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Wednesday, 18 February 1959


Mr CASEY (Minister for External Affairs) . - by leave - I have asked for leave to make a statement on the recent visit to Australia of the Foreign Minister of Indonesia, Dr. Subandrio, because I believe that the House will wish to have an account of this visit and its significance to Australian-Indonesian relations.

I believe that the House should have the text of the joint announcement made by Dr. Subandrio and by myself on behalf of the Australian Government.

Honorable members will no doubt have seen the text of this joint announcement which Dr. Subandrio and I agreed and which was issued at the termination of his visit. Before making some comments on this document, I should like briefly to remind honorable members of the way in which this visit came about, what its purposes were, and what results have been achieved from it.

It is more than seven years since a Foreign Minister of Indonesia has visited Australia. Since then I have visited Indonesia several times, the latest being in 1955, and a number of prominent Indonesians, including Ministers and other individuals prominent in the political life of Indonesia, have visited Australia over the last three years. But the Australian Government had in mind that further direct contact at the governmental level in Australia would be a means of showing to the Indonesian Government and people the real and sympathetic interest which Australia has in Indonesia's progress and welfare and would, at the same time, allow opportunity for discussions of foreign policy matters, including those upon which our two countries differ. It was in this spirit and with this intention that I informed Dr. Subandrio towards the end of last year that a visit would be most welcome. It was in this spirit also, I believe, that the invitation was accepted on the Indonesian side.

Dr. Subandriodid not come to Australia for the purpose of any formal negotiations on any particular matter. He came as the representative of a neighbouring friendly country for the purpose of exchanging views and creating a better understanding. I believe that his visit served to do both these things.

Indonesia is a country in whose independence Australia has a deep concern - not only now but throughout the future of Australia. At its nearest point, Indonesian territory is but 200 miles from Australian shores. We are necessarily concerned with the success of the efforts of Indonesia to establish stable and democratic institutions. In many ways Indonesia's foreign policy differs from Australia's. Its declared policy is to avoid alinements and military pacts, seeking rather to consolidate its independence and security by other means. These differences in policy are a reason for more rather than less discussion between us.

We thought it right that Dr. Subandrio should meet representatives of the Opposition in Australia as well as the members of the Australian Cabinet. These meetings were arranged and took place.

In his discussions with Australian Ministers, Dr. Subandrio explained and discussed Indonesia's national objectives and described current problems in the ideological, economic, constitutional and political development of Indonesia and in her international relations. There was a review of questions deriving directly from IndonesianAustralian relations, of present co-operation between the two countries, and of the ways and means in which this co-operation could be extended.

We discussed the question of Dutch New Guinea. Australia and Indonesia take differing views as to where sovereignty lies. Perhaps I might remind honorable members of the content of the relevant paragraphs of the joint announcement in respect of Dutch New Guinea, which read as follows: -

The Ministers reviewed in detail IndonesianAustralian relations. There was a full explanation of the considerations which have led each country to a different view over western New Guinea (West Irian), with Australia recognizing Netherlands sovereignty and recognizing the principle of self-determination. This difference remains, but the position was clarified by an explanation from Australian Ministers that it followed from their position of respect for agreements on the rights of sovereignty that if any agreement were reached between the Netherlands and Indonesia as parties principal, arrived at by peaceful processes and in accordance with internationally accepted principles, Australia would not oppose such an agreement.

The Ministers indicated that they believed that the issue between the Netherlands and Indonesia over western New Guinea (West Irian) was one to be resolved by peaceful means, and that they were in accord with the view that force should not be used by the parties concerned in the settlement of territorial differences.

Those are the two paragraphs which dealt particularly with this New Guinea matter.

Members of the Australian Government heard from Dr. Subandrio a statement of the Indonesian attitude upon the matter, and the considerations which have led to the Indonesian claim to the territory. Australian Ministers, for their part, stated the reasons why Australia recognized and will continue to recognize Netherlands sovereignty. We explained our conception of the legal rights enjoyed by the Netherlands as the sovereign power, and the importance we attach to the principle of self-determination. The Government made it clear that Australia retains a strong interest in developments in western New Guinea. The nature and purpose of our administrative co-operation with the Netherlands administration were explained. This co-operation will, of course, continue.

It will be seen that in the joint announcement, the Australian Government has also stated its attitude towards a situation which is hypothetical, in which an agreement might be made between the Netherlands and Indonesia by peaceful processes and in accordance with internationally accepted principles - which means, among other things, absence of duress. We say that, in these circumstances, Australia would not oppose such an agreement. Believing as we do in the fundamental rights to make agreements possessed by the Netherlands Government and derived from the sovereignty which we are convinced the Netherlands possesses, and believing in the rule of law, this position is the only right and proper one for Australia. It represents no new departure in our policy, but I believe it does clarify to Indonesia a position upon which they have held doubts. I make it clear to the House, as was conveyed to Dr. Subandrio, that this definition of the Australian position can in no sense be represented as advice to the Netherlands or to Indonesia on the question of negotiation upon this matter.

There are, I may say, many matters at issue between Indonesia and the Netherlands. In the course of our discussions, Australian Ministers drew to Dr. Subandrio's attention the bad effect upon Australian opinion of the seizure without compensation of Netherlands assets and the treatment accorded to Netherlands nationals and our hope that measures for compensation would be speedily and effectively applied. I would judge from some public comments upon the terms of this particular part of the joint announcement that some unwarranted assumptions are being made. One of them is that, if there were an agreement between the Netherlands and Indonesia, only one result in terms of the future of the western half of the New Guinea is possible. I suggest that, on the contrary, there is a variety of possibilities, depending largely upon the decision of the Netherlands and Indonesia to accept any one of them. In this connexion I remind honorable members that the Netherlands Government has more than once emphasized the importance which it attached to the international principle that the interests of the indigenous inhabitants of western New Guinea are to be assured.

Again I would remind honorable members that the Netherlands Government has suggested in the past that the question of the sovereignty over western New Guinea should be submitted to the International Court, which is clearly one of the peaceful processes that might be employed. If the matter were to go to the court, I do not believe that any one in Australia would fail to respect the decision of the court, whichever way it might go.

The joint announcement expresses the conviction of both countries that there should be no resort to force in the settlement of territorial disputes. This clear declaration is welcomed by the Australian Government. It could be, I believe, a real contribution to improving relations generally in the region of South-East Asia and the Pacific. I commend the terms of the joint announcement to honorable members as marking a further step in the development of better understanding in AustralianIndonesian relations and as evidence of the determination of both Indonesia and Australia to live together in increasing amity. The joint announcement is necessarily a short one. The discussions with Dr. Subandrio and his officers occupied a very great many hours.

I am mindful of the fact, and draw this to the attention of honorable members, that Dr. Subandrio is still travelling in New Zealand and has not yet had the opportunity of reporting in person to his own government. A closer relation with 80,000,000 Indonesians who are Australia's nearest neighbours is something to work for with energy and patience. It would be idle to pretend that differences in history, culture, language and institutions do not create obstacles. Indeed, it is because we recognize these to be obstacles which exist, but which can be progressively reduced, that Dr. Subandrio and I have recommended to our governments that further practical steps be taken in the cultural field.

Of course Australia will necessarily look to ensure that our own interests and responsibility are understood and respected by Indonesia. We have many such interests both within and outside the South-, East Asian region, including our associations and understandings with other powers, both Asians and non-Asians. Our membership of Seato is one such interest. These matters were explained to Dr. Subandrio and were discussed, and we believe that his visit will lead to a better understanding of them in Indonesia. There were valuable exploratory discussions upon other subjects, such as trade and communication routes, upon which I do not propose to enter in detail.

I am sure that I reflect the views of the Opposition as well as those of the Government when I say that friendship with a democratic and truly independent Indonesia is our aim and that the few important conflicts of national policy that divide us should not distract either country from building on the great many interests we have in common.

With the permission of the House, 1 shall incorporate in " Hansard " the joint statement to which I referred. It reads -

During his visit to Australia from 10th to 15th February, 1959, the Foreign Minister of Indonesia (Dr. Subandrio) had discussions with the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey) and with other Ministers.

2.   It was the object of Ministers to expand the present area of agreement between the two neighbouring countries and, where differences exist, to seek to reconcile them and to create better understanding of each country's interests and national policies.

3.   With this objective, a meeting was arranged between Dr. Subandrio and all members of the Australian Cabinet. The discussions served to re-affirm the determination of both Governments that Australia and Indonesia will live together and co-operate as good neighbourssympathetically concerned in each other's material progress and respecting each other's independence, and fostering closer relations between their peoples.

4.   There was a valuable exchange of views on the international situation and upon its effect on the security of the two countries. Much common ground was found. Ministers re-affirmed the support of the two Governments for the Charter of the United Nations, peaceful settlement of disputes, and for the principles of mutual tolerance among nations and non-interference in each other's domestic affairs. It was recognized that those differences that exist in foreign policies on questions of international peace and security were compatible with mutual respect for each other's interests and a common concern in Indonesia and Australia to preserve national independence from external interference.

5.   The Ministers reviewed in detail Indonesian-

Australian relations. There was a full explanation of the considerations which have led each country to a different view over western New Guinea West Irian), with Australia recognizing Nether- lands sovereignty and recognizing the principle of self-determination. This difference remains, out the position was clarified by an explanation from Australian Ministers that it followed from their position of respect for agreements on the rights of sovereignty that if any agreement were reached between the Netherlands and Indonesia as parties principal, arrived at by peaceful processes and in accordance with internationally accepted principles, Australia would not oppose such an agreement.

6.   The Ministers indicated that they believed that the issue between the Netherlands and Indonesia over western New Guinea (West Irian) was one to be resolved by peaceful means, and that they were in accord with the view that force should not be used by the parties concerned in the settlement of territorial differences.

7.   The Ministers decided to put to study the possibility of a formal agreement between the two countries to encourage and widen mutual understanding through exchanges of persons competent in the fields of artistic, literary or other cultural achievement, science and scholarship. Such an agreement would be designed to extend existing co-operative arrangements under the Colombo Plan and under other forms of international cultural co-operation.

8.   The Ministers noted that, since Indonesia joined the Colombo Plan, Australia has received more than SOO Indonesians for training and study. It is agreed that the educational authorities in each country will be asked to examine the possibilities of study opportunities in Indonesia being used to a greater extent by Australian universities and learned bodies.

9.   Australian Ministers and Dr. Subandrio expressed the belief that the visit with its frank and extensive exchanges of views had contributed to the fostering of relations of amity and better understanding between Australia and Indonesia.







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