33 Advisory War Council Minute 452

MELBOURNE, 6 August 1941


(The Hon. Sir Frederick Stewart, Minister for External Affairs, and the Hon. Sir Frederic Eggleston, Australian Minister to China, were present for this discussion.) The Prime Minister [1] explained to Sir Frederic Eggleston that it was desired to afford him an opportunity for discussion with the members of the Advisory War Council prior to his departure for China [2], and he invited Sir Frederic to outline to the Council those matters he wished to raise.

Sir Frederic Eggleston expressed his appreciation of the opportunity of meeting members of the Council, and proceeded to enumerate the following matters, together with his views thereon:-

1. EXTRA-TERRITORIAL RIGHTS IN CHINA Sir Frederic Eggleston referred to the resentment by China of the possession of extra-territorial rights by foreign Powers and the pressure which had been brought to bear to secure the surrender of them. It was certain that a similar approach would be made to him, and he desired to know the attitude he should adopt. His own view was that he would not say he was in favour of the surrender of these rights, but that the attitude of the Australian Government was one of general agreement with the policy of the United Kingdom and other parts of the British Empire and the statements that had been made on this subject.

The Prime Minister did not consider that China was likely to press this point, but it could be said when the war was over and peace restored that it was not likely we could resist a request on these lines.

Mr. Curtin [3] said that he understood that the jurisdiction of the special courts applied equally to Australians as British subjects, and that a review of these special privileges should be made when the appropriate time came.

The Minister for External Affairs read a recent cablegram to the United Kingdom Government regarding the Commonwealth's attitude to this question. [4]

2. GENERAL RELATIONS WITH CHINA Sir Frederic Eggleston said that he understood our general relations with China could be expressed as those of friendship and a desire to see China play its strategic role in Asia and the Pacific as a great nation. He wished to know whether, in expressing any such view, we were to risk stimulating Japanese hostility.

The Prime Minister did not consider that there was any point in making a pretence when our true attitude was known. Japan knew where Australian sympathy lies, and there have been acts in recent times, such as the re-opening of the Burma Road, to which our support had been accorded, which were clear evidence to the Japanese of Australian opinion.

Mr. Curtin said that he would not like to see the Australian Minister's [5] task in Tokyo made more difficult.

Sir Frederic Eggleston added that it could also be said that we supported those who resisted aggression, and would be willing to help in the reconstruction of China on the attainment of peace.

3. IMMIGRATION AND THE RIGHTS OF CHINESE IN AUSTRALIA Sir Frederic Eggleston considered that there should be a liberal interpretation of the provisions relating to the entry of Chinese students into Australia and the facilities extended to business men to bring their families and staff. He thought the administration of the regulations on this subject and the treatment accorded to Chinese in the past had been liberal.

Dr. Evatt [6] referred to the evasion of the immigration laws which was practised by the Chinese, and considered that they should not be encouraged.

Sir Frederic Eggleston also mentioned the case of the Australian- born Chinese who had gone back to China and wished to return to Australia. This class presented some difficulties.

Mr. Curtin considered the description of the Australian immigration policy as the 'White Australia Policy' was unfortunate, and was of the opinion that it should be referred to simply as the 'Immigration Policy'.

Mr. Makin [7] mentioned the dangerous misconceptions which were likely to arise from references to Australia being a sparsely populated country. Sir Frederic Eggleston explained that any references made by him on this aspect had always been accompanied by an explanation of the geographical conditions and rainfall considerations which governed the areas of settlement. The Prime Minister added that there was also the story to be told of the great development that had been achieved by the Australian people.

4. ASSISTANCE TO CHINA Sir Frederic Eggleston stated that our exports are mainly wheat and flour, and these go to Shanghai. He enquired as to what should be his attitude on the question of credits, as there may be things which we could supply. He observed that the sale of wool depended on the raising of the standard of living in China, but from a list read by him it was agreed that the things that China wants most are those which we require ourselves for the war effort.

5. LEGAL PROVISION FOR TERM OF OFFICE FOR AUSTRALIAN MINISTER Sir Frederic Eggleston referred to the fact that no legal provision exists for his term of office.

The Minister for External Affairs explained that the Minister was appointed during the pleasure of the King, and that in the case of Mr. Casey [8] the Minister had been given a letter to the effect that the engagement is for a term of five years.

The Prime Minister observed that in the United Kingdom the Ambassadors and Ministers are as a rule 'career men'. In severing their business and professional associations in Australia, the Australian appointees should have the certainty of a period of office in order that they might adjust their private affairs accordingly.

Mr. Curtin stated that the Prime Minister's views were acceptable to his Party.

1 R. G. Menzies.

2 Eggleston left Australia on 28 August and travelled to Chungking via Batavia, Singapore, Bangkok and Rangoon. He arrived in Chungking on 20 October. For an account of the journey and his discussions en route see his dispatch 4 of 19 October on file AA :

A981, Australia 162, ii.

3 Leader of the Opposition.

4 See cablegram 459 of 21 July on file AA : A461, A703/1/2. The Commonwealth Govt's view was that after the war with Japan was over, China would seek to abolish extraterritorial rights and that for the time being Australians in China should continue to be subject to British courts.

5 Sir John Latham.

6 Labor Party M.H. R. for Barton.

7 Labor Party M.H.R. for Hindmarsh.

8.Minister to the United States.

[AA : A2682, VOL 3]