Skip to main content

Historical documents

5 Paper by Department of External Affairs

Canberra, 13 November 1949


Relations with South-East Asia

In the light of the general appreciation of Australia's interests in South-East Asia which has been circulated,1 the following more specific propositions are put forward for further inter-departmental exploration and discussion:

1. International action in South-East Asia

Australian Delegations to international organisations should concentrate on diverting assistance to the area–e.g.

(a) technical assistance programme of United Nations and associated agencies;

(b) International Bank and Fund;

(c) I.C.A.O.

(d) U.N.I.C.E.F.

(e) G.A.T.T. and I.T.O.

(f) W.H.O. and similar agencies

(ii) In direct inter-governmental exchanges, e.g. with the United States and United Kingdom, their support for this policy should be encouraged.

(iii) Wherever opportunity presents itself Australia should encourage greater United States direct assistance to the area.

2. Direct relief and reconstruction aid by Australia

(i) As soon as it is possible to make an assessment of relief and reconstruction needs in Indonesia, Australia should decide on a programme of supplies– medical, clothing, available materials etc.

(ii) An assessment should be made of the success of the educational supplies programme for all South-East Asia with a view to enlarging it.

(iii) Supplementary to the contribution which it is expected Australia will make towards the General United Nations Technical Assistance programme, Australia should aim to provide Indonesia, with technical, administrative and educational experts.

(iv) Consideration should be given to stepping up the annual awards of free fellowships and scholarships to all South-East Asian countries (at the same time the facilities available, including welfare facilities, for private Asian scholars in Australia should be examined and the information disseminated through Australian posts).

3. Grant of Australian Government credit facilities

Concurrent with 2(i) and 2(iii) Australia should consider affording sterling credit facilities to Indonesia, possibly in co-operation with the United Kingdom.

4. Industrial planning in relation to trade potentialities

(i) More particularly in respect of Indonesia, local industrial plans should be brought to the attention of Australian industry, through the appropriate Departments, with a view to encouraging direct participation by Australians in local production, or Australian production for trade.

(ii) Restoration of private business connections should be facilitated as soon as the new Federal Government in Indonesia is established.

(iii) Visits to Australia of businessmen and government officials should be encouraged and special attention paid to their reception.

(iv) The possibilities of Government guarantees or other inducements to private investment and trade might be further examined.

5. Supply availabilities

(i) Australian export policy should be examined to ascertain to what extent it is practicable, in the light of the United Kingdom contracts, the dollar drive, etc., to satisfy urgent needs in South-East Asia.

(ii) In a wider context Australia should be prepared to discuss with the United Kingdom Government the possibilities of diverting United Kingdom as well as Australian supplies to South-East Asia for essential feeding and development work (cf. C.L.C. discussion of Asian sterling countries need to replace dollar imports).

6. General commercial policy

Particularly in relation to Indonesia, where the fluidity of the situation may make negotiation practicable, there should be a rapid examination of Australian interests in respect of tariffs, preferences, double taxation, protection of Australian capital, etc.

7. Shipping facilities

8. Civil aviation

Extension of Australian airlines, reciprocal arrangements, assistance by Australia in establishment of domestic services.

9. External Territories and contiguous areas

Collaboration between the services should be encouraged.

10. Information services

(i) Further development of Australian library and other information services in the region.

(ii) Calculated use of Radio Australia for the projection not only of Australian national publicity but of those policies which it is in our interests that South-East Asian countries should follow.

11. Assistance in training Service personnel

Intake into the Australian Service Colleges and training establishments should be encouraged.

12. General trade policies of China and Japan

The future pattern of Japan's trade, and international attitude towards trade with Communist China, will affect the economic and political stability of the area. There should be continuing study of these considerations with a view to determining Australian policy in F.E.C., Peace Treaty, G.A.T.T. and I.T O., and in day-to-day diplomatic discussions with the United States, United Kingdom and other powers.

13. Economic Mission to Indonesia

While goodwill towards Australia remains at its peak, preparations should be directed towards despatch of an Economic Mission at the appropriate time early in 1950.

14. Particular questions

(i) Siamese claims;2

(ii) Merchandising of Australian goods;

(iii) Locomotives for China.


1 Document 4.

2 This was a reference to Australia's request for Thailand to settle outstanding claims for war loss and damage.

Last Updated: 10 January 2017
Back to top