272 Press Statement by Curtin

CANBERRA, 6 September 1943

EMPIRE GOVERNMENT

Gratifying and encouraging interest has been shown, particularly in Britain, in the proposal I put forward on August 14, 1943, for a new approach to Empire government after the war. [1]

Machinery to give effect to what I am sure will be recognised as an inevitable post-war development would appear to be easy to devise. There is ample evidence of the ability of Britain and the Dominions to collaborate on matters of policy in war. Surely, when the pressing problems of peace are to be met, the same collaboration can be achieved.

I visualise a council with a structure similar to the present Pacific War Council, on which representatives of the Dominions could consult regularly with representatives of the British Government. Dominion representatives could be the respective High Commissioners, and they could be replaced at appropriate intervals by a special representative who would be a Minister.

The Empire Council could be a permanent body and its meetings held regularly. Because of everything that is inherent in Dominion status, I consider that meetings should on occasions be held in Ottawa, Canberra, Pretoria and Wellington as well as London.

Agreement upon a movable venue for the Empire Council would do much towards obtaining the greatest benefits to constituent members of the British Commonwealth.

The Empire Council should have a permanent secretariat of men as expert in the problems of peace as those who are expert in war advising the councils of the Empire and the United Nations to-day.

The place Australia will occupy in the Pacific after the war can never be the same as it was up to 1939 and she must have available the advantage of concerted Empire policy if she is to be a Power to stand for democracy in the South Pacific. Similarly, the power of Britain as a force for peace in the future will be strengthened in the world if the firm voice against potential aggressors comes from the Empire, and not merely London.

The economic war in the post-war years will be fierce and marked by many complex angles. Australia cannot allow her economic position to be not known or misunderstood with a Pacific studded by bases occupied by half a dozen nations shut out behind tariff walls. Australia's voice in these matters must be heard equally as it is heard now in matters of war.

All these phases of Empire government after the war call for the constant association of the best minds of Britain and the Dominions. Anything less is fraught with dangers, both in terms of defensive security and economy, too apparent to be ignored.

1 Curtin was quoted in the Sydney Morning Herald of 15 August (p.

2) as having said: 'Some imperial authority had to be evolved so that the British Commonwealth of Nations would have, if not an executive body, at least a standing consultative body. With modern facilities for communication and meetings, these consultations should have a quick and immediate exchange of views if the urgency arose. Unless a decision were made quickly, delays would produce inertia or complete inaction, and when the decisions were ultimately reached they would be too late to be fully effective.'

[AA:A989, 43/735/150/2]