246 Mr P. Liesching, U.K. Acting High Commissioner to Australia, to Lord Stanley, U.K. Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs

Cablegram 167 CANBERRA, 2 September 1938


My telegram No. 166 of 1st September. [1] I learn in confidence from the Head of the Department of External Affairs [2] who was in closest touch with the Cabinet proceedings yesterday that weight of opinion throughout the discussion was heavily in support of the Prime Minister's [3] views as outlined in my telegram No. 165 of 31st August. [4] Mr Casey [5] led this section of opinion and went even further to point where at one stage a telegram was drafted which would have said that the Commonwealth Government regarded the Czechoslovakian Government as having forfeited all claims to sympathy or any form of support and would have urged that the United Kingdom Government should wash their hands of them. Mr Hughes [6] opposed to this point of view a more far sighted and realistic appreciation of the complexities of the dilemma and with little support succeeded in putting the whole issue into what I conceive to be a better perspective.

It is inevitable that with the comparative inexperience of the Departmental advisers and a Cabinet so infrequently assembling there should be vacillation and a lack of sustained study of a situation which in the best conditions is sufficiently baffling.

The Prime Minister's views as recorded in my telegram No. 165 are in my opinion representative of a widefelt feeling in this country. With all the disadvantages of the dispersal of the Ministers and the infrequent Cabinet meetings it must be recognised that there is a compensating advantage in that contact is maintained with the broad lines of public opinion which were presumably reflected with accuracy in slightly modified support given in the Cabinet to the views expressed to me on 31st August by the Prime Minister. In so far as his views suggested the probability of an embarrassing divergence from the policy of the United Kingdom Government I think that this was due to the fact that he was and had for some weeks been out of touch with colleagues with whom he could share and discuss his anxieties and to an over-simplified appreciation of the complex issues which I know had been submitted by the Departmental advisers. I have reason to believe that having done their best to express accurately the attitude of the Commonwealth on the situation as it is Government will be anxious to have the views of Page [7], Menzies [8] and White [9] fresh from the European scene before volunteering further observations. They arrive at Fremantle on 6th September.

1 Not printed; see PRO: DO 35/554 2 Lt Col W. R. Hodgson.

3 J. A. Lyons.

4 Document 242.

5 R. G. Casey, Treasurer and Minister in charge of Development.

6 W. M. Hughes, Minister for External Affairs.

7 Sir Earle Page, Minister for Commerce.

8 R. G. Menzies, Attorney-General.

9 T. W. White, Minister for Trade and Customs.

[PRO : DO 35/554]