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Yorkshire Ranter turfed out a brilliant piece of almost history courtesy of the British Government release of papers under the 30 year rule: Margaret Thatcher proposed to Malcom Fraser that a Phillipine or Indonesian Island be bought for the purposes of settlement of Vietnamese Boat People, but this was vetoed by Lee Kuan Yew

The papers, released at the National Archives today, show that [Margaret Thatcher’s] reluctance to take in any of the Vietnamese boat people led to her making a proposal to the Australian prime minister, Malcolm Fraser, that they jointly buy an Indonesian or Philippine island “not only as a staging post but as a place of settlement” for them all. This proposal was blocked by Lee Kuan Yew of Singapore, who feared it might become a “rival entrepreneurial city”.

Did Johnny Howard learn something from Mrs. Thatcher ?

Read the original Ranter post Thatchergrad-On-Sea for heaps more background and information on how to get a copy of the official British Government document and also because Yorkshire Ranter is always a terrific read.

The story also appeared in The Guardian On Dec 30 last decade, Margaret Thatcher Reluctant To Give Boat People Refuge In Britain.

The Source

I wrote to the author of a companion article on the Guardian piece which includes the same exchange between Thatcher and Fraser and asked him for a file reference.

The companion article is “Papers released under 30 year rule reveal full force of Thatcher’s fury” by Alan Travis.

Mr Travis was kind enough t provide the following information

After talking to my colleague, Owen Bowcott, who was at the national archives with me for the press event, We think that the offshore island suggestion is mentioned in the Downing Street file dealing with Margaret Thatcher’s meeting with Malcolm Fraser during this period rather than the defence and overseas policy committee minutes.

That is Prem 19/2.

PREM 19/2 is the file related to Mrs.Thatcher’s visit to Australia in May 1979 and other correspondence with Fraser. It is also not in Documents Online.

Meanwhile I note Fraser’s denials of knowledge of the proposal come in two versions:

In version 1, broadcast on the ABC December 31 2009 he said “It might not be accurate”

It may not be accurate,” he said.

“If it happened it might have been dismissed before it ever got to me. Certainly it wasn’t something that was considered seriously by the Government.”

In version 2 published in The Age of December 31 he said ‘’I’ve got absolutely no recollection of it. ”

’’I’ve got absolutely no recollection of it. ”
I’ve got a fairly good memory for what happened at the time,’’ Mr Fraser said yesterday

I am not convinced Fraser knew nothing but I am fairly sure he didn’t entertain the proposal seriously. I’ll leave this as a backburner project and try and find someone who has read the relevant files from the UK and Oz.

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2 Comments

    • yorksranter
    • Posted January 5, 2010 at 10:18 pm
    • Permalink

    Interesting point regarding John Howard – I hadn’t thought of that. I’ve no idea what “Shame” Fraser “Shame” made of the proposal – a trip to the archive in Canberra might be in order.

    Australian strategic thinking was well into the “maritime archipelago environment” phase rather than the old commonwealth strategic reserve/forward defence one by then, so I rather doubt much support would have been forthcoming.

    • baraholka1
    • Posted January 6, 2010 at 2:34 am
    • Permalink

    Hiya Alex,

    Thanks for dropping by.

    To be honest my post title and the comment re: John Howard is a bit tongue-in-cheek. I am sure Howard would have thought of the Pacific Solution by himself without having been privy to any discussion with Fraser on Thatcher’s proposal.

    But you never know. Maybe he stored the idea away at the time for future use. Howard was never inclined to forget anything.

    All The Best

    Barra


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