307 Cabinet Submission by Chifley

Agendum 1198 CANBERRA, 13 June 1946


Introductory Dr. Evatt has suggested that consideration be given to the creation of a post of Ambassador to the United States of America, in lieu of the present rank of Minister. He proposes this as a first step to increase the status of Australian diplomatic representation. He suggests that early consideration should also be given to raising the rank of Australian representatives in France, China and the U.S.S.R.

Dr. Evatt's cablegram to Mr. Makin of 10th June, 1946 reads:-

'The Secretary of State has asked me to agree that the Mission of the United States in Australia and the Australian Mission in the United States will in future rank as Embassies and not as Legations. Byrnes is most anxious about the matter because his prospective Nominee has been promised by the President the rank of Ambassador and Byrnes is most definite that the rank in the case of Australia should not be less than that of a diplomatic representative, between the United States and Canada and numerous other countries of far less significance than Australia or Canada.

I feel that the course recommended should be taken and similar elevation of status should take place in connection with other missions on progressive basis. The first step is to be taken in relation to the United States.

I have been asked to conclude this matter as soon as possible.

This will mean when you are formally appointed after the dissolution of Parliament, you will be appointed to the position of First Australian Ambassador and the United States appointee who will shortly be announced will also have that rank. The question is largely one of rank and status because Embassies rank between themselves and the most junior Ambassador ranks senior to the most senior Minister. China would expect similar recognition and also France and Russia, these powers all being permanent members of the Security Council. However, Byrnes does not wish to wait until all these arrangements are completed and is anxious to have an early announcement.'

Representation in the four countries In China, 14 countries are represented by ambassadors, namely, Belgium, U.S.S.R., U.S.A., United Kingdom, Poland, Netherlands, Norway, Canada, Brazil, Turkey, Czechoslovakia, Peru, Mexico and France. 5 countries only are represented at the Chinese capital by ministers, namely, Portugal, Iran, Sweden, Chile and Australia.

In the United States, the representatives of all major countries as well as those of a number of European States and South American Republics hold ambassadorial ranks.

A similar position obtains in the U.S.S.R. and France.

The Canadian precedent Canada is represented by Canadian Ambassadors in 8 countries, namely, Chile, Brazil, France, China, Mexico, Peru, U.S.A. and the U.S.S.R. There are Canadian Ministers in the following 8 countries: Argentine, Belgium, Czechoslovakia, Greece, Netherlands, Norway, Poland and Yugoslavia.

It will be noted that the Canadian representative holds ambassadorial rank in the four countries now under consideration.

The Canadian decision to raise the status of her representation in more important world centres has been put into effect within the last few years.

Significance of ranks There is now no hard and fast rule to govern the circumstances under which countries exchange ambassadors rather than ministers, although it is usual for major powers to accredit ambassadors to major powers or to countries where importance is attached to the relationship. Conversely it is usual for smaller nations who attach importance to a particular relationship to adopt the tank of ambassador, rather than that of minister. The matter is largely affected by considerations of national prestige.

It is in considerations of national prestige, diplomatic precedence and status generally that the main significance of the description of ambassadors is to be found. The attachment of ambassadorial rank to a representative is of practical importance inasmuch as it (a) is taken to indicate the degree of importance in which the relationship between two countries is held and (b) fixes the seniority of the particular representative and governs the facilities to be made available to him in the country to which he is accredited.

Australian practice The rank of minister was adopted by Australia when we first entered into diplomatic relations with foreign countries. The first appointment of an Australian Minister was to the United States at the beginning of 1940. Up to the present Australian diplomatic rank has not gone beyond that of Minister.

Recommendation I recommend- (a) that approval be given to raising the rank of Australian Minister in the United States to that of Ambassador;

(b) that approval in principle be given to a similar step being taken in respect of China, France and the U.S.S.R., the fact of this approval to be informally mentioned to these three countries;

(c) that if (a) and (b) are approved, the necessary steps be taken by the Minister for External Affairs to obtain Royal assent and the formal agreement of the Governments concerned. [1]

J. B. CHIFLEY Prime Minister

1 Cabinet approved the recommendations on 14 June and royal assent to the change was notified a week later. Simultaneous announcements of the appointment of Makin to Washington and of Robert Butler to Canberra were made on 9 July, both governments subsequently agreeing to adopt 19 July as the date on which their legations were raised to embassies. Evatt had requested that as the United States had made the first approach, and in view of the importance of the U.S.-Australian relationship, the official announcement should precede any formal discussions with other governments. In the event, relations with China, France and the Soviet Union were not raised to ambassadorial level until 1948.

[AA:A1067, IC46/64/8/1]