Burton to Evatt

Cablegram 272 CANBERRA, 28 September 1945


Please see paragraph 4 Information Bulletin cabled yesterday. [1] The Dutch shipping trouble still continues and now affects Dutch ships here even though carrying only relief supplies, the view of Waterside Workers Federation apparently being that food is as much an item of assistance to ‘any army of intervention’ as munitions.

The Indonesian crews are being replaced where possible by Lascars and Dutch ratings. Meanwhile there is a large number of Indonesian seamen from the ships at Brisbane and others in Sydney and Melbourne. The Dutch official attitude which is quite uncompromising is that unless we deport the seamen to the N.E.I.

the Dutch will lose interest in them and they become our responsibility entirely. The Australian Prime Minister is definite that they must leave Australia and this course is clearly essential. We cannot, however, without risking a spreading of the dispute force the men back to probable punishment in the N.E.I. We have sounded out the Dutch on their giving us an assurance that there will be no penalisation but they refuse to give this. The only course, therefore, appears to be to deport them temporarily to some Australian territory preferably Nauru where they are unlikely to cause trouble among the natives and hold them there until the situation in the N.E.I. clears. The matter is being handled administratively as an immigration problem.

The above is for information. However doubtful the prospects of Soekarno’s movement, it appears to reflect considerable feeling among Indonesians and it is becoming increasingly evident that the Dutch authorities will need soon to become impressed with the desirability of a broad political amnesty as part of a more progressive policy for Indonesians.


1 On file AA : A3196, 1945, 0.25016/18/19/20/21/22. Paragraph 4 concerned the dispute over the loading of munitions in Dutch ships and the future of Indonesian nationalist exiles living in Australia.


[AA : A1838/2, 401/3/6/1/3, i]