107 Attlee to Chifley

Letter LONDON, 31 January 1949


We have studied with great interest the Report [1] which you sent me under cover of your letter of the 10th December, 1948 [2], giving the views of the Australian Defence Committee on the United Kingdom Government's Memorandum 'World [Situa]tion and its Defence Aspects', which was circulated as P.M.M.(48) 1 [3] to Commonwealth Prime Ministers before the meeting last October.

We have noted that you have authorised your Defence Committee to examine, in conjunction with the United Kingdom and New Zealand Liaison Staffs, certain aspects of Commonwealth Defence policy, and that the views of the United Kingdom are an essential prerequisite to this study. The United Kingdom Chiefs of Staff are now engaged in the preparation of a paper entitled 'Defence Appreciation as a Basis for Military Planning by Commonwealth Staffs' which gives the United Kingdom view on the two aspects of Commonwealth Defence which your Defence Committee are to study.

The paper will of course take into account the comments of your Defence Committee on P.M.M. (48) 1. As soon as it is ready we shall, as you suggest, discuss it with the Australian Defence Representative in London, who will no doubt forward our views to your Defence Committee.

Before your letter arrived we had already given a good deal of thought to the procedure for the next step in Military planning between the staffs of our two countries and of New Zealand. We had come to the conclusion that the best course would be for a planning team from the United Kingdom to visit Australia and New Zealand and discuss the matter there with the Service authorities.

However, in view of your preference for discussion in the first instance with the Australian Defence Representative here, we are content to adopt this procedure. The United Kingdom Chiefs of Staff think however that there will be much value in a visit to Australia by a United Kingdom Service planning team as soon as your Defence Committee have considered the United Kingdom paper to which I referred above. The purpose of the visit would be to hold detailed discussions with your Service authorities on regional defence arrangements and matters arising out of the United Kingdom paper. Would you let me know what you think of this proposal? We hope that the study of the basic problems of Commonwealth policy and strategy might progress fast enough to enable a visit from a United Kingdom team to take place if possible before the middle of this year. Our suggestion is that after discussions in Australia (to which you would no doubt invite New Zealand representatives) the United Kingdom planning team should go on to New Zealand to hold similar discussions. We are putting this proposal to the New Zealand Government for their consideration.

In paragraph 8 of your letter, you asked whether we had any views on your suggestion to distribute a copy of the Australian Defence Committee's Report to the other Commonwealth Governments. While in general we fully agree as to the desirability of the free interchange of information and views between Commonwealth countries, our own view is that the first need is for Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom to clear their own minds on the complex issues involved, and to agree as between Governments on a strategic policy and basic plan, and that consultation with other Governments should be the next stage. A further consideration in this connection is that Defence talks have still to take place with the new Dominions, and that it might cause embarrassment if, before they have taken place, and agreement as to policy and planning been reached, receipt of copies of your present Report were to lead to a request for the automatic circulation of all such Papers produced by Commonwealth Governments. In the circumstances, I hope that you will agree to send a copy of the Report to the New Zealand Government only at this stage.

1 Document 104 2 Document 105.

3 Document 100.

[AA: A816/52, 14/301/353]