Department of External Affairs to Evatt

Cablegram 1658 CANBERRA, 7 November 1945



1. In a note to be handed to the Netherlands Minister on 9th November, the Acting Minister for External Affairs will refer to a recent statement over the Hilversum radio that the Netherlands Minister to Australia had reported to his Government- (a) A worsening of Australian-Dutch relations.

(b) A failure by the Australian Government to co-operate.

2. Without going into the question of whether or not the Hilversum statement is correct, the note will take the opportunity it presents to review the course of our relations with the Dutch over the last several months.

3. The note will traverse- (a) The Australian-Dutch conversations in January, 1945 [1], when agreement was reached to pursue informal consultation between competent officials on certain matters of common interest such as relief of prisoners of war and internees, financial aspects of maintenance of Dutch forces in Australia and communications. Since that time most of these matters have been discussed and a satisfactory settlement reached on the outstanding issue.

(b) Admission of evacuees to Australia for purposes of recuperation.

(c) Radio communication with Java, steps for the re-establishment of which have recently been taken by the Australian Government.

(d) The special dispensation granted at a time when our own women were not going forward which permitted thirty-four Australian women employed by N.E.F.I.S. [2] to proceed abroad.

(e) The training of 30,000 Netherlands troops in Australia, which proposal we were unable to accede to because of manpower and supply difficulties.

(f) Dutch troops on the ‘Stirling Castle’ which after arriving at Fremantle on 29th October, carrying 1,586 Netherlands Servicemen and a large number of British and Australian personnel was sent on to Sydney, where, failing shore accommodation, the Dutch troops have remained on board pending their transfer to another vessel which will take them northwards to a destination probably Batavia to be specified by SACSEA. Before reaching Fremantle, the Dutch endeavoured to have the ship diverted to Java or Singapore, which request we could not meet. The ship is controlled by the British Ministry of Sea Transport.

(g) Recovery of Dutch Prisoners of War and Internees, in which work Australian personnel are contributing fully.

(h) Indonesians in Australia, which question has been in the forefront of Australian-Dutch relations. In regard to the ‘Esperance Bay’ episode, the note will say- (i) That full opportunity was given and taken by Netherlands officials to participate in the discussions, which preceded this movement and that the arrangement ultimately decided upon, which provided for the return voluntarily of the Indonesians to the Netherlands East Indies, was made with Dutch knowledge and acquiescence.

(ii) That claims were made by Netherlands officials when the ship was about to leave that a number of Indonesians was sailing under duress, which claims proved to be confounded.

(iii) That while the ship was en route, Netherlands authorities at Batavia strongly urged upon the Allied Commander, N.E.I., that none of the Indonesians should be disembarked in either Java or Sumatra.

(iv) That it would greatly concern us if Netherlands authorities in one place are disposed to disregard arrangements agreed to by Netherlands authorities in another. In regard to Indonesians in Dutch establishments it will be pointed out that- (i) Police reports fail to confirm Netherlands allegations of violent conduct by Indonesians but instead show that no request[s] for protection have been made to them. Despite this, at one establishment protection has been provided.

(ii) The Netherlands authorities have often urged the use of military force against Indonesians, but that there are grave objections to calling out the military in aid of the civil power, especially where the civil power can provide all reasonable remedies.

4. The note will stress that the Australian Government has at all times been most anxious to co-operate to the maximum consistently with our international obligations, our domestic needs, our obligation not to take extra-legal action against any foreign people within our jurisdiction and the limitations of our own laws.

5. The note will say that there has however not always been the response that there should be, that Netherlands officials in Australia have shown a tendency not to take account of the above limiting factors, a tendency towards impatience, a tendency to make their approaches otherwise than through the Minister and Department of External Affairs and finally a tendency to magnify incidents. These things, it will be said, do not make for smooth relations nor does it assist if the adverse reports by an accredited representative to his Government are given full publicity not only in his own country but in other countries as well.

6. The note concludes by saying that a big problem now confronts all administrations responsible for colonial territory and the welfare of native peoples in the Pacific; that our anxiety for a lasting solution of present troubles is no less than that of the Dutch since our security and welfare depend so directly upon a settlement being reached and that if this fact is kept in mind, the necessity for us to revert to the matter of our relations with the Dutch need not again arise.

7. The Acting Minister wishes to indicate when presenting the note that he is passing copy to Minister External Affairs and Australian representative at Hague and to request that Netherlands Minister acquaints his Government with contents.


1 A note of the conversations held on 7-8 January is on file AA :

A1838/2, 401/3/2/3.

2 Netherlands Forces Intelligence Service.


[AA : A1838/2, 40,/3/9/1/1, i]