200 Shedden to Hankey Letter


Thank you for your letters of 17th and 24th October on the United Kingdom Government's White Paper on the 'Central Organisation for Defence', and for the copy of the report of the debate in the House of Lords.

2. You will recall, when I let you see our papers in London, that I mentioned the differences between the United Kingdom and Australian proposals. The former were limited to an exchange of Military Missions, but the latter provided for reciprocal representation at the appropriate levels on the machinery of each party. I quote from the report of the proceedings of the Conference:-

'He (Mr. Chifley) wished to call attention to three principles set out therein (in the Australian proposal). First, the Governments concerned must have an effective voice at an early stage in the formulation of defence policy and in the higher control of planning. Secondly, responsibility for the development of the defence aspect of matters relating to regional security in the Pacific should be assigned to the Australian Government machinery.

Thirdly, there should be Dominion representation in the United Kingdom machinery corresponding to any United Kingdom representation in the Australian machinery."

3. In the Prime Minister's instructions to the Defence Committee on his return to Australia for the drawing up of a plan to give effect to his views the Prime Minister said:-

'(b) In the case of the Australian Higher Defence Machinery, provision should be made for co-opting the High Commissioners of the United Kingdom and New Zealand (and others as necessary) to the Council of Defence when matters affecting those parts of the Empire are under consideration.

(c) Similarly, provision should be made for co-opting the Head of the Accredited United Kingdom and New Zealand Service Staffs to the Defence Committee (Australian).

(d) Corresponding provision would also be necessary for Australian representation on the parallel machinery on the Governmental and official levels in the United Kingdom (and New Zealand if necessary).'

4. When the Prime Minister made his review to Parliament [2], he summarised his proposals as follows:-

'(i) It is fundamental to future arrangements for co-operation in Defence that appropriate machinery should be created to provide for an effective voice by the Governments concerned in policy and in the higher control of planning on the official level.

(ii) There should be assigned to the Australian Government machinery responsibility for the development of the defence aspect of matters relating to Regional Security in the Pacific, in which the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand are concerned, and provision should be made for the representation of the United Kingdom and New Zealand at the appropriate levels on such machinery.

(iii) Corresponding provision would also be necessary for Dominion representation on any parallel machinery in the United Kingdom. On the official level, the Australian Government contemplates the strengthening of its Joint Service Staff in London, as a counterpart to the Defence Committee in Australia, and to provide an agency for advice to the Resident Minister in London on Defence matters.

(iv) Consideration is also being given to the Australian Joint Service Staff requirements in Washington and at the seat of the United Nations. Development in this direction would depend on any arrangement reached with the United States and machinery which may be created for the purposes of implementing any agreement.'

5. You will recall from my letter of 20th June forwarding a copy of the Prime Minister's review, that I said:-

'I hope you will be able to publish an article on this early and give some encouragement to the Australian viewpoint. As you will understand, some other parts of the Empire are more reserved in their approach to this matter.'

6. I do not think that there is any need for the Australian Government to re-iterate by cablegram its view that it desires representation on the United Kingdom Defence Committee. it said so at the Conference last April and the United Kingdom Government is well aware of it. The detailed Australian plan will adhere to the proposals submitted to the Conference, but its completion has been delayed by pressure of work on the Joint Planning Committee relating to Post-War Defence Policy. Mr. Alexander is reported in the press to have said in the House of Commons on 1st November:-

'If proposals outlined in the White Paper are accepted by the Dominions, it would be the aim of the Government to make them effective.'

Presumably the United Kingdom is reluctant to mention the Australian proposals because of the susceptibilities of some of the other Dominions on this subject. It is the same story as in international conferences. Progress is dependent on the point to which the least willing member is prepared to go. Still, that should not prevent credit being given to those who are willing to go further and submit specific proposals accordingly.


[AA:A5954, 7/5]

1 See Volume IX, Document 210.

2 i.e. his report on the Prime Ministers' Conference, presented on 19 June.

[MELBOURNE], 6 November 1946