319 Mr R. G. Casey, Minister to the United States, to Senator H. S. Foll, Minister for Information

Letter 24 February 1941,


On January 14th, I addressed the following telegram [1] to the Department of External Affairs for you:-


I have been told privately by State Department of possibility of Congressional investigation of all British publicity organisations here. I would ask therefore that no further reference be made publicly to proposed establishment of News and Information Bureau nor to Newsom's proposed retention in advisory capacity. I see no reason why we should not go ahead with Bureau but on my present information I tend to believe that we should defer associating an American public relations counsel with it. Public opinion is very tense here and anti-British forces would welcome any opportunity of making capital out of any alleged propagandist activities.'-to which you subsequently telegraphed agreeing to the postponing of the appointment of Earl Newsom as public relations consultant to the Australian News and Information Bureau.

I had intended to write to you before this in extension of my above-quoted telegram, but my recent illness prevented my doing so until this moment.

Early in January I advised Mr. Sumner Welles (Under Secretary of State, State Department) of our intention to establish the Australian News and Information Bureau and to associate Earl Newsom and Co. with it as advisers. A few days afterwards, Mr. A.

S. Watt (First Secretary to this Legation) was calling at the Division of the State Department that deals with Australian affairs, and he was informed confidentially of the probability of a Congressional investigation into all publicity activities of British countries in the United States. This information was subsequently supplemented by a further expression of views by the State Department official in charge of the 'Australian Desk' at the State Department to Mr. Watt. Although this expression of views was couched in civil and unexceptionable terms, it was, in plain language, to the general effect that it was unwise of Australia (or any other country) to seek to influence the trend of public opinion in the United States by any campaign of propaganda.

I was not a little disturbed by the above, which was, of course, communicated to me at once by Mr. Watt-and I asked for an appointment at once with Mr. Ray Atherton, Head of the European Department, which deals, curiously enough, with Australian affairs.

I told Mr. Atherton (whom I know well) that I was very disturbed at such a warning on such a subject-as it had never been, and never would be, the intent of the Australian Government to indulge in anything that could, by any stretch of the imagination, be described as a 'campaign of propaganda'. I explained that our object was confined to an expansion of the amount of Australian news appearing in the American press, in order that the American people might become rather better informed than they were about Australia-and that I believed such an object was entirely legitimate.

We had a long and frank conversation on the subject-from which I gathered that what had alarmed them was the proposal to employ a 'public relations counsel'-which had led them to believe that we were about to indulge in a high-pressure publicity drive that would attract great attention and by means of which we would seek to influence American public opinion in a political sense.

I got the impression subsequently that it was probable that the American Minister in Australia [2] had telegraphed extracts from the observations of private members of the Australian Parliament, on the debate on the estimates of the Department of Information, in which I believe the words 'Australian propaganda in the United States' found a place.

At any rate, whatever was the cause of the alarm in the State Department, there was alarm, which I had to do my best to allay. I explained that, by reason of the activities of Australian troops in North Africa and the increasing attention being drawn to Australia over the Far Eastern position, the number of enquiries from the American daily and periodical press, both to this Legation and to the Australian newspapermen in New York, was such that we could not cope with them. Pressmen, photo agencies, newsreel companies and radio commentators were seeking information at a rate that was embarrassing-and we believed we should set up a small organisation to meet this demand for Australian material-and that this was the simple reason for what we were doing.

Finally, it emerged that, if we cut out the proposal to employ a Public Relations Counsel, there would be no more comment or criticism of our proposal. It was this aspect that introduced a sinister and unwelcome note into our proposal, in the minds of State Department officials.

I have since been informed that the same type of warning was conveyed to the Canadian Government at about the same time. They had been proposing to set up an organisation on somewhat similar lines to the Australian Bureau. The warning in this case was conveyed by the American Minister at Ottawa [3] to the Canadian Department of External Affairs.

Mr. David Bailey [4] has, at my request, been to Washington in the last week and was taken to the appropriate Division of the State Department by Mr. Watt. The proposals for the setting up of the Australian Bureau were discussed and the details of its registration under American law were arranged.

I believe the trouble in this general regard is now over. I have explained the situation to Mr. Newsom who was disappointed, but who agreed that we had no option in the matter and that, until further notice, it was not possible to employ his organisation in connection with the Bureau.

I have heard no more about the threatened Congressional investigation-other than that a Senator Wiley has recently filed a notice of a bill for the restriction of propaganda in the United States.

However, as the activities of the Australian Bureau will be strictly confined to the canalisation of more Australian news into the American press-and will be on the same lines as offices maintained by many other countries in America, I have no fear of any investigation that may possibly take place.

I may say that, even without the advice and stimulus of the Newsom organisation, I have no shadow of doubt as to the field of useful and productive work that is available and within the scope and abilities of Mr. David Bailey.


1 The original (no. 28) is on file AA:A3300, 149.

2 C. E. Gauss.

3 J. Pierrepont Moffat.

4 Bailey had been appointed in January to take charge of the proposed Australian News and Information Bureau in New York.

[AA:A3300, 149]