403 Embassy in Washington to Department of External Affairs

Cablegram 944 WASHINGTON, 17 July 1947, 6.18 p.m.



F.E.C. met today. In introducing Whaling Paper [1], Chairman stated that since Diplomatic exchanges were still going on, the item would continue on Agenda. Mr. Makin stated that what possibilities there might have been in this direction had been explored and he was not sure that the position at the moment could be advanced much further by Diplomatic negotiations. He said he could not feel happy at this item being deferred indefinitely and then ultimately having to be removed from the Agenda because time had passed when action could be taken. He expected Commission to at least register decision and hoped that if Members were not in a position to do so today, a decision could be finalised at an early date.

McCoy, who had not been briefed by his Delegation to expect vote today was at a loss to handle problem. He lost his temper and behaved in a manner reminiscent of early days of F.E.C. He chose to interpret Mr. Makin's remarks as an insinuation that the United States was deliberately postponing action on this matter, and went on to say that he resented suggestion that there were any ulterior motives on the part of United States.

Mr. Makin stated that no such insinuation had been intended and was forced to protest strongly at interpretation which McCoy had placed on his remarks. McCoy said that in due time, when diplomatic negotiations with other countries had been concluded, he would state position of United States Government. He concluded by stating that Mr. Makin should refer to the newspaper article containing Mr. Chifley's recent speech. [2] 'Your Prime Minister', he said, 'at least has an understanding of the action of my Government which does not seem to be expressed here.' McCoy then ruled that item remain on Agenda.

We have been informed informally that State Department as well as McCoy has interpreted the Prime Minister's recent speech as a weakening of the official Australian position on whaling. [3]

1 See Document 401 and note 2 thereto.

2 On.15 July the Sydney Morning Herald reported Chifley's statement that Australia and MacArthur were 'not getting into rows on minor thing's' and that excellent relations between them were not likely to be disturbed by arguments over matters such as the second Japanese expedition.

3 In Cablegram 862,dated 21 July, the Department of External Affairs explained that Chifley's statement had 'attempted to put matter in perspective of Australian-US relations' and was not intended to imply a weakening of Australia's attitude. On 24 July Makin made a 'firm and lengthy statement' to the FEC refuting arguments in a statement tabled by the US member, and on 31 July he 'made strenuous efforts' to force FEC231/4 (See note 1) to a vote. As at the previous meeting the UK member successfully requested adjournment on the grounds that he had not yet received instructions, and was supported by China, the Philippines and the Netherlands.

[AA : A1838,479/3/4/1, iii]