Chifley to Bruce

Cablegram 301 CANBERRA, 5 October 1945


Considerable industrial trouble being experienced here as certain Unions sympathetic to Sectional movement in Netherlands East Indies directed against N.E.I. Government and aimed at securing greater measure of local autonomy. This cable expresses no views regarding the merits of the dispute which concerns the N.E.I.

Government. Considerable embarrassment caused by the actions of Unions resulting in delays to Dutch vessels loading the stores for N.E.I. including military stores. By arrangement Dutch service personnel loaded arms ammunitions and purely military stores and vessel containing these has left Australia.

Waterside workers will load non-military stores but definition of this term still raising problems. Indonesian seamen are refusing work ships even when loaded. Political issue complicated by support given by Australian industrial bodies to claims by Indonesian seamen respecting their conditions of work. Desirable Indonesian seamen together with Indonesian civilians be transported from this country immediately.

With this in view, have had application lodged here with British Ministry for use of ‘Esperance Bay’ and or ‘Largs Bay’ to take civilians including seamen from Australia to ports in Java, Borneo and Celebes. Request you contact Ministry, London, as application will be remitted there from Australian Representative. Press for Ministry’s agreement in this proposal and stress desirability of immediate action as tending to remove possible causes of International friction. Civilians concerned are willing to go and N.E.I. Government offers no opposition.

Total number involved approximately 700 for whom N.E.I. accepts no further responsibility, whom some Australian Government must feed and house pending deportation or voluntary withdrawal.

Question of financial responsibility as between Australian and N.E.I. Governments or interests not an issue at this stage. [1]


1 The two vessels were hired transports under the control of British Ministry of War Transport. The ‘Esperance Bay’ was made available in co-operation with South East Asia Command. See letter dated 4 October from Sinclair to Calwell and Duncan’s cablegram 153 to Chifley, dispatched 23 October. On file AA : A1838/2, 401/3/6/1/3, i.


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