Australian Delegation, San Francisco Conference, to Commonwealth Government

Cablegram unnumbered SAN FRANCISCO, 29 April 1945, 7.47 p.m.

The following is summary of statement at the Plenary Session [1]:-


1. Acceptance by the nations of the invitation to this conference coupled with the Moscow Declaration and United Nations declarations means that nations are substantially agreed on basic objectives. We have to apply ourselves realistically and intensively to translating our fervent desires into firm commitments and into principles and methods of action. It is now the duty and the opportunity of this conference to pass from general principles to the practical working rules of the proposed organisation. The best initial contribution any nation can make to this conference is to say frankly where it stands.

2. The cardinal points of Australia’s policy in relation to security may be restated as follows:-

(a) There must be speedy and orderly procedures for the peaceful handling of disputes between nations.

(b) There must be a system of sanctions which can be imposed very rapidly and which will be based on the united military strength of the great powers, but shared in by all powers.

(c) A permanent system of security can be made effective and acceptable only if it has a foundation in economic and social justice and real international stability can be achieved only by promoting measures of economic advancement as well as by maintaining security. Australia welcomed the general acceptance of the Dumbarton Oaks principles. We do not speak as theorists, but because as a nation fighting in two world wars not for ourselves alone but for world security. We have learned by bitter experience that peace and security are indivisible and that nations in the Pacific cannot contract out of Europe any more than European nations can contract out of the Pacific.

3. For world organisation to succeed all members of the United Nations must pledge themselves to co-operate in carrying out by force wherever needed the decisions of the organisation for the preservation of peace. Obligation to contribute to enforcement action should be accepted by all members and decisions of the organisation to apply enforcement measures should be equally binding on all members. The expectation that there will be complete and immediate application of measures for collective security is essential both to deter the would-be aggressor and to bring re-assurance to the peoples of the world who look for security.

4. While acceding to the general principles of the Dumbarton Oaks proposals, we propose to make positive and constructive suggestions on certain points:-

First. We accept the principle that there should be a security council of the world organisation vested with wide executive power and authorised to act immediately on behalf of members of the organisation in meeting a threat of armed conflict. We also accept the principle that for the purposes of security the greater powers should act as a unit and, therefore, that these powers can be properly accorded special recognition, including requirement of unanimity on enforcement measures. Cases covered by Chapter VIII (a) are different. Why any one of the five powers which is not party to a dispute should be empowered to prevent attempts to settle it by means of conciliation and arbitration we are quite unable to discover.

5. Second. We consider that in the processes for the pacific settlement of disputes the maximum use should be made of the permanent court, both for fact-finding and for terminating disputes which are capable of settlement by reference to standards of International Law. The permanent court has been a successful institution and we hope a step forward will be taken in relation to its compulsory jurisdiction.

6. Third. We think that express provision should be made in the Charter the better to secure the political independence and territorial integrity of individual nations. These rights are the very basis of a nation’s existence. At the same time we recognise that in the course of time adjustments in the existing order may become necessary, not so much for the preservation of peace as for the attainment of international justice. The Charter could, therefore, properly declare that the organisation should exert its powers for the promotion of justice and the rule of law in the Charter should also be inserted. A specific undertaking by all members to refrain in their international relations from force or the threat of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of another state. The application of this principle should ensure that no question relating to a change of frontiers or an abrogation of a state’s independence could be decided other than by peaceful negotiation.

7. The powers and functions of the General Assembly in regard to the settlement of disputes should be clarified. The General Assembly is to comprise all members. We admit one exception, and one exception only, to the right of the Assembly to consider and to make recommendations as it thinks fit with regard to any matter affecting international relations. While the Security Council is handling a dispute in accordance with Chapter VIII of the Dumbarton Oaks proposals, nothing should be done to diminish the authority of the Council or to hamper the prompt settlement of the dispute. We suggest that on taking over a dispute the Security Council should give some clear indication as to whether it is actively handling the matter. During the period when the matter is being so handled the Assembly can fairly be precluded from dealing with the subject on its own initiative. But it is equally essential that the assembly should be kept notified of the position so that it would be competent to make positive recommendations in relation to the matter in case the dispute should become frozen in the Security Council.

8. In regard to the composition of the Security Council, special attention should be paid to the proved willingness and capacity of members to make a substantial contribution to security. It will have to be recognised that outside the great powers there are certain powers who by reason of their resources and their geographical location will have to be relied upon, especially for the maintenance of peace and security in various quarters of the world. Further, these powers which proved by their record in two world wars that they not only have the capacity but also the will to fight in resistance of aggressors threatening the world with tyranny have a claim to special recognition in any Security Organisation. One way in which this special claim might be recognised is that categories of non-permanent members should be drawn up so as to ensure that the non-permanent members of the Security Council do, in fact, represent powers whose material resources, geographical location and willingness to resist aggression make their actual co-operation with the great powers absolutely essential to the effective working of a security system.

9. Turning to the proposals for economic and social co-operation the statement stressed our view that peace and security must rest on economic justice and social security. Apart from the relationship of welfare to security, welfare is an end in itself.

Greater welfare, employment for all and rising standards of living have been promised in international declarations such as the Atlantic Charter and in the national declarations of policy of most of the socially advanced countries of the world. This pledge should be written into the charter and suitable machinery provided for the progressive fulfilment of the pledge. Member countries should also accept the obligation to render reports on the action they are taking to carry it out. The economic and social council should be made one of the principal organs of the world organisation, with extended powers and functions and should be in permanent session.

10. The statement urged that the Charter of a World Organisation should recognise that the main purpose of the administration of dependent or undeveloped territories is the welfare and advancement of the peoples of those territories. While, no doubt, certain modifications arising out of experience should be made in the terms of existing mandates, on the whole the system worked reasonably well. Certainly most of its principles could safely be extended to dependent territories taken away from our enemies in the present war. Subject to the overriding requirements of controlling bases and facilities for the purpose of security, these detached territories should properly be held in trust for the native inhabitants. They should be administered under terms which will impose upon the administering power a duty to the United Nations to promote the welfare of these dependent peoples.

This principle of trusteeship which in modern times powers have frequently recognised in relation to their colonial possessions by positive unilateral declarations cannot, in principle, be confined to undeveloped territories formerly belonging to our enemies in world war I or world war II. We, therefore, wish to see provision in the Charter for:-

(a) The continuance of the Mandate System.

(b) The establishment of new mandates.

(c) The recognition of the principle that the purpose of the administration of dependent territories is the welfare and advancement of the peoples of such territories.

We also wish to see the setting up of an expert organ of the United Nations the function of which will be to inform the World Organisation of the welfare and progress of the peoples of mandated territories and such other dependent territories as may be determined upon by appropriate action.

11. The statement urged the wisdom of regarding the Charter as having many transitional features. If that were conceded the organisation could start off in the expectation that the Charter would be progressively modified to fit the normal conditions of international relations after the period of post-war rehabilitation has been completed. To that end, however, the amending process needed greater flexibility.

12. The concluding section referred to our gratitude to the great powers and our close relationship with Britain. We appealed to all countries and, especially, to the great powers not to shrink from making improvements in the Charter merely because a little more time and a little more trouble would be required.


1 The statement was made by Forde on 27 April. The full text is published as Annex I to the ‘Report by the Australian Delegates to the United Nations Conference on International Organization’, San Francisco, 25 April-26 June 1945, Commonwealth Parliamentary Papers, 1945-46, vol. III.


[AA : A1066, H45/771/1]