71 Full Cabinet Submission by Mr J. McEwen, Minister for External Affairs
Agendum 437 13 August 1940
CONSULTATION WITH NEW ZEALAND
The interests of Australia and New Zealand are identical in many matters at present affecting the external relations of the two countries, especially the questions of the Far East and of relations with the French Territories in the Pacific. It is obvious that it would be greatly to the advantage of both countries not only to be fully and regularly informed of each other's views, but also to have an opportunity of consultation before the formulation of policy.
There has hitherto been no machinery or regular arrangements of any kind for this purpose. From time to time the Commonwealth Government has repeated to New Zealand, and vice versa, telegrams of special importance on matters of common interest addressed to the United Kingdom Government. In recent months this practice has been somewhat increased, but clearly its principal value is in the exchange of information only; it does not provide for consultation. Even as a means of exchanging information as to the views of the respective Governments, after the views have been decided, the arrangement is imperfect, as it operates irregularly and necessarily omits the whole of the background to important decisions.
Other Dominions have also felt the necessity of having closer inter-Dominion contacts and consultation, to which end they have in some cases appointed High Commissioners to the more important Dominions.
The Commonwealth of Australia has followed this growing practice so far as Canada is concerned. In the case of New Zealand, it is not considered necessary at the moment that the Commonwealth Government should go to the expense of establishing a High Commissioner's office, but it is believed a satisfactory alternative to achieve the main object in view would be the appointment of a liaison officer between the two Governments, permanent for at least the duration of the war. The most convenient method for this, it is submitted, would be an exchange of officers between the respective Departments of External Affairs. The attachment of an officer of the Australian Department of External Affairs at the Foreign Office as liaison for similar purposes has proved to be of great value, and there is every reason to believe that a corresponding arrangement between New Zealand and Australia would be equally justified by its results.
This proposal would have the added advantage that it need not involve any loss of personnel, as the liaison officer in each case, if the New Zealand Government were agreeable, could be treated pro tem as one of the staff of the Department to which he was attached. He would have the duty of reporting back to his own Department and receiving communications from it, but for many routine Departmental functions he could be made subject to instructions locally. Little expense would be involved, including only cost of transport of the officer concerned and possibly a small allowance additional to normal salary.
If Cabinet agrees to this suggestion, I would propose to have it communicated immediately to the New Zealand Government for approval in order that the arrangement might be put into operation with the least possible delay.