Ball to Burton

Cablegram 11 BATAVIA, 15 November 1945


The Conference between the Dutch and Indonesians under Christison’s Chairmanship is still expected to meet to-day.

Christison told me this morning that although the British were happy for me to attend the Conference as a silent observer, he felt unable to insist on this against objections from Van Mook.

Consequently Australia will not be represented at the Conference.

I urged to Christison and Dening- (1) That this Conference might importantly determine the future of 70 millions of Australia’s closest neighbours and the future of an area in which Australia had most vital military concern as evidenced our military operations in this war;

(2) That if the partnership between the British and Australians within the British Commonwealth of Nations were to be real and not only rhetorical then Australia had valid claim to be represented as observer at this Conference;

(3) That if on the other hand the British took the attitude that this problem was to be solved privately between the Netherlands and United Kingdom despite the fact that Australia’s destiny lies mainly in the Pacific Ocean, then this raises in a fundamental form exactly what meaning can be applied to the term partnership.

I recalled Cairo and Potsdam.

Dening claimed that my arguments were all beside the point since Australia [1] a sovereign power. This means, I assume, that my position here must continue as at present, which is in Christison’s words a member of his staff or, as an alternative course that I should become an independent Australian representative accredited to the Netherlands Government but stationed in Java. I believe that Dening’s argument is legally correct.

The present position therefore is that I remain a member of Christison’s Staff which must materially limit my opportunities to proceed with enquiries, or you must arrange my independent civilian accreditation to Hague.

Christison, Dening and Walsh personally are most friendly and helpful. Nevertheless my strong impression is that my presence here is embarrassing the British in their relations with the Dutch. Clearly as a member of Christison’s Staff he has a right which he has not asked, to sight and approve all signals I send you. I would therefore urgently urge you to clarify my position here since my continued presence here under existing arrangements is likely to be either embarrassing to the British or useless to Australia. For example this morning I had thirty minutes with Sjahrir and this is not wholly welcomed by the British. This is fully understandable since it is impossible for Christison to approve a member of his staff making independent contacts with the Indonesians. Please clarify urgently. Otherwise I seek your permission to return to Australia.

I feel that the present situation is delicate and difficult and most strongly urge you to make no statement and take no action which would suggest to other powers any present lack of complete unity of Australia and British view points.


1 A sign here indicates ‘word apparently omitted’.


[AA : A1838/2, 401/1/2/1]