418 Mr R. G. Menzies, Prime Minister, to Mr A. W. Fadden, Acting Prime Minister

Cablegram M71 LONDON, 22 April 1941


Your unnumbered cable of yesterday regarding Advisory War Council.

alternatively an all-party War Cabinet. If however proposal is to give Advisory Council executive authority independently of the Cabinet then I do not see how it can work because it will at once put the Cabinet in a subordinate position. You should therefore in my opinion press Curtin [2] on my behalf to accept full responsibility, the only way to do which is for Labor to accept seats in Cabinet. Agree with you that closing the political ranks is the only way to avoid recurrent criticisms and crises each time the war takes a bad turn and we cannot win a war in that fashion.

I think the whole position is one which you could with advantage take up with Curtin. [3] I notice that Evatt [4] is endeavouring to make political capital out of our troubles in the Middle East and no doubt there will be a good deal of public criticism. I am making a statement today which I hope will be helpful but I do emphasise first that British Ministers outside the War Cabinet were not consulted regarding Lustre and I certainly would not have been at liberty to convey it to people in Australia who are not members of Cabinet at all. Second the battle is raging and our men are fighting under great difficulties with immense courage and under these circumstances a public debate on such matters as the extent of our supplies or our forces can do nothing but harm. For God's sake let us extricate ourselves from our present difficulties before we start having debates about how we got into them. At any rate that is the principle upon which I am working at this end and I think I can claim that this work is not without use. Kind regards.



1 On file Defence; Special Collection 1, Box 630, Prime Minister's Visit Abroad, 1941. Advisory War Council-Increase of Personnel. It suggested that in view of the likelihood of parliamentary criticism of the Greek campaign it would be desirable to vest supreme executive authority in all war matters in the Advisory War Council, which included members of the Labor Party.

2 Leader of the Opposition and member of the Advisory War Council.

3 Menzies himself dispatched cablegram M72 to Curtin on 22 April (AA: A3195, 1941, 1.6179) reaffirming that his offer of a united front in Australia was still open and continuing: 'My experience here, which has been extremely trying, has emphasised what difficulties a Prime Minister has when he can speak for only half of his people.' 4 Labor Party M.H.R. for Barton and member of the Advisory War Council.

[1] I am still entirely in favour of an all-party Government or