63 Mr S. M. Bruce, High Commissioner in London, to Mr R. G. Menzies, Prime Minister

Cablegram 660 LONDON, 11 August 1940, 7.50 p.m.

FOR THE PRIME MINISTER MOST SECRET PERSONAL

Your telegram 96. [1] As advised in Dominions Office cable to Whiskard, No. 250 [2], would be undesirable to submit Latham's name until Japanese answer as to appointment of Australian Minister received. Even if this received immediately amendment of judiciary Act could not be submitted to Parliament next week as Foreign Office advise me that agreement, which carried out most formally by Japanese and involves the approval of the Emperor, could not be obtained under 10 days to a fortnight as minimum.

This at first sight annoying but on consideration possibly not unmixed evil in view of difficult problem raised in your telegram No. 99. [3] Have been unable to extract from the Foreign Office anything more definite than contained in unhelpful cable No. 265.

[4] You therefore must take your own decision. For what it is worth following is how I see the position.

If Japan agrees on conditions as suggested in cable to Whiskard No. 260 [5] nothing doing as this would be intolerable dictation which we could not entertain.

If Japan agrees unconditionally, you can either (a) finalise the matter by submitting Latham's name, (b) hold up further action on the grounds that legislation necessary before proceeding with appointment and Parliament not sitting.

With regard to (a), with Curtin's [6] agreement, which would no doubt be forthcoming, it should be possible to safeguard Latham's position by retrospective legislation or some other device your ingenuity could suggest.

With regard to (b) having made the gesture to Japan you could delay implementing it till you saw how the position developing. In such circumstances you would be fully justified in postponing decision with regard to Chungking. This delay would enable you to avoid giving impression of siding with Japanese (Dominions Office telegram No. 265) if you appoint only to Tokyo, irritating Japanese stirring their resentment and nullifying favourable effect of decision in regard to Tokyo (your telegram No. 330 to Dominions Office [7]) if you appoint to Chungking as well.

In view of impossibility of forecasting developments in the Far East during the next two months, appears to me wisest course is to pursue delaying tactics.

BRUCE

1 Dispatched 8 August. The Canberra draft (on file AA:A461, A703/1/2) was numbered 97, but the cablegram as received in London (on file AA: M100, August 1940) was numbered 96. It asked that urgent instructions should be sent to Sir Robert Craigie, U.K.

Ambassador to Japan, to obtain the Japanese Govt's formal approval of the appointment of an Australian minister to Japan and of the selection of Sir John Latham, Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia, as the first occupant of the post. The matter was made urgent because a necessary preliminary to Latham's appointment was the amendment of the Judiciary Act, which would have to be undertaken before Parliament rose the following week.

2 Dispatched 31 July, to U.K. High Commissioner in Australia (on file AA:A2937, Legations: Exchange of Ministers with Japan). It suggested that delay in the Japanese reply might be due either to the change of government or to the fact that the Japanese might be contemplating making their approval conditional on Australia not establishing a Legation in China.

3 Document 59.

4 Document 31.

5 This is apparently an incorrect reference to the cablegram referred to in note 2.

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

7 In Bruce's copy (on file AA:M100, August 1940) this number was altered to 339. The subject-matter suggests that cablegram 339 (printed as Document 1) rather than cablegram 330 (printed as Document 452 in Documents on Australian Foreign Policy 1937-49, vol. III) was the one to which Bruce intended to refer.

[AA:A3195, 1940, 1.6542]