Volume #27 - 411.|
RELATIONS WITH INDIVIDUAL COUNTRIES
AUSTRALIA: VISIT OF PRIME MINISTER ROBERT MENZIES TO OTTAWA, JUNE 8-10, 1960
Report of Meeting between Prime Minister of Australia
and Members of Cabinet|
June 9, 1960|
COMMONWEALTH PRIME MINISTERS’ CONFERENCE; SOUTH AFRICAN APARTHEID POLICY MR. DIEFENBAKER|
Mr. Diefenbaker welcomed the Prime Minister of Australia to Canada and to the meeting with the Canadian Cabinet, and recalled the warmth of the welcome he had received during his visit to Australia.60 He invited Mr. Menzies to express his views on any subjects of common interest.
Mr. Menzies said that, although the recent Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference in London had appeared controversial because of the South African racial question, it had actually been the best conference he had attended. Although the meeting had begun with many obvious difficulties, the spirit of Commonwealth meetings had been effectively preserved. The maintenance of this desirable atmosphere of informal understanding would become increasingly difficult as more of the Asian and African countries entered the Commonwealth. He believed that any effort to introduce resolutions or lobbies at such meetings should be resisted, because majorities and minorities would spell the end of the Commonwealth. "I would not be interested on those terms." He was optimistic that this desired informality could be preserved. Mr. Nkrumah for example had seen the advantages of the informal approach although he had begun with contrary views at the previous conference.
Some of the Prime Ministers had come to the Conference already deeply committed on the subject of South Africa, and he had anticipated trouble even in the private discussions. Tunku Abdul Rahman of Malaya for example had come to the Conference with a resolution of his Parliament on the question. Mr. Menzies had cautiously taken the view that the subject was domestic and therefore should not be discussed at the Conference. He was pleased that there had in fact been no trouble.
While in London he had attended a private meeting with Mr. Ayoub of Pakistan, Tunku Abdul Rahman of Malaya, Mr. Nkrumah of Ghana, Mr. Nehru and Mr. Nash, and had been most interested at the moderation displayed by all. The African and Asian prime ministers had recognized the need to protect the position of the European minority, and had recognized that the economies of their countries owed much to the Europeans. They did not understand why South Africa was not prepared, as a gesture, to allocate 4 or 5 parliamentary seats to the Bantus, nor why the nominally "Cape Coloured" representatives in the House could not be actually Bantus. They also criticized the policy of South Africa in refusing to accept coloured persons as Ambassadors or High Commissioners from other Commonwealth countries. He believed that this criticism was entirely valid and that the existing situation could not last. These prime ministers were not concerned with the extension of the franchise in South Africa but were properly resentful of the complete social exclusion of non-whites.
Mr. Menzies did not expect difficulty in the Bantu territories, because here the Bantus would gradually obtain complete self-determination and the white population would gradually move away. The real problem was in Natal, Transvaal and other areas where a European minority was in control. Here the coloured population had every facility, and indeed the government's provision for their social welfare was certainly better than in any other Asian or African country, but on a basis of complete segregation. The Bantu population in these areas would be encouraged to develop municipal self-government but had no vote in the Parliament of the Union. Mr. Louw appeared to believe this position could be maintained indefinitely. Mr. Menzies had pointed out to him that the excellent educational facilities would quickly raise the qualifications of some of the Bantu leaders, and he had asked Mr. Louw whether the native population would then accept continuing subordination or whether they might, in an atmosphere of hostility, demand equal treatment. Mr. Louw had been unable to answer. Mr. Menzies believed that the South African government expected to maintain two separate sovereignties in areas where the European and Bantu populations were intermingled, and Mr. Menzies regarded this as manifestly impossible. His objections were not primarily moral but practical: it would not work, and Mr. Verwoerd's successors would curse the day the apartheid policy had been imposed.
Mr. Menzies went on to say that the contrast between conditions in Indonesia and Malaya, both of which he had visited last December, illustrated his case. The Dutch had not trained the Indonesians to administer their own affairs. They had been ousted by a bloody revolution and the new republic had been utterly unable to run its own affairs. The present population continued to live under the same rather primitive conditions as in the sixteenth century, but the towns had fallen into a state of decay. The country apparently had no economic policy, and there had been several monetary crises within the past year. Sukarno appeared unconcerned with anything except to continue his revolution. Very few Europeans now lived in Indonesia and the nationalists were hostile to the whole Western world, even to the extent of disdaining Western capital.
Malaya on the other hand had obtained self-government by negotiation, and relations with the Europeans were friendly. Many Malayans had been trained in administration, and the country was well managed. Thousands of Europeans continued to live in Malaya, and the same old European firms continued to operate.
Ultimately the choice lay between these two paths, and the government of South Africa did not appear to be aware of this fact. Mr. Menzies thought he should write to Mr. Verwoerd stating his views. At the Commonwealth meeting he had played the role of honest broker to Mr. Louw, and therefore his opinions might be listened to by the South African Prime Minister.
In reply to a question by Mr. Diefenbaker on the future of the Commonwealth, Mr. Menzies said he had discussed the matter with Mr. Macmillan and that their views coincided. Before long the Commonwealth might have 20 or 25 member countries, and this raised the question whether there ought to be two different categories of membership, divided on the basis of population. He believed that equality was an essential aspect of Commonwealth membership, and that the creation of two separate and unequal teams would not work.
The immediate problem was the growing risk that members would wish to have resolutions and votes at meetings of the Commonwealth Prime Ministers. Voting would murder the Commonwealth. He had opposed the issue of communiqués by such conferences, because the need for unanimity reduced such messages to platitudes. All of the delicate discussion at the recent meeting had been on the wording of the communiqué. Mr. Macmillan had been converted to Mr. Menzies' opinion on the folly of issuing communiqués. Abandonment of the practice would reduce the risk that members might insist upon voting. It should be sufficient merely to divulge the nature of the subjects discussed by the prime ministers. If there had been no formal record the recent discussions of South African racial policy could have been held at the Conference itself and no facade of private meetings would have been needed.
A committee of experts had been appointed to consider the problems of Commonwealth membership. Mr. Menzies agreed with Mr. Diefenbaker that it would be ridiculous to establish Malta, with its population of only 300,000, as a full member of the Commonwealth. The population of Cyprus was only about twice as large. Possibly the independence of these smaller units might be made subject to some qualification. They might perhaps be required to maintain some relationship with the U.K. Colonial Office, or might as members be associated with the U.K.
Mr. Diefenbaker thanked Mr. Menzies for having stated his views frankly and informally, and said that the future problems of the Commonwealth were among the major questions facing the two countries.
60Voir/See Volume 24, document 399.