Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Full Day's HansardDownload Full Day's Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Wednesday, 19 June 1946

Foreign Policy

First I refer to foreign policy. The fundamental basis of the foreign policy of the British Commonwealth is enthusiastic and sustained support of the United Nations. This is in accordance with the declaration of the conference of Prime

Ministers in 1944, which was fully reaffirmed on this occasion. It was equally agreed that co-operation between the major powers is vital to the future of international co-operation and the success of the United Nations. Events since the end of the war have fully borne out the truth and importance of the following statement made after the 1944 conference: -

There is one cardinal aspect of foreign policy. It is the vital importance to the future of the world of collaboration between the British Commonwealth, the United States and Russia.

One of the most remarkable achievements of the war is the high degree of friendship and co-operation which has been created between the British Commonwealth and the United States. It has been of fundamental importance to the successful conduct of the war and, if what has been demonstrated to be possible in war can be maintained in peace, a notable contribution will have been made to international relations of the future. The realization of it should be a cornerstone of our foreign policy.

Of parallel importance is the collaboration achieved with Russia in military operations and in the Moscow Declaration for the building of an international organization at the end of the war. This too, must be maintained and developed in the critical tasks that await the lenders of the United Nations when the victory is won. It must be equally an aim of our policy to develop the friendliest relations with Russia too.

It can truly be said that the pursuit of co-operation between the major powers of the United Nations has been and is a dominant consideration in the foreign policy of the British Commonwealth, for in it lies the hope of the human race, and the only means of averting another world conflict.

I could not but feel disturbed at the burden of armaments resting upon the British Commonwealth and on the United Kingdom in particular, after a war which had resulted in the complete victory of the United Nations. If we are to promote the social progress and better standards of life to which the United Nations are pledged, there must be a reduction of the burden of military expenditure. But this cannot be achieved, nor can the optimum conditions for economic and social welfare be created, except in an atmosphere of confidence, trust and security. Therefore, it is a challenge to all, with disastrous consequences if it is ignored or evaded, to make the United Nations an effective organization, and the principles of its Charter a predominant influence in national policies.

It has frequently been said, and with great truth, that the evolution of the British Commonwealth has exemplified the manner in which autonomous nations can co-operate on matters of mutual interest. The remainder of my statement will be devoted to traversing proposals, discussions and decisions at the London conference, which have as their aim the promotion of greater co-operation between members of the British Commonwealth, and with members of the United Nations, thereby enabling both the British Commonwealth and the United Nations more effectively to play their parts in the preservation of peace and security.

Post- War Basis of British Commonwealth Security

The security of the British Commonwealth as a whole, or of any of its members, rests on the following factors which are blended and inter-related: -

(i)   The forces placed at the disposal of the United Nations for the maintenance of international peace and security in accordance with Articles 43 and 45 of the Charter, including regional arrangements under Article 52.

(ii)   The forces to be maintained by each member of the British Commonwealth under arrangements for co-operation in Empire defence in accordance with the inherent right of collective self-defence under Article 51.

(iii)   The forces to be maintained by each member of the British Commonwealth to provide for the inherent right of individual self-defence under Article 51.

(iv)   The provision of adequate machinery for co-operation in Empire defence, without infringing the determination and sovereign control of its policy by each member.

As the conference was convened primarily to discuss matters pertaining to the Pacific, the security of this region was naturally the predominant subject.

The Australian Government accordingly submitted proposals relating to regional security and Empire co-operation which were based on the four factors which I have mentioned. These proposals must also be viewed as a part of the wider concepts of world and British Common- wealth security, the principles being of equal relevance to arrangements for regional defence and Empire co-operation in any other area. Proposals by the United Kingdom Government which were essentially in agreement with those of the Australian Government, emphasized this wider aspect.

Regional Security in the South-West Pacific, Including the use of Bases by the United States.

Embedded in the matter of regional security in the South- West Pacific is the use by the United States of bases on territory controlled by the Australian Government. The policy of the Government was stated to the House by the Minister for External Affairs on the 13th March last. We welcome an arrangement for the joint use of bases on the principle of reciprocity, but the provision of bases is only a part of the whole military plan for the defence of the region, and must be related to an overall plan for the maintenance of security in this area.

On the aspect of policy and principle, Article 52 of the Charter not only permits but also encourages regional arrangements for peace, and security, provided they are consistent with the purposes and principles of the United Nations. In relation to our resources, Australia played a notable and worthy part in the war which proved the importance of Australia, with its man-power and material resources, as a strategic base for the maintenance of security in the South-West Pacific. If an overall plan can be prepared in accordance with the principles of the Charter, it would indicate the nature and strength of the forces, and the facilities and resources to be provided, by each of the parties to the arrangement. This has a vital influence on our future defence organization and the basis of our planning.

As a principal power and a member of the British Commonwealth in the Pacific, Australia must be' prepared to shoulder greater responsibilities for the defence of that area, including the upkeep of our bases which are essential to the strategic plan.

Earlier I referred to the heavy burden of military commitments being borne by the people of the United Kingdom, who poured out blood and treasure without stint, to save the world. Therefore I told the conference - and I am quite certain that I expressed the sentiment of both sides of this House and of the people of Australia - that it was recognized that Australia must in future make a larger contribution towards the defence of the British Commonwealth, that this could best be done in the Pacific, and that the approach to a common scheme of defence for this area should be by agreement between the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand, and thereafter .with the United States of America, and later with other nations with possessions in this area. These views met with the full endorsement of the United Kingdom anc New Zealand.

I shall not develop the matter further, in view of impending discussions between the Minister for External Affairs and the United States authorities, on the subject, of bases.

Responsibilities for Empire Defence

I mentioned earlier that the Australian proposals had been submitted to a conference convened primarily for matters relating to the Pacific, hut the principles had equal relevance to arrangements for regional defence and Empire co-operation in any other area.

This wider view was emphasized in a proposal prepared by the United Kingdom that each member of the British Commonwealth should accept responsibility for the development and defence of its own area and the strategic zone aroundit, and should agree to the principle of joint responsibility for the protection of lines of communication between their a re:is

In view of the great burden of post-war military commitments being borne by the people of the United Kingdom, it will be apparent that only the United Kingdom could originate a. proposal of this nature to all the governments of the '.Empire. It is interesting to note, however, that, in principle, it is in broad agreement with the Australian Government's proposal relating to regional security in the South West Pacific and the assumption of a greater responsibility for British Common wealth defence than before the war. Responsibility for the development and defence of their own areas is in accordance with the principle of responsibility for local defence accepted by the selfgoverning dominions at the Imperial Conference of 1928.

In regard to responsibility for the development and defence of surrounding strategic zones and the protection of lines of communication, I pointed out that, whilst the primary responsibility for the defence of Australia naturally falls on the Commonwealth Government, the proposal to extend this responsibility to include the development and defence of the strategic zone around it requires careful examination. The method of approach should be through a regional arrangement along the lines already suggested, and to the Australian Government machinery, with United Kingdom and New Zealand representation, should be assigned the responsibility of developing the defence aspect of matters relating to regional security in the Pacific, in which the United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand, are concerned. It was agreed that this matter should be examined by the governments concerned in conjunction with their advisers. machineryfor co-operation in Empire Defence.

During the Prime Ministers conference in 1.944, the Australian Prime Minister put forward certain proposals forimproved machinery for Empire cooperation, and they were referred to the governments concerned for consideration. At the same time, the late Prime Minister said that -

Co-operation between members of the British Commonwealth is a matter of bilateral or multilateral planning, according to the strategical position of the particular part of the Empire concerned, the views of its Government and those of the other governments that may be concerned.

The first practical demonstration of planning on this basis was the organization of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in Australia for the control of the British Com monwealth Occupation Force in Japan. The membership of this body includes representatives of the United Kingdom, Australia, India, and New Zealand.

In the statement submitted by the Australian Government on this occasion, the following proposals were made: -

(i)   It is fundamental to future arrangements for co-operation in defence that appropriate machinery should be created to provide for an effective voice by the governments concerned in policy and in the higher control of planning on the official level.

(ii)   There should be assigned to the Australian Government machinery, responsibility for the development of the defence aspect of matters relating to regional security in the Pacific, in which the United. Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand are concerned, and provision should be made for the representation of the United Kingdom and New Zealand at the appropriate levels on such machinery.

(iii)   Corresponding provision would also be necessary for dominion representation, on any parallel machinery in the United Kingdom. On the official level, the Australian Government contemplates the strengthening of its Joint Service Staff in London, as a counterpart to the Defence Committee in Australia, and to provide an agency for advice to the Resident Minister in London on defence matters.

(iv)   Consideration is also being given to the Australian joint service staff requirements in Washington and at the seat of the United Nations. Development in this direction would depend on any arrangement reached with the United States of America, and machinery which may be created for the purpose of implementing any agreement.

The trend of thought, in the United Kingdom and Australia had been moving along the same lines on thequestion of regional responsibility for defence, and it was natural that their proposals relating to machinery for co-operation in Empire defence should broadly coincide. The proposal of the United Kingdom was that each member of the British Commonwealth should maintain service missions in London. These missions would receive their instructions from the appropriate body in their respective governments. The United Kingdom would maintain similar missions in each dominion and these missions would, in their particular case, receive their instructions from the United Kingdom Chiefs of Staff after consultation as necessary with the United Kingdom Government. There would he an inter-dominion exchange of missions as required. The system would be based on the national defence organizations to be maintained in the United Kingdom and in each dominion.

It will be noted that the United Kingdom proposal, which states a general principle relating to the whole of the British Commonwealth, is in broad harmony with the views of the Australian Government. These were necessarily limited to co-operation between the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand, with whom a special defence relationship has been established owing to common commitments which have been accepted.

The conference agreed that the proposals be referred to the governments for consideration in conjunction with their advisers.

Strategic Development AND Distribution of the Resources of the British Commonwealth.

Article 51 of the Charter provides that nothing in the Charter impairs the inherent, right of individual self-defence if an armed attack occurs against a member.

In addition to the forces to be provided in accordance with articles 43 and 45 of the, Charter, including regional arrangements under article 52, and the forces to be maintained for Empire co-operation in collective self-defence under article 52, it is imperative that each part of the Empire, should maintain . such additional forces, together with a war production potential of appropriate dimensions for expansion, as are requisite until the security system is developed and firmly established. This precaution is also necessary to -provide against the contingency of the general exercise of the right of veto by a permanent member of the council under article 27 and, in particular, by the vetoing, under article 53, of enforcement action under -region'al arrangements or by regional agencies.

The position in regard to the future organization and armament of the forces was outlined by the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom in his statement to Parliament last February. Mr. Atlee said -

This is not the time to come to decisions about the eventual shape of our post-war forces. The great strides made in the realm of science and technology, including the production of atomic bombs, cannot fail to affect the make-up of our forces. Time is wanted for the full effects of these startling developments to be assessed. But in the meanwhile, and for the year ]94fi, the question of fundamental reorganization does not arise. The tasks which confront our armed forces, and to which further reference is made below, are the tasks of re-settlement and pacification - tasks which must bo fulfilled to the accompaniment of steady but drastic contraction.

At the Imperial "Conference in 1937, principles concerning the strategic development and distribution of the resources of the British Commonwealth were laid down, relating to the manufacture of munitions and aircraft as well as the supply of raw materials and foodstuffs. During the war, considerable steps were taken by Australia to give effect to these principles for the decentralized development of productive capacity throughout the British Commonwealth. Scientific developments during the war emphasized the paramount importance of tiffs.

Britain's proximity to Europe has made it more vulnerable than ever, but it cannot contract out of European affairs. The United Kingdom with its population of 45,000,000 and industrial resources is the hard core of Empire defence, and will remain so for a long time. A greater contribution by us to Empire defence will doubly strengthen the security of the British Commonwealth - first, by enabling Britain to provide for its own regional defence and overseas commitments, and secondly, by spreading the aggregate strength and resources of the British Commonwealth over a wider area.

I submitted to the conference a statement on munitions and aircraft production and naval shipbuilding in Australia, and the relation of the post-war potential to the requirements of our own forces and those of the British Commonwealth. I explained that it is the policy of Australia to develop in peace resources for the manufacture of munitions as well as the supply of raw material, in order to make the Commonwealth as self-supporting as possible in armaments and munitions of war, including aircraft, and shipbuilding. I stated that, with the development of government factories and the fostering of commercial industries, Australia is seeking to provide the widest possible base for a supply structure for the needs of the Empire in the Pacific.

The United Kingdom submitted to the conference the following general suggestions regarding the development and distribution of resources: -

(i)   The development of heavy industry, and in particular the shipbuilding and aircraft industries, in the Dominions, is a task to which Commonwealth countries should give the highest priority which economic conditions will allow.

I pointed out that this is a policy which Australia has been pursuing, and that it would be prepared to co-operate to the greatest extent possible.

(ii)   On strategic grounds, it is desirable to spread manpower more evenly throughout the Commonwealth. The importance in this connexion of facilitating emigration within the Commonwealth is obvious.

I observed that this was in harmony with the Commonwealth's immigration policy, and that the transfer of people and production units in. industries had been raised during the war.

(iii)   The vulnerability of the United Kingdom makes it undesirable to hold there the main concentration of supplies and materials for a Commonwealth war effort.

I said that the proposal for the accumulation of materials and supplies in the Dominions was in keeping with the general view on the dispersion of resources. Arrangements for the produc tion and storage of stocks was a matter for examination in regard to the details of specific proposals.

(iv)   The Dominions to maintain their own service training establishments on such a basis that they could expand quickly and easily to receive and train United Kingdom manpower in the event of war.

I stated that this was a matter for consideration in relation to other defence requirements, and for examination in regard to the basis on which any such arrangements would be made.

(v)   The necessity for formally correlating research in all matters concerning defence.

I mentioned that we had established a Defence Scientific Advisory Committee, the function of which is to maintain a general survey of the scientific field. We were also creating a New Weapons and Equipment Development Committee, and had sent, to the Defence Science Conference in London a strong delegation of service and scientific advisers.

(vi)   Joint Intelligence Bureaux to be established in Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom.

I stated that the Government is at present considering the establishment of a Joint Intelligence Bureau for the Pacific area in accordance with the principle of Australia accepting a greater responsibility for British Commonwealth defence.

These proposals are being examined by the Government's advisers, and, after Government consideration, will be taken up through the proposed improved machinery for Empire co-operation.

Economic and Welfare Co-operation in the South-east Asia and South Seas Areas.

The United Kingdom proposed the establishment of a South-east Asia Commission, which would be concerned with matters of economic and social welfare, and Australia and New Zealand were asked to consider representation on this body.

The attention of the' conference was drawn to the provision in the Australian New Zealand Agreement for the establishment of a South Seas Regional Commission for broadly similar purposes.

Provided the United Kingdom Government was willing to participate, the Australian and New Zealand Governments undertook to establish the South Seas Regional Commission immediately. It was considered that if there were to he a regional organization for defence, it would be well that it should be balanced by a similar organization for welfare and development.

The conference agreed to refer to the official level for examination in detail the proposals for the two commissions and their relation to each other.

Conclusion

The proposals of the United Kingdom and Australia relating to defence and security mark a further devolution of responsibility and planning for defence from a centralized to a regional basis. They also provide for bilateral or multilateral planning according to the region and the governments concerned. They should lead to a notable advance in Empire co-operation and in British Commonwealth security.

As was mentioned in the official statement issued at the conclusion of the conference, the discussions were in the nature of an informal exchange of views. It will be appreciated that I can refer publicly only to a limited number of subjects, and deal at any length only with those matters on which Australia submitted proposals. In. addition to the subjects to which I have referred, there was an exchange of views on the following :

Revision of Anglo-Egyptian Treaty

Meeting of Council of Foreign Ministers in Paris.

Disposal of Italian colonies.

Trusteeship

Palestine

Policy towards Germany, including the future of the Ruhr and Western Germany.

Disposal of Polish armed forces.

Atomic energy.

Procedure in the peace settlement.

Draft peace treaties with Italy, Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary and Finland.

Nationality of married women.

Commercial policy.

Arrangements for consultations between British Commonwealth Governments.


Mr Spender - What time was devoted to the discussion of all of those subjects ?







Suggest corrections