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Doran, Stuart 1999 Western Friends and Eastern Neighbours: West New Guinea and Australian Self-Perception in Relation to the United States, Britain and Southeast Asia, 1950-1962 PhD Dissertation, Division of Historical Studies, Research School of Social Sciences, Australian National University, Canberra.
    © Stuart Doran 1999. Use of any part of this thesis for any purpose must be acknowledged.


Historians of Australian foreign policy have neglected the WNG dispute. This is unjustified because it was a major preoccupation of the Menzies Government between 1950 and 1962. The neglect has also had an unfortunate consequence; generalizations by historians regarding Australian policy in SEA during the 1950s and 1960s are questionable. Specifically, the common notions that Australia was afraid of SEA, and therefore saw itself as being dependent on Britain and America, are in need of scrutiny.

Examination of Australian policy between 1950 and 1957, with particular reference to the years 1950 and 1954, shows that Australia was not afraid of its principal adversary on WNG - Indonesia. Australians thus did not pursue dependence, or perceive themselves as dependent, on their two principal allies. Rather, Australians viewed their nation to be the 'imperial' power of the area south of Singapore.

With the perceived growth from late 1957 of a communist threat in Indonesia, Australia began to lose its sense of invulnerability from Jakarta. Policy on WNG shows that this anxiety led, in stages, to greater dependence on the United States and United Kingdom, and loss of faith in the concept of Australia as a middle power able to assert influence in its north. By the time the British and Americans decided to force a transfer of WNG to Indonesia, this faith had been almost completely destroyed, although the circumstances of the fait accompli from London and Washington added insecurity to dependence. Fear of Indonesia, accompanied by an insecure form of dependence, which stood in contrast to the fearlessness and independence exuded for much of the 1950s, is important to an understanding of Australian activities and attitudes in the SEA area during the 1960s.

The detailed archival work on which this thesis depends also allows numerous corrections and additions to be made to available reminiscences and partial accounts on WNG.


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