184 Chifley to Attlee
Letter CANBERRA, 16 September 1947
TOP SECRET AND PERSONAL
CO-OPERATION IN BRITISH COMMONWEALTH DEFENCE
I have carefully considered your letter of 17th August on Co- operation in British Commonwealth Defence and the future of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in Australia, and have had a discussion with the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations during his visit.
2. In paragraph 2 you refer to the relationship of New Zealand to commitments accepted by the Australian Government of a British Commonwealth nature, which Australia has laid it down as fundamental must be undertaken by the Australian Government Machinery, provision being made for liaison with other Governments concerned, as outlined in the Australian Memorandum. I cannot do better than forward you a copy of the following correspondence with the Prime Minister of New Zealand:-
(i) Mr.Fraser's reply of l4th July to my letter of 28th May which was similar to the one addressed to you.
(ii) My answer of 13th August which was written after consultations with Field Marshal Montgomery on his return from New Zealand.
(iii) A further letter of 2nd September to Mr. Fraser in confirmation of a discussion with him in Canberra on 1 September.
3. It will be noted from the letter of 14th July that the Prime Minister of New Zealand was concerned about safeguarding the position of the New Zealand Government in participating in the Australian machinery 'on the basis of equality' and with 'an effective voice and vote'.
4. In paragraphs 4 and 5 of my letter of 13th August, it was pointed out that cooperation 'on the basis of equality' was specifically provided for in the conclusions of the Prime Ministers' Conference and in the Australian Memorandum.
5. In paragraph 9 of my letter, it was made clear that the Australian Government's proposal for liaison between the countries on the Government and official levels by mutual representation on each other's machinery retained to each Government sovereign control of its own policy and administrative machinery on a basis of equality.
6. In paragraphs 10 and 11 it was pointed out that, in the light of experience of the working of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee in Australia and the assignment to the Australian Government Machinery of the responsibility of carrying out the extensive commitments which it accepted during the war in respect of the United States Forces and the British Pacific Fleet, it was fundamental that commitments accepted by Australia of a British Commonwealth nature must be undertaken by the Australian Government Machinery. It was also pointed out that, to give effect to my statement that Australia would make a greater contribution to British Commonwealth Defence in the Pacific, provision has been made in the Government's Five Years' Defence Programme of an amount of 33,500,000 for Research and Development and 2,129,000 for a Joint Intelligence Organisation. These projects are an integral part of Australian Defence Policy, for which the Government is responsible to Parliament. I might also have added the establishment of a Naval Aviation Branch in the Royal Australian Navy, towards the ultimate total cost of which 23,408,490 has been provided in the Programme, and which the United Kingdom Government, in cablegram No. 181 of 16th August, welcomed as a valuable contribution to the naval resources of the British Commonwealth in the Pacific Area.
7. Finally, as mentioned in paragraph 9 of my letter of 13th August, New Zealand, as well as Australia, is designated a Main Support Area and the heart of a strategic zone. It was agreed at the London Conference that 'the system for co-ordination should be based upon the national defence organisation to be maintained in the United Kingdom and in each Dominion'. It was assumed, therefore, that the New Zealand Government would similarly want to exercise control through its own machinery of responsibilities accepted by it.
8. In paragraph 2 of your letter, reference is also made to the extent of the responsibilities which Australia may feel able to undertake. It will be recalled from paragraph 6 of my letter of 28th May that, after mentioning the specific commitments of a British Commonwealth nature referred to in paragraph 6 above, it was stated that the Government is prepared to examine other measures relating to the development and defence of Australia as a main support area and the associated area of regional defence, but these measures would be considered in relation to the priority and importance of other Defence proposals and commitments, and to the amount that can be provided for Defence. You will be aware from my cablegram No. 111 of 6th May that the Australian Government felt that we might further the policy of the strategic development and distribution of the resources of the British Commonwealth as discussed at the Conference of Prime Ministers, by helping more in research and development for which, as stated earlier, 33,500,000 has been provided in our programme. in accordance with your reply No. 102 of 24th May, and my further No.242 of 6th September, the Commonwealth Advisory Committee on Defence Science in London next November is to consider various fields in which Australia might render additional assistance. Also, the Inter-Governmental Agreement between the United Kingdom - Australian Governments on the Guided Weapons Project, including the apportionment of costs, has still to be determined.
9. I would thank you for the agreement expressed in paragraph 3 to accept an Accredited Representative of the Australian Defence Department, the Defence Committee, and the Chiefs of Staff Committee, to their corresponding bodies in the United Kingdom, and to provide this representative with all facilities.
10. It is noted from paragraph 4 that you entirely agree in principle with the comments in paragraph 12 of our memorandum on Co-operation in British Commonwealth Defence about the procedure for the use of the Australian Defence Machinery in matters of British Commonwealth Co-operation.
11. As you state in paragraph 5, a single Head of the British Military Liaison Staff, with a small Joint Service Staff, is in harmony with our proposals for accrediting a United Kingdom Representative and staff to the Australian Defence Department and its machinery, and we will be glad to give this officer and his staff all facilities. It will be recalled from paragraph 12 of our memorandum that, though the Head of the Liaison Staff will attend and speak at the various Committees, he may be accompanied by members of his staff, according to the nature of the subject to be discussed. It is presumed this arrangement will meet your reference to the Head of the Liaison Staff being normally the United Kingdom Representative. It is observed from paragraph 6 that you would like to review this organisation in a year's time.
12.It is also noted from paragraph 5 that, for reasons of economy, the Head of the Military Liaison Staff and his two lower ranked colleagues and advisers from the other two Services will be the representatives of the British Chiefs of Staff Committee accredited to the Australian Defence Department, and the British Service Representatives to the Australian Service Departments.
This is, of course, quite acceptable, but it is important that they should be clearly designated as individual Service Representatives to the Service Departments in respect of such functions, as distinct from those for which they are accredited to the Defence Department. In regard to their further responsibility as the British Military Advisers to the United Kingdom High Commissioner in Australia, a position which you understand to be similar to the Australian Defence Department Representative in London, I would mention that, in our case, sub-paragraph 16(b) of the Australian memorandum provides that the Australian Defence Representative in London is responsible for advice to the Australian High Commissioner in London on questions of Defence Policy and of general Joint Service interest, after such consultation as is necessary with the Australian Service Representatives in London. Similarly, sub-paragraph 12(ii)provides that the Head of the United Kingdom Liaison staff would accompany his High Commissioner to the Australian Council of Defence as adviser.
13. In regard to the future of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee in Australia, it is noted from paragraph 7 that you are agreeable to it being dissolved as soon as practicable, and the control of the British Commonwealth Occupation Force being assigned to the Australian Government as proposed. A letter similar to the one addressed to you was forwarded at the same time to the Governments of the other parts of the British Commonwealth participating in the British Commonwealth Occupation Force, but no replies have so far been received. You will be further advised of the arrangements for the change-over, when the concurrence of all Governments has been received.
14. With reference to the approach to the problems mentioned in your final paragraph, I would make the following comments:-
(a) The extent of the responsibilities that the Australian Government is willing to undertake in matters relating to regional security in the Pacific: This has been referred to in paragraph 8 above.
(b) Measures for the protection and furtherance of Commonwealth interests in South East Asia: As stated in paragraph 7 of the Australian memorandum on Co-operation in British Commonwealth Defence, the methods and procedure on political policy must conform to the broad principles that were referred to therein. The machinery now agreed to will provide a means by which military policy and measures can be examined and considered.
(c) An implementation of the principle of joint responsibility of Commonwealth members for the protection of lines of communication between main support areas: As stated by me at the Prime Ministers' Conference, and as mentioned in paragraph 6 of the Australian memorandum on Co-operation in British Commonwealth Defence, this is a matter for examination in the light of other commitments, and particularly those of a British Commonwealth nature which have already been or may be accepted. The machinery now agreed to will provide a means of doing this.
15. In connection with sub-paragraph 14(b) above, the question has been raised informally of liaison between the South East Asia Defence Committee and the Australian Defence Machinery. It has been pointed out by us that this Committee is essentially part of and responsible to the United Kingdom Defence Machinery, but, subject to the scope of such liaison being defined, the Australian Government would have no objection to direct liaison on an official level, if the United Kingdom Government should desire it.
16. In conclusion, I would like to repeat some views on the use of the machinery of the various parts of the British Commonwealth for co-operation in Defence, which were expressed to Field Marshal Montgomery during his visit, and which met with his complete agreement. Each Government must retain the right of deciding its own Policy and the commitments which it is prepared to accept. The constitutional history of the British Commonwealth has shown that the correct process in all these matters is an evolution. The machinery should be allowed to develop in an evolutionary manner as problems are tackled. This process could be retarded or even frustrated by an anxiety to hasten too quickly. The approach has to be gradual and realistic. It would be quite misleading to accept responsibilities and make promises which could not be carried out. As stated in sub-paragraph 9(a) of the Australian memorandum on Co-operation in British Commonwealth Defence, it is also fundamental to provide for an effective voice by Governments in the higher control of planning on the official level. There can be no question of Governments being embarrassed on the political level by the plans of joint Planning Staffs on the official level, which are inconsistent with political reality and the resources that can be provided. As you are aware, there may also be legislative enactments which relate to such matters.
17. Finally, I would state that the Australian Defence Machinery is at present heavily burdened with local matters relating to Post-War Policy, with questions concerning the United Nations, Disarmament, Peace Treaties, and with the commitments of a British Commonwealth nature already accepted. In addition, there is a shortage of suitable officers, both in the Services and the Public Service, for the tasks in hand. It will therefore be essential to consider carefully the addition of new problems to the load that is at present being carried by the Australian machinery.