442 Dr H. V. Evatt, Minister for External Affairs, to Mr John Curtin, Prime Minister

Cablegram EP2 WASHINGTON, 25 March 1942

IMMEDIATE SECRET

For the Prime Minister.

(1) Your telegram P.M.7 [1] received. As a result of the work of the Mission there is a distinct possibility that the President [2] will soon establish a Council on governmental plane at Washington and that in addition Australia and New Zealand will each be invited to nominate one service representative to be associated with the Chiefs of Staff at Washington. It is essential that a first class man of high rank should be selected when the time comes.

(2) On the Council if constituted the Australian representative should be a Minister of the Crown rather than a diplomatic appointee. New Zealand takes this view and Nash [3] is remaining until finality is reached. There would be danger of divided authority if we have both a diplomatic agent and a Minister of the Crown speaking for Australia at one and the same time. Nash has already experienced this with another Minister here.

(3) I illustrate the matter by reference to our own Mission. The President and his departments now look to us in relation to our common war activities. The Australian Governmental staff here is weak and I am disturbed at the position. It is apparent that their activities must be supervised and coordinated with single regard to supporting Australia. There is a lack of vitality and cohesion.

As much of our time as can be spared is spent in infusing vitality into them and stirring them up generally. One result is that which I particularised in my cable of last night. [4]

(4) All of this shows that whatever may be the position in three or four weeks time, our particular and special work here must be driven through to finality and the authority of the Mission should be exclusive. In the critical period ahead there should be no question of divided authority. During this period the Council will probably be established and I will be able to obtain a fair appreciation of the benefits Australia can expect to obtain at once and the manner in which the new organisation is likely to function. Not until this period is finishing will it be possible to decide representation which will achieve best results from Australia's point of view.

(5) If we finally decide that another Minister of the Crown should come from Australia (and I agree of course that a Minister should ultimately be appointed) then I would naturally consult him either prior to my departure to London or on my return here en route to Australia. Selection of the person to be appointed is of vital importance and the name of any proposed appointee should be discussed between us long before any approach is made to him.

(6) I have undertaken this great task solely for the sake of Australia and my desire is to prevent any possibility of our efforts here being discounted either by a decision to fill Casey's position too soon or by the choice of a person whose appointment would not be the best possible for Australia. In view of the difficulties and intricacies of the situation here I am firmly convinced that until the situation clarifies no appointment is required and I can perform the duties, which are almost nominal while a Minister is here. A practical advantage from such a course is that the Mission will be located at the Legation instead of at a large hotel where interruptions are frequent and working conditions bad.

(7) The question of the 9th Division is still with the President and I will cable after hearing from him tomorrow.

(8) This cable was in the course of despatch when the telephone call to you came through.

EVATT

1 Dispatched 24 March. On file AA:A981, Australia 205, i. It advised Evatt that War Cabinet believed it desirable that a successor to R. G. Casey as Minister to the United States should take up duty in Washington while Evatt was still there.

2 Franklin D. Roosevelt.

3 N.Z. Deputy Prime Minister and Minister in Washington.

4 This reference may be to cablegram PMS4 of 24 March (in Defence:

Special Collection II, Bundle 5, Reinforcement and equipment from U.S.A. and U.K.), which dealt with the reallocation to Australia of aircraft intended for the Netherlands East Indies.

[AA:A3195, 1942, 1.12142]