496 Note by Mr S. M. Bruce, High Commissioner in the United Kingdom, of Conversation with Dr H. V. Evatt, Minister for External Affairs

I saw Evatt about 5.30 p.m. to-day. This was the first time I had had any conversation with him since Monday the 18th May although I had telephoned each day suggesting I should come and see him but he was always too pressed.

Evatt first asked me whether I had straightened things out with the Dutch Prime Minister [1] with regard to his not having come to my lunch for the Netherlands Government and I told him that I had.

He explained the reason why he could not come was that the Prime Minister [2] had had a lunch for Molotov. [3] He said that he had had some conversation with Molotov with regard to the exchange of diplomatic representatives. Molotov had expressed himself as personally most sympathetic but that the matter had to be referred to Moscow. Evatt said that his impression was that the Russians were 'stalling'.

I asked Evatt whether there had been any conversation about the 'Boundary' Treaty and he said there had not. I also asked him whether he had obtained any information as to the line the United Kingdom were taking in the discussion, but to this he also replied in the negative. I failed to arouse any interest in him on this subject and he appears to have gone remarkably cold with regard to Russia notwithstanding his previous attitude.

I then told him of the reply which Winant [4] had sent in from the U.S.A. with regard to the Russian Economic Memorandum. I said that I understood that it had been up at the Cabinet the night before and I asked him what line he had taken as presumably some telegram would be sent by him to the Prime Minister [5] as the Dominions Office were sending nothing but leaving it to the High Commissioners to communicate with their Governments. Evatt said that he had taken the line at the Cabinet that Australia must have a representative on the Executive. [6] This was somewhat startling as Attlee [7] had just told me in reply to a similar question that Evatt had said nothing on the subject and he, Attlee, understood that he, Evatt, was quite in accord with the United Kingdom Government's attitude. Evatt also added that Eden [8] had agreed that Australia should have representation. I replied that if Eden had so agreed the boy had better have his head read as such agreement would destroy the whole basis of the American proposal which was designed to keep all the smaller European and South American Nations out of the Executive by limiting it to the four great Powers-the U.S.A., the United Kingdom, Russia and China.

Evatt's reply to this somewhat crisp comment of mine was not very illuminating.

We then had a very rambling discussion about the principle involved, namely, our having representation on the Executive.

I said that I was emphatically in favour of maintaining Australia's right to representation whenever we had a reasonable case for doing so. In the present instance I told him frankly I did not think we had such a reasonable claim.

There is little use in recording the conversation as it showed, to my mind, the most astounding lack of clear thinking on the part of a man who has a legal mind and who has held high judicial office.

We left the matter on the basis that we would discuss the point of representation with Eden when we met him at lunch on Tuesday next, and in the meantime I would send a merely factual cable to the Prime Minister. [9] We had to leave the matter at this point and discussed nothing else as Evatt appeared to have absorbed the point of my note to him of this morning to the effect that he had to attend my cocktail party from the beginning to the end, and said that he would have to leave in order to be in time.


[AA:M100, MAY 1942]

1 Dr P. S. Gerbrandy.

2 Winston Churchill.

3 U.S.S.R. Foreign Minister, who had come to London to negotiate the Anglo-Russian treaty signed on 26 May. The treaty as finally negotiated did not include an agreement on the postwar boundaries of the U.S.S.R.

4 U.S. Ambassador to the United Kingdom. See Document 491, notes 5 and 6.

5 John Curtin.

6 Of the proposed organisation to direct post-war relief and reconstruction.

7 U.K. Dominions Secretary.

8 U.K. Foreign Secretary.

9 See cablegram S23 cited in Document 491, note 5. Evatt subsequently decided not to press the question of Australian representation on the Executive and on 28 May Bruce informed Curtin that he and Evatt recommended that the Commonwealth Govt should agree to the U.S. proposals. See Bruce's letter to Evatt and his cablegram S25 to Curtin (both dated 28 May) On file AA:A2937, Post War-Relief.

[LONDON], 22 May 1942