305 Commonwealth Government to Lord Cranborne, U.K. Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs

Cablegram 100 17 February 1941,

SECRET

We have considered your request contained in Circular D.74 of 15th February [1], to suspend forthwith existing practice in dealing with Japanese vessels and to refer all applications to Ministry of Shipping for approval. We think there are some factors which we should mention to you.

You will observe from early cables which we sent you on this subject [2] that we entertained grave doubts as to whether procedure proposed would achieve objectives you had in mind.

Despite these doubts we finally put procedure into effect, causing difficulties and delay in supplies reaching Japanese vessels in Australian ports. In addition we adopted financial measures associated with ship warrants scheme.

In my cable 30th January, 1941 [3] we asked to be kept fully informed of developments and also whether you are satisfied that the measures adopted will be productive of results.

You will appreciate that the procedure we are following has not been without its difficulties and unpleasantness. Nevertheless we would be prepared to continue it if tangible results are to be achieved.

Your latest telegram does not give us any reason for sudden change of policy. We find it difficult to appreciate this.

With respect to procedure you suggest we should now adopt we wish to point out the following- (1) Each Japanese vessel visiting Australia calls at up to nine ports.

(2) Mainly the period of stay in most ports is about six hours and in case Melbourne and Sydney usual stay would not exceed 24 hours.

You will appreciate that by time application is made to Collector of Customs, remitted to Canberra and forwarded to Ministry of Shipping through usual channels a delay of more than 24 hours would have occurred before Ministry of Shipping were aware of application. Absurd position might arise where this could happen nine times to the one vessel on the same voyage. Alternatively application could be made at first port of call for supply at subsequent ports which if Ministry of Shipping approves would mean that there would be no delay to vessel unless delay brought about by withholding decision.

Four days ago we cabled details of applications for Supply of Admiralty charts for Japanese vessels but no reply yet received.

In the nature of things we consider that reference to Ministry of Shipping of all applications for stores and bunkers would be delayed much longer than 24 hours. The proposal might reasonably be adopted as regards docking and repairs.

In my telegram No. 587 of 14th November [4] agreeing to introduction of ship warrants procedure we emphasised that before ultimate procedure you had in mind was adopted Commonwealth Government desired full consultation. Your suggested procedure gets very dose to ultimate procedure.

In the absence of information requested and also reasons for change in policy we hesitate to comply with your request. Would appreciate your earliest possible clarification of whole position and your views on points raised by this cable.

1 On file AA:A816, 19/307/77.

2 See Documents 146 and 199.

3 Cablegram 62 on file AA:A981, Trade 68, iv.

4 Document 199.

[AA:A3196, 1941, 0.2030]