28 Mr M.J. Savage, N.Z. Prime Minister, to Commonwealth Government

Cablegram unnumbered WELLINGTON, 17 February 1939, 6 p.m.

SECRET

Your secret telegram of 15th February. [1] I appreciate your apprehension of the difficulties that may militate against a successful defence conference at an early date. I fully realise the importance and difficulties of some of the questions that it is proposed to discuss, and I recognise the fact that the Defence officers in Australia as in New Zealand are very much pressed. At the same time I feel that the position has changed so radically since the Pacific defence matters were discussed at the Imperial Conference, and pressure of events is so ominous, that it is highly desirable to propose that a conference should be held at the earliest possible moment with a view to making practicable recommendations to the three Governments concerned rather than exploring matters of high policy. [2] For example paragraphs (a) and (b) of the proposed agenda whilst construed in very wide terms would in fact, we contemplate, be interpreted as a practical investigation firstly of the time during which Australia and New Zealand may expect to be without the assistance of naval reinforcements from the United Kingom; secondly the scale and direction of attack that may be contemplated during that period, and thirdly, steps which in combination between the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand, it would be most desirable to take to meet this eventuality. It may well be that in Australia as in New Zealand plans for such a contingency have already been evolved, but the New Zealand Government is impressed with the desirability of collaboration in Pacific defence measures to the utmost extent possible. Similar comments apply to the following paragraphs of the proposed agenda. It has always been the intention of the New Zealand Government to provide papers setting out the New Zealand points of view on the subjects of the agenda which they have proposed and this work which is already in preparation will it is hoped be completed in time to allow of their delivery to the Australian delegates before their departure for New Zealand. In all circumstances I trust that you will be able to reconsider the matter and agree to a meeting of the conference at the earliest date convenient to His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom. A copy of this message has been repeated to His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom.

SAVAGE

1 Document 24 2 A copy of this cablegram on file Defence: Special Collection 1, SR 1/1, box 96, was here minuted: 'This does not agree with UK c'gram of 20/2'.

[AA: A981, PACIFIC 1]