166 Chifley to Williams

Letter CANBERRA, 6 January 1947

TOP SECRET

I refer to your letter of 30th September, 1946, Ref.5/273 [1], in regard to the question of Australian liaison with British Defence Committee in South East Asia and note that the specific proposals put forward by your Government are:-

(a) the Australian Commissioner in Malaya provides a suitable channel through which liaison with Australia may be arranged;

(b) he should attend as an observer at meetings of the British Defence Committee in South East Asia; [2]

(c) British Defence Committee in South East Asia papers should be forwarded to Australia after they have been seen by the United Kingdom authorities;

(d) liaison visits should be arranged on a Service level as required.

It is observed that the liaison arrangements required between the Australian authorities and the British Defence Committee in South East Asia will depend on the conclusions reached on the proposals submitted to the Prime Ministers' Conference in London in April/May 1946. The Defence Committee has concurred in the proposals in paragraph 1(a), (b) and (c) as a temporary measure pending the establishment of a permanent organisation for co- ordination of British Commonwealth Defence. It is considered that service liaison visits should be deferred at least until the discussions on the proposals put before this Conference are finished.

It is noted that the proposals submitted by the United Kingdom authorities 'have been formed in the light of the long term strategic policy in South East Asia, which is to make Australia in any future war the main support area in the Far East'.

It will be recalled that when making my statement on Australian Defence Policy to the last Prime Ministers' Conference I stated that 'while planning may proceed on the basis of principles providing for such matters as uniformity in organisation, training and equipping of forces and in co-ordination of supply, strategic planning must await the clarification of political arrangements for security and the provision of effective Government machinery for controlling such arrangements'.

I also observed that 'on the supply aspect the detailed procedure should be the examination of specific aspects of the problem'. [3]

It is noted that this matter also is dependent on the outcome of the discussions which were begun at the Prime Ministers' Conference in London in April/May 1946.

Subject to the foregoing, the Government has approved of the proposals in paragraph 1(a), (b) and (c), as a temporary measure pending the establishment of a permanent Organisation for co- ordination of British Commonwealth Defence.

1 Volume X, Document 144.

2 The U.K. Government's proposals had here included the words 'when matters of concern to the Commonwealth Government are under consideration'. The discrepancy was brought to Burton's attention by Shedden in November. Massey had, in the interim, insisted on attending in accordance with the terms of this letter, and argued in Dispatch 2/48 of 2 January 1948 that Australian participation would have been 'at least jeopardised' otherwise.

3 See Volume IX, Document 200.

[AA : A816/43, 11/301/709]