing the peace of the world. And in our deliberations we should not forget�Australia is certainly not likely to do so�how much our security has depended in the past on the friendly and generous assistance of the United States of America. The events of the last war are too close for that. The United States is the greatest Pacific power. Her policy towards Asia is accordingly of supreme importance to Australia's future.

Australia and the United States of America are the two countries which can, in co-operation one with the other, make the greatest contribution to stability and to democratic development of the countries of South-East Asia. Because of our common British heritage and long experience with democratic institutions of government, we can offer valuable advice and assistance to the newly formed governments of South-East Asia. Because of greater technical and industrial development, we can not only offer advice and assistance in financial and industrial matters, but in fact supply much needed industrial equipment and finished goods.

By concerted action, we, the countries which have had greater opportunities in the past, can help the countries of South-East Asia to develop their own democratic institutions and their own viable economies and thus protect them against those opportunist disruptive and subversive elements which take advantage of changing political situation and low living standards'.

[NAA: A1838, 381/3/1/1 part 1]

Last Updated: 10 January 2017
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