164 Note by Bruce of Conversation with Curtin

I had a long talk with the Prime Minister in which we covered a variety of subjects.

He told me that after the Lunch by the Australia Club the U.K.

Prime Minister had asked him to come to tea at Chequers on Sunday.

In doing so the Prime Minister had said he would very much like Curtin to meet his daughters and he the Prime Minister was also very anxious to see them. If Curtin came that would be a reason for him to ask that his daughters should be released from their respective services for the purpose of entertaining a distinguished guest. The whole atmosphere was a quiet and family tea party. When Mr. Curtin turned up on Sunday afternoon there were no signs of any daughters but he was ushered into a room where the Prime Minister had Leathers [1], Cherwell [2] and Hollis [3] armed with a large note book. The Prime Minister opened the conversation by saying that he wanted to have a full discussion with regard to the question of United Kingdom troops going to Australia.

My Prime Minister said that he was taken completely by surprise but had to go in to bat. He told me that on Monday night they received a record of the conversation [4] which represented anything but what had taken place. This record however was altered by Shedden and the United Kingdom people had to accept it.

We then went on to the meeting tomorrow morning which the Prime Minister said he did not expect a great deal from as it had been arranged for 12. o'clock as the Prime Minister put it, as part of Winston's cunning to ensure there would not be too much time.

Mr. Curtin then went on to tell me of a Cabinet meeting he had been summoned to last night, which was to consider a proposal by the President that he should make a Declaration to the Germans as soon as the invasion started. The President was desirous of making this by himself and not in conjunction with the Prime Minister here or with Stalin.

My Prime Minister said that he was strongly opposed to the idea on the grounds that it was very undesirable that any statement should be made by one of the three leaders, but that any Declaration should be by the three jointly. He also made the sound point that any Declaration could only be made after a resounding success had been achieved as otherwise it would be regarded as an appeal to the Germans to cease their resistance owing to the military operation not going well. At the Cabinet Meeting he expressed these views and was backed up to some extent by Smuts. The result was that the Prime Minister here is telegraphing to the President suggesting that consideration of the matter should be postponed.

The point of interest was that my Prime Minister said no member of the War Cabinet other than Bevin expressed any views at all, and he went on to make some crisp observations on this point. There is no doubt but that my Prime Minister has grasped what the position is here and how completely Winston dominates the War Cabinet.

We then had some conversation with regard to the position which would arise if and when substantial United Kingdom Forces arrived in Australia. The Prime Minister is quite clear, and in this I agree with him, that this cannot be allowed to interfere with MacArthur's position as Supreme Commander-in-Chief in the S.W.

Pacific area and he will, I think, make this quite clear to them here before he leaves.

We then discussed the question of conversations with the Americans in regard to Post War Civil Aviation. I told the Prime Minister that I had not sent a written reply to his letter of the 16th May [5] because political issues entered into the matter.

I then reminded the Prime Minister of the episode when it had been suggested that there should be a Conference between the United Kingdom, the U.S.A. and Canada and that for that Conference had been substituted the idea of bi-lateral conversations with the Americans [6]; that such conversations had already taken place with the United Kingdom and Canada and were being held this month with Russia and China. It was also contemplated to hold conversations with other Nations. In these circumstances I did not think that it was politically possible for Australia not to have conversations. I said, however, I was sure the Prime Minister should not undertake them himself, and recommended that he should send Drakeford from Australia to conduct them and arrange for McVey to be in America as his Adviser. This view the Prime Minister accepted.

I then told the Prime Minister there were one or two rather unpleasant matters I felt I must touch upon.

The first one was the necessity of our representatives abroad behaving with a little more tact. I said that in this country and in America Evatt had done incalculable damage by his manners.

This, the Prime Minister agreed to and said he had seen signs of the damage done ever since he had left Australia.

I then told the Prime Minister that what had brought it immediately under my notice was from information I had received as to the view of the I.L.O. Conference held by Jenks, who is the Legal Adviser to the I.L.O. and a quite responsible person. I then read to the Prime Minister the attached note [7] adding that I had no knowledge which Member of the Australian Delegation was concerned in the episode with Miss Perkins. The Prime Minister said he did not think it could have been Beasley as while Beasley was somewhat outspoken he would not have been likely to indulge in an outburst of the character that was referred to in the note I had read.

We then had some discussion with regard to Beasley and the Prime Minister said that while he was quite good he had been rather ganging up with Evatt. The Prime Minister also told me that he had talked to Beasley and had urged him to stand on his own feet pointing out that for a long time he had leaned up against Lang [8], and now he was proceeding to do the same with regard to Evatt.

I told the Prime Minister that all the reports I have received with regard to Beasley were that he was training on extremely well as a Minister and this the Prime Minister endorsed.

I then said that the next episode I wanted to refer to was an extremely murky one with regard to W. S. Robinson. [9]

I told the Prime Minister I thought the best thing for me to do would be to read to him a communication which I had drafted at the time of the episode in February 1943 but had not sent to him as I did not wish to add to his many difficulties and preoccupations.

I then read to the Prime Minister the attached note. [10] I did not read to him the actual telegrams. [11]

I told the Prime Minister that I had brought this episode under his notice not because I wanted him to take any action but because there might be developments with regard to it in the future and I felt it was only right that the Prime Minister should know what had occurred. The Prime Minister expressed his regret that this should have happened but added it only confirmed what Dixon had said to him.

He then told me that when in Washington Dixon had shown him a telegram [12] from Evatt in which Evatt had instructed Dixon that Robinson was visiting America to handle the question of Post-War Civil Aviation and that he, Dixon, was to act on Robinson's instructions. The Prime Minister said that the telegram was quite unauthorised as far as he and the Government were concerned, and he was horrified by it.

The Prime Minister then said that Robinson had attempted to see him eight times since he had been in London but he the Prime Minister had refused to receive him. The Prime Minister then asked me what Robinson had been doing in London and I told him I had not the faintest idea but that I imagined he had come here in the hope of playing the same part in the Prime Minister's delegation as he had during Evatt's visit.

I think the Prime Minister is now fully alive to the dangers of the nefarious combination between Evatt and Robinson.

We then had some conversation about my position but did not go into any details about it. I told the Prime Minister I would be prepared to stay here while he was Prime Minister [if] he desired me to do so and I was of any help to him. I added, however, that I should tell him that I did not think I could possibly continue under any other Prime Minister with the possible exception of Chifley. This the Prime Minister indicated he quite understood.

I then dealt with a number of unimportant matters such as seeing Cranborne, Machtig [13] and Duncan and had a few words with regard to wool. In this connection I urged that the matter of whether the present agreement [14] terminated with the European or with the total war was to my mind only one issue. I added that I thought the best course would be to send someone over from Australia to discuss with the people here the whole problem of the future of wool.

The Prime Minister asked me what I thought of Owen [15] and I told him that I thought he was first class and had done a most useful job here and there would be no person better qualified to handle any such discussions. I arranged that the Prime Minister would further discuss this matter with Duncan when he saw him.

S. M. B.

[AA:M100, MAY 1944]

1 U.K. Minister of War Transport.

2 U.K. Paymaster General.

3 U.K. Senior Assistant Secretary in the War Cabinet Office.

4 See Document 161.

5 On file AA:A5954, box 658.

6 See Documents 51, 52 and 67.

7 Not published.

8 Premier of New South Wales 1925-27 and 1930-32.

9 Businessman and adviser to Evatt.

10 Not published.

11 Not published.

12 Not located.

13 Permanent Under-Secretary of State at the Dominions Office.

14 For wartime arrangements regarding the sale of wool see S. J.

Butlin, War Economy 1939-42, Australian War Memorial, Canberra, 1955, pp. 60-6.

15 Justice William Owen, Chairman of the Central Wool Committee.

[LONDON], 25 May 1944