319 Mr John Curtin, Prime Minister, to Lord Cranborne, U.K. Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs

Cablegram 102 [1] CANBERRA, 6 February 1942


Following for the Prime Minister [2] from the Prime Minister.

Your telegram 126. [3]

AUSTRALIAN REPRESENTATION IN UNITED KINGDOM WAR CABINET 1. As Australian representation in the United Kingdom War Cabinet has now been agreed to we consider that any views as to constitutional practice or procedure can be settled as we go along. As you said in the House of Commons, there should be no problems which cannot be got over with goodwill. [4]

2. I desire to have it on record, however, that the Advisory War Council does not agree with your view on the constitutional position. This, in its opinion, depends upon the convention existing at any particular time and is necessarily subject to development and change. [5]

PACIFIC WAR COUNCIL 3. We still adhere to our view regarding a Pacific War Council constituted as proposed by us, with functions as suggested and located at Washington. However, in view of the urgency of the position in the Pacific, we agree to the Council being established in London. The accredited Australian representative [6] will be our member.

4. We cannot fail to point out, however, the following experiences which support our view on the need for a body for the direction of the whole war in the Pacific and not only the A.B.D.A. Area:-

(i) The original failure to provide for the Anzac Naval Area and its protection and to relate it to the remainder of the Pacific region.

(ii) The interrelation of naval operations against Japanese bases in the Pacific Islands and operations against the Japanese southwards advance against New Guinea.

(iii) The importance of the maintenance of the American line of communication across the Pacific and the security of Australia as a base for operations as exemplified by the following:-

(a) The threat to Port Moresby, which controls the Torres Strait as the line of supply to Darwin, the Netherlands East Indies and Australia, and the request for American aid from aircraft in Australia.

(b) Representations for American aid for the defence of New Caledonia which, with the Solomons and New Hebrides, are astride the direct line of supply from United States of America and offer advanced bases for an attack on Australia.

(c) Representations for American aid through you to ensure the security of Australia as a base for offensive operations against Japan and a reinsurance against the loss of Singapore, the islands of the Malay Barrier or seapower through a fleet action.

(iv) The request of the Supreme Commander [7] for an A.I.F.

battalion for Koepang, following the despatch of a machine gun battalion to Singapore, and the consequential redistribution of forces between the Darwin area and other parts of Australia.

5. We consider that our vital interests and the strength of our forces in the A.B.D.A. Area, the continent of Australia and the Anzac Area are indissolubly linked and that a Supreme Council and a combined staff on which we are represented afford the appropriate machinery for the higher direction of the war in the Pacific.

6. We do not agree with the President's [8] view in No. 144 [9] that it is the best method to deal with the political and governmental aspects in London and the military in Washington. The instances quoted above do not support the view quoted that the present organisation is functioning efficiently in relation to Dominion as well as United Kingdom matters.

7. We appreciate the President's suggestion regarding collaboration with the Combined Chiefs of Staff Committee at Washington on matters relating to the A.B.D.A. Area, and are considering strengthening our Service representation in Washington. The limitations of the Committee's functions to the A.B.D.A. Area emphasizes our view on the too limited approach to Pacific strategy.

8. In regard to the Anglo-American machinery to deal with munitions assignments and raw materials, it is noted from D.40 [10] that these bodies will confer with other representatives of the United Nations, but that no provision is made for our representation on the controlling authority. We desire the fullest opportunity for stating what we can contribute to the common pool from Australian productive capacity and resources of raw materials and what we require to meet our needs to make our war effort fully effective. We are appointing the accredited representatives [sic] of the Government in London and the Director-General of War Supplies Procurement [11] in Washington as our representatives for consultation by the Raw Materials and Munitions Assignment authorities.


1 Repeated to the Minister to the United States as no. 23 (see copy on file AA:A3300, 220).

2 Winston Churchill.

3 Dispatched 28 January. On file AA:A2680, 14/1942. It stated that formal 'membership' of the U.K. War Cabinet by a member of another Govt was constitutionally impossible, as the U.K. Cabinet was directly responsible to the U.K. Parliament. However, the accredited representative of the Commonwealth Govt would have a full right to be heard in the U.K. War Cabinet in the formulation and direction of policy.

4 See Churchill's speech of 27 January in House of Commons Parliamentary Debates, 5th series, vol. 377, col. 614.

5 See Advisory War Council minute 725 of 30 January in AA:A2682, vol. 4.

6 Sir Earle Page.

7 General Sir Archibald Wavell.

8 Franklin D. Roosevelt.

9 Dispatched 2 February. In Flinders University Library: Evatt Papers, Attorney-General's Dept file M2, Machinery including Australian New Zealand plan.

10 Dispatched 26 January. On file AA:A1608, L41/1/5. It outlined pooling arrangements for munitions, shipping and raw materials between the United States and the United Kingdom.

11 L. R. Macgregor.

[AA:A3196, 1942, 0.3709]