175 Chifley to Evatt (in Washington)

Cablegram SW19 CANBERRA, 6 May 1943

SECRET MOST IMMEDIATE

Fully appreciate your views regarding proposed London talks. [1] I feel, however, we cannot ignore fact that Canada has accepted and if other Dominions do likewise it would be useless for us to seek to shelve talks indefinitely.

2. Pending advice as to attitude of other Dominions and discussion with Prime Minister who is on his way back from Perth no reply has been sent to United Kingdom Government.

3. If, however, United Kingdom is determined to initiate talks at early date with U.S.A. for reasons given and other Dominions agree to join in preliminary talks I feel it would be a serious mistake for Australia to stand aloof.

4. My view is that if talks are to be held we should press strongly for postponement until after Food Conference for following reasons:-

(a) It is quite impossible in time available to send any representative from Australia to reach London by third week in May.

(b) Postponement would obviate possible misunderstanding with U.S.A. and embarrassment to us if we withdrew any of our representatives to Food Conference.

(c) Coombs, who I consider most suitable representative, would be available and we will also have great advantage of your own presence in London for reference.

5. Talks would only be entered upon on condition that they were on non-Governmental plane, that there would be no commitment of Government policy and that every possible step must be taken to prevent any leakage as was case with Clearing Union. [2]

6. If postponement is not possible, I think we should inform United Kingdom Government that we regret our inability to be represented on the same footing as other Dominions and ask that Bruce be regarded as observer at meeting. Fletcher [3] might then be made available to assist him in the first instance, with the possibility that after Food Conference is under way Coombs could get to London in time to be on the spot for some part of the talks.

7. Suggest therefore you give further consideration in light of foregoing and cable your views so that whole question may be considered by Prime Minister on his return on Sunday. [4]

1 See Documents 169 and 172.

2 See Document 104, note 14.

3 See Document 74, note 13.

4 Burton sent the following message to Hodgson on 10 May:

'Reference S.W.19 Minister asked me to send this telegram as he has not replied to Treasurer. His views already contained in E.47 [Document 172]. These are not incompatible with those of the Treasurer but place far greater emphasis on the desirability of indefinite postponement for reasons set out.

If this proves impossible after every effort Minister would agree with views set out in paragraphs 4 and 5 of S.W. 19. Suggestion referred to in paragraph 6 should not be mentioned to the United Kingdom at this stage.' See cablegram E67 on file AA:A989, 43/735/57/1.

[AA:A989, 43/735/57/1]