Forsyth to Department of External Affairs

Cablegram 495 LONDON, 15 December 1945, 3.45 p.m.


South Seas Commission (reference your 1850 to Washington [1]).

1. In an informal unofficial talk on 6th December in Washington with Bunche, Chase and Miss Armstrong, officials of the Dependent Territories Section of the State Department, I gathered that these officials favour the principle of regional colonial co-operation and think the South Pacific the best area in which to begin. They see nothing against early beginning in this region in contrast to South East Asia and Indonesia where in their view any comparable initiative at present would be futile and might react against the whole idea of regional commissions. They agree with the view that the South Seas and South East Asia should be regarded as separate and distinct regions for purposes of economic and social co- operation. They interpret the relevant clauses of the Australia/New Zealand Agreement to mean that defence would not be a matter for the South Seas Commission and agree with this. They hinted plainly that United States participation might be more easily brought about from within the State Department than by means of any new governmental initiative from outside.

The question of Dutch participation in South Seas Commission came up. The points I made which met their approval were that present was not best time to consider this, that Dutch participation was not essential (Netherlands indeed is not named in relevant clauses of Australian/New Zealand Agreement) that in any event Dutch participation in South Seas Commission would be at most in respect of Dutch New Guinea only and that it would be best to begin with governmental agreement in principle between the five powers [2] named in the Australia/New Zealand Agreement. I gained the impression that they would in early future take steps to have the question of United States participation considered at higher levels within the United States administration. A member of the New Zealand Legation was present by my invitation at the luncheon at which this informal conversation took place.

2. In an informal talk on 13th December in London with Poynton of the Colonial Office, I gathered there is no reason to think that the present United Kingdom Government has receded from general principle of regional colonial co-operation put forward by the previous government. It may, however, be more favourably inclined than the previous government towards organic association of regional colonial commissions with the U.N.O. Poynton thought a little time would be necessary for the Colonial Office to review the previous proposals (e.g. those of December last [3]) in the light of the San Francisco and London discussions of the clauses of the charter dealing with colonial policy and he intends to take initiative before long to obtain its reconsideration. He mentioned that in recent discussions with the French, mainly concerning West African Colonies, the French showed themselves somewhat suspicious of any suggestion of American participation in regional colonial organisation. He agreed with the view in the preceding paragraph that of all the areas the South East offers most promise of successful early beginning.

3. From these talks, the personal and informal nature of which should be noted, I would judge that the time is hardly yet ripe for new initiative on high governmental plane. Suggest the matter be explored further in a few weeks on the official level.

4. With a view to gaining practical knowledge of the working of the inter-governmental regional colonial organisation actually functioning, suggest preliminary consideration to possibility of an Australian official attending as observer the West Indies Conference to be held early in 1946 under the auspices of the Anglo-American Caribbean Commission. The approach would require judicious handling in view of the absence of Australian stake in that region and if possible we would not wish precedent applied in South Seas.

Can expand this on return to Canberra.


1 Dispatched 4 December. On file AA : A3196, 1945, 0.30398. It advised that the French Minister, Pierre Auge, had again enquired concerning ‘any progress made in this matter’.

2 i.e. Australia, New Zealand, the United States, the United Kingdom and the French Committee of National Liberation.

3 Presumably the paper cited in note 1 to Document 17.


[AA : A1838/2, 342/3]