60 Letter from Spender to Menzies
Canberra, 4 May 1950
I refer to the meeting of the Cabinet Committee on aid to South and South-East Asia which was held on 22nd March, 1950.1 You will recall that the Committee decided to give me freedom to negotiate within an overall limit of ï¿½13 million in 1950/51 to implement the policy stated in the House of Representatives regarding assistance to this region. This figure of ï¿½13 million included the sum of ï¿½200,000 approximately in respect of a contribution to the United Nations Technical Assistance Programme.
A conference will shortly be held at Lake Success2 to determine principally the amounts Governments are prepared to contribute to the Technical Assistance Programme in respect of its operations for the first twelve or eighteen months. I intend to direct that Australia should be represented at the Conference and to instruct the Australian representative to offer on behalf of the Government up to the sum of ï¿½200,000 in respect of the first twelve months of the Programme, this amount to be increased proportionately should the Conference decide that the first period of operations should be eighteen rather than twelve months, provided that the contributions to be offered by the United States and other major contributors are sufficient to establish the project firmly. I intend to fix the exact amount to be offered by Australia in the light of the reports which will be supplied by the Australian representative regarding the negotiations at the Conference.
I also intend to have the Australian representative stipulate that the Australian contribution should be in Australian currency subject to the fact that I may agree that part of the contribution should be transferred by the United Nations at any time for expenditure in other soft currency countries if expenditure of the whole sum in Australia is not feasible.
My agreement to this course of action would, of course, be subject to consultation with the Treasurer.
Funds from the Programme may be spent in Australia on sustenance and the cost of training facilities for persons admitted from other countries or on the supply of Australian experts to work in other countries and, possibly, on the provision of certain supplies from Australia. However, expenditure of the whole Australian contribution in Australia in one period of operations in these ways might prejudice the establishment of a separate training programme directly for South and South-East Asia under the British Commonwealth Consultative Committee. It appears, therefore, that the rate and method of expenditure in Australia under the Programme should be kept under control by the Commonwealth Government. This I propose to do by agreeing with the Secretary-General of the United Nations that expenditure from the Programme upon particular goods or services in Australia should be subject to the agreement of the Department of External Affairs upon the advice of other departments concerned.
It is clear that Australia should not seek assistance under the Programme, which is designed to advance the economic development of countries whose economies are underï¿½developed, in respect of her metropolitan territory. Also, I do not consider that it would be advisable or appropriate for Australia to seek assistance in respect of her territories, at least for the present. I am of the opinion, therefore, that no application for assistance under the Programme should be made in respect of the territories unless and until a specific decision to that effect is taken by the Government.
I propose the following departmental arrangements for the administration of the Programme insofar as it will affect Australia:
(a) The Department of External Affairs should be the authority for conducting negotiations and making administrative arrangements with the Secretary-General of the United Nations and with the participating organisations.
(b) The Department of External Affairs should be responsible for establishing, in consultation with other departments concerned, a system for the recruitment of Australian experts required by the participating organisations to do field work in backward countries.
(c) If considered desirable by the Minister for External Affairs in the light of experience, the services of Australian Departments in this respect should be charged against Australia's contribution.
(d) The Commonwealth Office of Education, in co-operation with other interested Departments where necessary, should be given the responsibility for arranging training facilities in Australia insofar as the participating organisations themselves do not make the necessary arrangements.
I shall be glad to have any comments you may wish to make upon the proposals which I have outlined above as soon as is convenient to you.
[NAA: 1209, 1957/5406]
1 Document 44.
2 That is, the UN headquarters in New York.