Skip to main content

Historical documents

97 Agenda and Minutes of Inter Departmental Committee Meeting

13 September, 1950

Agenda for Inter-Departmental Committee on Technical Assistance to South and South-East Asia

Opening by Secretary, Department of External Affairs

1. General

2. Requests from India, Pakistan and Ceylon

(a) Comprehensive statements.

(b) Specific requests.

3. Assistance which Australia might give

(i) Fellowships, scholarships and training awards (training in Australia).

(ii) Experts, instructors, advisory missions.

(iii) Provision of equipment.

(iv) Endowment of institution in Asian countries.

(v) Special grants from Fund to CSIRO, Health, State Departments (e.g. Agriculture) for special training facilities or for personnel, administration etc.

4. Administration of Technical Assistance Programme in Australia

(i) Functions of

(a) Department of External Affairs.

(b) Public Service Board.

(c) Commonwealth Office of Education.

(d) Labour & National Service

Any other.

(ii) Committees–

(a) General – policy.

(b) Advisory panels.

5. General


The meeting convened at 10.30 a.m.

Those present were:–

C.S.I.R.O. Dr. B. T. Dickson1
Department of the Treasury Mr. N. R. CafFin
Mr. S. J. Rauchle
Mr. L. H . E. Bury
Department of Labour & National Service Mr. H. A. Bland
Mr: E. P. Eltham
Mr. B. K. Phelan
Commonwealth Office of Education Mr. C. D. Rowley
Mr. C. R. Morrison
Public Service Board Mr. J. E. Collings
Department of Health Dr. H . E. Downes2
Department of National Development Mr. S. P. Bray
Department of Commerce and Agriculture Mr. G. Warwick Smith
Mr. J. G. Goodwin
Bureau of Agricultural Economics Mr. J. N. Lewis
Prime Minister's Department Mr. R. Durie
Department of External Affairs Mr. A. S. Watt
Mr. W. T. Doig3
Mr. H. W. Bullock
Mr. J. Ingram

Mr. A. S. Watt (Secretary, Department of External Affairs) who took the chair, gave an opening address in which, inter alia, he outlined the international background against which technical assistance must be viewed. Mr. Watt then handed over the Chairmanship of the meeting to Mr. W. T. Doig.

The Chairman informed the Committee that a statement of preliminary requirements from three countries in South and South East Asia had been received, namely, India, Pakistan, and Ceylon. These included many individual applications for training in Australia and for technical assistance of various kinds.

The Chairman then gave a brief resume of what had been done in the Department of External Affairs to date on this question. He stated that a number of individual applications for training in Australia and for the provision of certain services for countries in the area, such as the sending of specialists in different fields to such countries, had been channelled by the Department of External Affairs to appropriate Commonwealth Departments for investigation and attention. The Australian Delegation to the Standing Committee in Colombo had reported that it was of the highest importance that Australia should be able to make some practical offers and contributions of assistance at the earliest possible date. So far very little had been done but, in view of the fact that Australia had taken the initiative at the Colombo and Sydney conferences, and that the Minister for External Affairs was at present in London and wished to keep a reasonable share of initiative at the London Conference, it was of the utmost importance that Australia should be able to announce to the countries concerned that it had some practical proposals in view, by which it could assist them. This meeting had been called with the idea of conducting a preliminary discussion of the various aspects of technical assistance to South and South East Asian countries. The Chairman said that if another meeting were held in approximately a week's time, it should then be possible to send to the Minister a definite statement on what a assistance Australia was prepared to offer.

Mr. Bury (Treasury) stated that applications were likely to come in on a large scale and an agency would need to be set up to process them.

Mr. Doig (External Affairs) said the Department of External Affairs was not a suitable agency to act as a training authority but it would be responsible for overall policy and channelling requests etc. Within the Department there would probably be a small unit whose function would be to keep an eye on the overall policy aspect and its relation to foreign policy. It would act as a central clearing house for channelling requests and applications for technical assistance to appropriate Departments and organizations and would then advise the Standing Committee of the action being taken. Organization of a programme of this size would require special units to be formed in appropriate Departments, the members of which would spend their time exclusively on this work.

Mr. Bury (Treasury) suggested that the agency finally set up should submit a quarterly report to the Committee on the work being done.

Mr. Rowley (Office of Education) said that under a training scheme such as the one envisaged, it would be necessary to have two organizations, one to look after people coming to Australia and the other to look after people being sent from Australia to South and South East Asia.

Mr. Bland (Labour and National Service) warned the Committee of the danger of oversimplification which lay in suggestions that the problem fell into these two main parts. One important element to be considered was that of welfare. If the scheme was to be successful serious attention must be paid to the problem of assimilation, including accommodation for visiting students, relations with people in the community, arrangements for payment of monies by the Commonwealth to persons entitled to receive them, and in general deal with the problems which have a personal significance and bear very considerably upon the usefulness of the persons studying in this country. If any particular Department has the necessary facilities to deal with such matters, then care should be taken to see that these facilities are used. Circumlocution and interposition of Departments should be avoided. If a unit were set up in the Department of External Affairs and the small working Committee provided for in the Cabinet decision set up on an ad hoc basis, these bodies would soon acquire facility in dealing with any applications received.

The question was then raised of the payment of a trainee in private industry and Mr. Bland suggested that the matter would be simplified if the trainee concerned were to be put on the payroll and his employer then obtained a recoupment from the Department of External Affairs.

Mr. Rowley (Office of Education) mentioned that placing of trainees in private industry might mean revelation of trade secrets.

Mr. Collings (Public Service Board) said that there must be a central body looking after the scheme generally. Without such a guiding body, there would be a danger of losing sight of the costs involved or losing touch with the persons concerned. In his opinion, the Department of External Affairs would be the most suitable Department to exercise this function.

The Chairman suggested that a Sub-Committee of representatives of the Public Service Board, the Department of Labour and National Service, the Commonwealth Office of Education and the Department of External Affairs should examine the question of the administration of the Technical Assistance Programme in Australia.

Mr. Eltham (Labour and National Service) suggested that a procedure might be followed similar to that adopted in connection with the C R T S.

Mr. Bray (National Development) said that his Minister and Permanent Head were intensely interested in this proposal, but in their opinion Australia's economy was already overloaded. Other calls made on Australia's resources might clash with those of this Technical Assistance Programme and careful planning would be needed. It was important that the countries receiving assistance should set up administrative structures which would be able to make the best possible use of the aid received. In many of the countries concerned such administrative structures did not at present exist. It would be a waste of manpower and materials to go into these schemes without proper consideration of this. In Mr. Bray's view the meeting was possibly going further than the instruction in the Cabinet decision which had asked the Committee to recommend the most suitable kind of technical assistance for countries in the area. He was not satisfied that technical training was the best kind of aid that could be given, and he thought that at this stage too much emphasis was being placed on the details of this type of assistance.

The Chairman thought the matters that were being discussed were in line with the Cabinet decision. The Committee was a policy Committee and to decide how aid could be given was a matter of policy.

The Chairman stated that some of the Asian representatives at Colombo appeared to be somewhat dissatisfied with the response being made and it was important that Australia should immediately make a constructive and useful proposal to the Standing Committee and to the participating Asian countries. The Commonwealth Office of Education had proposed a scheme whereby Australia could offer 150 fellowships, scholarship and training awards to the countries concerned and the details should be worked out immediately by the appropriate bodies. Such scholarships would be increased to 220 or 250 in the second and third years. We should be able to agree on the fellowships, scholarships and training awards and, after the next meeting, the Chairman would like to be able to communicate to the Minister in London advice to the effect that Australia could offer such facilities immediately. Mr. Doig also suggested that several larger groups might be invited to visit Australia and take specially arranged tours and ad hoc courses in various fields. The estimated cost of such visits would be �70,000.

Mr. Rowley (Commonwealth Office of Education) then informed the Committee that the National Co-ordinating Committee for Libraries had worked out a tentative scheme for a library seminar for a body of 20 librarians from South and South East Asian countries. All details except accommodation had been worked out. The New South Wales Public Library would provide the tuition.

The meeting adjourned at 12.25 for lunch and reassembled at 1.40. The sub-Committee on Administration met during the lunch period.

The Chairman gave a summary of his views on the type of assistance which could be given to South and South East Asian countries. In addition to the Fellowships, Scholarships and Training Awards, it might be possible to arrange for ten study groups to visit Australia each year for the purpose of studying scientific, agricultural, health, educational or other institutions. The estimated cost of the library seminar mentioned earlier would be �10,000. Pakistan had requested that the services of Mr. Munro of CSIRO might be made available for six months and had also requested the sending of a small geological team. A large number of other requests for specialists in various fields had been received, including a request for a team of medical experts on which, in Mr. Doig's view, some action might be taken fairly soon.

Dr. Downes (Department of Health) suggested that it would be more advantageous to bring to Australia for medical training people who would eventually return to their own countries and spread the knowledge they had acquired in Australia.

The Chairman asked Dr. Downes about availability of medical personnel and training. In reply, Dr. Downes stated that there were a number of courses vailable in post graduate medical work but his Department could not spare any personnel, although it might be possible to obtain suitable personnel from State organizations. There were some opportunities for training nurses in Australia.

The Chairman said that a suggestion had been made that a team of specialists in various fields might be sent to the area for a period of from three to six months to hold discussions on the spot with the Standing Committee and the appropriate Departments of interested Governments on the requirements of the area and the practicability of Australia being able to send experts in various fields, or providing training facilities in Australia. The members of the Standing Committee were not specialists and such a team of experts could assist them materially. All that the Australian Delegation to the Standing Committee had been able to do so far was to promise to refer to Australia matters with which it was felt Australia might be able to deal. The estimated cost of sending such a team would be �7,500.

The Chairman had estimated that the cost of sending missions to South East Asia would be �125,000 per annum, which would cover the sending of 50 or such specialists at a cost of approximately �2,500 each.

The Chairman had estimated that the cost of sending missions to South East Asia would be �125,000 per annum, which would cover the sending of 50 or such specialists at a cost of �2,500 each.

Mr. Collings (Public Service Board) suggested that the members of the Committee should obtain the views of their Department on Mr. Doig's suggestions and put these views forward at the next meeting of the Committee.

The Chairman regretted that it had not been possible as yet to circulate to all interested Departments the statements of requirements and the applications which had been received.

The Chairman stated that there was a tremendous demand in India, Pakistan and Ceylon for the provision of all types of equipment, such as educational equipment and equipment for cottage industries. He had estimated a sum of �50,000 for the provision of such equipment. This equipment had been requested for demonstration purposes and for the purposes of starting industries. It would be necessary to decide whether, in terms of the technical assistance programme, Australia should try to provide minor capital goods.

Mr. Eltham (Labour and National Service) suggested that if Australia should undertake the training of personnel, then institutions would need to be set up in the countries concerned in which this training could be used.

The Chairman thought that assistance in setting up such institutions would be a legitimate charge on the funds of the technical assistance scheme. He had estimated a sum of �100,000 per annum for endowment for three countries, with a total population of 500,000,000.

Mr. Bray: (Bureau of Agricultural Economics) asked if only Commonwealth countries were to benefit by this scheme and was informed by the Chairman that it was hoped other South East Asian states would soon be included. Thailand would probably send a representative to the London Conference.

The Chairman suggested that a certain amount of the fund should be used in Australia, e.g. to compensate State Government Departments and the CSIRO for the provision of specialists or training facilities. Looking at the question from a political point of view this would mean that Australia itself would receive some advantage from the fund.

Mr. Bray (National Development) said that he had been instructed to guard against the �tourist� attitude in sending people overseas. It was essential to obtain cooperation from State Departments before taking any of their specialists.

Mr. Rowley (Office of Education) suggested that State Departments should be reimbursed for the expense of training Asian students.

The Chairman asked, since this was a fairly extensive fund to administer, whether the Committee considered that administrative expenses should be a charge upon it. He had tentatively estimated an amount of �25,000 for such administrative expenses.

Mr. Warwick-Smith (Commerce and Agriculture) reminded the Committee that at the Sydney Conference the point was made that the expenses of the Standing Committee at Colombo should not be charged to the Fund.

Mr. Bullock (External Affairs) said that each country was entitled to use its own contribution in the way that it saw fit but this question would probably need to be discussed further at the Standing Committee. As far as the Standing Committee itself was concerned, it had been agreed to set up a fund to meet the running expenses of the Secretariat.

Mr. Caffin (Treasury) said that France and the Netherlands were charging a percentage to cover administrative expenses concerning a United Nations technical assistance scheme in which they were participating, and, according to the precedent thus established, his Department thought it would be justifiable to charge administrative costs to the Fund.

The Chairman said that the Australian Representative at Colombo could be instructed to put this point of view to the Standing Committee.

Mr. Collings (Public Service Board) said there was no essential reason for uniform behaviour on this point by member countries.

Mr. Warwick-Smith (Commerce and Agriculture) said that the sum involved was likely to be small in relation to the total contribution and could be considered as an addition to it. Australia's position was somewhat different from its position in regard to United Nations programmes. Australia had largely taken the initiative and its objective was to secure the greatest possible amount of technical assistance for the area. He thought that endowment of particular types of institutions was an excellent way of promoting the objectives of the scheme and asked whether the Scheme could contribute to the endowment of other institutions set up by other organisations, such as the Food and Agriculture Organisation. Another project of this type which might be considered was the setting up of national institutions.

The Chairman said Australia had already received some proposals along these lines.

Mr. Caffin (Treasury) requested the views of other Committee members as to the proportion in which the funds should be allocated to different objects. He understood that there was some doubt whether the expected total of �8,000,000 for the fund would actually be forthcoming.

The Chairman said that so far as he was aware, participating Governments at the Sydney conference had committed themselves to an expenditure of �8,000,000 and had agreed upon the proportions of contributions.

Mr. Rowley (Office of Education) said there were in operation at present certain scholarship schemes which could be brought into line with the technical assistance scheme.

Mr. Caffin (Treasury) said the Office of Education had worked out a scheme for scholarships and estimated a figure without relation to the amount of money available.

Mr. Rowley (Office of Education) said that this scheme was related to limits of accommodation.

The Chairman said the numbers of Asians coming to Australia should not be limited to 150 because, apart from the benefits they would receive from their training here, they would be good propagandists for Australia and the Australian way of life. Such students, together with their colleagues from other countries, would become a strong force in helping to organise their countries along better lines in the future.

Mr. Warwick-Smith (Commerce and Agriculture) said that, because of the difference in environment and conditions, it might be advantageous to set up certain types of institutions, such as a fisheries school, in the area itself rather than in Australia.

Mr. Eltham (Labour and National Service) said that in the vocational field he thought it would be better to bring students, instructors and supervising officers to Australia rather than give them on the spot training.

Mr. Warwick-Smith (Commerce and Agriculture) asked if it had been possible to distinguish any pattern in the applications received so far and that generally speaking the emphasis seemed to be on agricultural development rather than on secondary industries.

The Chairman said there was no discernible pattern in applications, which were very extensive.

Mr. Rowley (Office of Education) said that in meeting requests for training, care must be taken to see if such training would be more effective or cheaper if given in the countries concerned rather than in Australia.

Mr. Warwick-Smith (Commerce and Agriculture) said he had raised the question because of the Treasury's wish to see some guiding principle in the proportions allocated to different aspects of technical assistance.

Mr. Eltham (Labour and National Service) asked if an order of priority was indicated in the applications.

The Chairman said the applications did indicate whether or not the requests were urgent, though they did not indicate any strict order of priority.

Mr. Bland (Labour and National Service) asked if the Standing Committee at Colombo would determine the priority of the requests.

Mr. Eltham (Labour and National Service) suggested that the Standing Committee could get in touch with the appropriate Government Departments in the countries concerned and obtain help from them in determining priorities.

Mr. Bullock (External Affairs) said that in this connection experts from the relevant government Departments in Ceylon had been called before the Standing Committee and that it was now intended to send to New Delhi a group which would use the same procedure regarding Indian requests. The group would then go on to Karachi.

Mr. Bland (Labour and National Service) brought up the question of the degree of priority to be accorded as between requests under this scheme and other schemes and reminded the Committee that the present scheme was meant to supplement other schemes and not to overlap them.

Mr. Eltham (Labour and National Service) mentioned the I.L.O. Bangalore scheme, certain aspects of which are very similar to the lines of action proposed under the present scheme.

The Chairman said he understood that a Technical Assistance Liaison Officer from the United Nations was going to Colombo to consult with the Standing Committee there.

Dr. Dickson (CSIRO) said that the CSIRO was very heavily involved and would be faced with the problem of personnel. This would also apply to State Departments. Within the limits of its capacity CSIRO would do whatever it could to help. He suggested that the Chairman might go to Melbourne and review the whole of the CSIRO research range. He would then have first hand knowledge of CSIRO's field of work.

Mr. Eltham (Labour and National Service) said that in regard to educational equipment, particularly films, there might be some overlapping. His Department had lent some negatives to the National Library who were making 140 copies for distribution to South and South East Asia, and a large number of charts had been specially prepared for use by the I.L.O.

The Chairman said such activities would probably be fitted in with the present scheme.

The Chairman said the Australian Representative at Colombo had stressed that Australia should be given early assistance to Ceylon's educational projects as such assistance would help to create good will between the two countries.

The Chairman then reviewed the types of assistance which Australia might give to South East Asian countries and urged the members of the Committee to give consideration to them with a view to making a definite decision at the next meeting on what proposals could be made.

Mr. Eltham (Labour and National Service) stressed the necessity for having definite figures on the numbers of trainees who would come to Australia.

The Chairman reminded Committee members that Asian peoples have not the same mentality as Australians and that factor must be borne in mind when arrangements are being made for their needs.

Mr. Eltham (Labour and National Service) said that in many places in South and South East Asia there were good educational and other institutions, most of which had been instituted and organised by European countries. There were not, however, enough of these institutions to cope with the demand for them.

On the question of bringing study groups to Australia, Mr. Morrison (Office of Education) warned that there was some necessity to guard against the possibility of such groups not gaining the best possible advantage from their tours of different institutions. He pointed out that many of them would be unaware of what facilities Australia had to offer until they actually arrived here and provision should be made for them to change their arrangements, if required, after their arrival.

Mr. Eltham (Labour and National Service) suggested that such tours might be limited to persons who would be able to use the knowledge thus gained in an executive capacity.

The Chairman mentioned that Dr. Brasch, a senior lecturer in engineering at the University of Melbourne, had expressed a desire to visit South East Asia on his sabbatical leave next year to make an examination of the special needs of countries in the area in his particular field.

With regard to the provision of equipment, Mr. Warwick-Smith (Commerce and Agriculture) said it was necessary to know more about the actual requirements than was known at present before it could be determined whether the required quantities of equipment could be supplied.

Mr. Rowley (Office of Education) suggested that the Department of Supply would be the appropriate body to advise whether the provision of required equipment would be likely seriously to handicap the Australian programme.

Mr.Warwick-Smith (Commerce and Agriculture) said that in such cases there would be a prospect of wider avenues of trade being opened up as a result of the operations of the present scheme.

The Chairman stated that he would arrange to circulate to members of the Committee before the next meeting copies of the statements of requirements and of the applications that had been received to date.

It was decided that the next meeting of the Committee should be held at 10.30 a.m on Wednesday, 20th September.4

The meeting adjourned at 3.55 p.m.

[NAA: A1838, 708/9/5 part 2]

1 Bertram Thomas Dickson, Chief of Division, Plant Industry, CSIRO.

2 Dr H.E. Downes, Senior Medical Officer, Department of Health.

3 William Torrance Doig, Acting Counsellor, Economic and Technical Assistance Branch, 1950-53.

4 See Document 103.

Last Updated: 10 January 2017
Back to top