18th April, 1929


(Due to arrive Canberra 17.5.29)

My dear P.M.,

The High Commissioner's [1] dinner at Australia House for the Economic Mission [2] went off quite well a few days ago. Duckham went sick at the last moment but the other three made speeches, as well as Amery [3] and J. H. Thomas. [4] Sir Ernest Clark made a long speech in defence of our financial position, in support of which were distributed to everyone present sheets of figures comparative of the debt position of Australia and Great Britain at various stages of their history. I enclose copy which is of some interest.

J.H. Thomas made, for the most part, a very amusing speech which delighted everybody. He takes the most amazing liberties which nobody resents. He made people rock with laughter by telling them what I am sure is a completely synthetic story-'My wife met Mrs.

Amery lately and Mrs. Amery told her that they were living well beyond their means-and with this election coming off, did Mrs.

Thomas know anything by which they could make a bit of money? Mrs.

Thomas said straight off-quick-like-Yes, you go a bear of conservatives on the Stock Exchange-you can't go wrong'! But the denouement came towards the end when Thomas was in the serious part of his speech and was about to propose the High Commissioner's health-'And I say this: let no man point the finger of scorn at Ryrie because he is of humble birth.' This made everybody gasp as it is, I understand, quite untrue. [5]

You may remember that J.H. Thomas suggested over a year ago that after the next General Election here it might be a good thing for a Big Labour Four to go out to Australia. It is no use, of course, bringing up this subject again with Thomas before the election, but if you still think well of it, I could take it up with him privately soon after the election-whatever government is returned.

There is not much to say about the Budget. It is thought to be sound without being spectacular. Having a few tea shares, I welcomed the lifting of the duty of 4d. per pound on tea-but I think that this personal benefit is about the only imperial significance that it had.

Havelock Wilson, of the National Seamen's Union, died this week.

[6] I had seen a certain amount of him on the questions of communists connected with shipping in Australia, Tom Walsh [7], and the International Seamen's Club in Sydney. He was a fine, rugged, old character, even in this last year when he was reduced and immobile through various afflictions. I expect the Seamen's Union-and the shipowners-will have a stormy time coming, as it has only been the personality of Wilson that has held the seamen's organisation together in the face of attempts to form a rival rough-neck union. I know that some of the shipping companies are rather despondent about the prospect.

I enclose leading article from the 'Financial Times' of 17th April with reference to the efforts of the Federal Reserve Banks to curb Stock Exchange speculation in New York. You may remember that I have tried in the past to cover this subject briefly in letters to you, as it is a factor of influence and interest in the international situation.

You will be interested to read the record of the recent conversation between Chamberlain [8] and Mussolini in the Foreign Office print going to you by this mail (South Eastern Europe, Section 1 of April 8th). It is too long to quote from, as it covers world politics on the grand scale.

Frank Clarke [9] and W.L. Baillieu [10] have both arrived in London during this past week.

I went to F.A. Keating's funeral yesterday. He was a Director of Gibbs, Bright and Antony Gibbs & Son. [11] The grimness of a big funeral is appalling and barbarous. It is surely better to accept the fact of death and to make as little of a parade of it as possible.

I am, Yours sincerely, R.G. CASEY

1 Sir Granville Ryrie.

2 The four British industrialists who visited Australia in 1928.

Led by Sir Arthur Duckham, the other members were Sir Hugo Hirst, Sir Ernest Clark and Dougal Malcolm.

3 Leopold Amery, Secretary for the Colonies and for Dominion Affairs.

4 General Secretary of the National Union of Railwaymen.

5 Ryrie was of landed stock, his father (Alex) was a member of the N.S.W. Legislative Council and his mother was a judge's daughter;

he was educated at The King's School and was a grazier himself before entering State and then Federal Parliament.

6 Hostile to the Labour Party and to the Trades Union Congress, Wilson was about to be tackled by the latter when he died. A union boss more in the American than the British mould, he worked closely with shipowners who forced membership of his union on their seamen.

7 President of the Australian Seaman's Union, Walsh was a communist who later moved to a more moderate political position.

In 1925, the Bruce Government had tried to deport Walsh, who had migrated from England before the turn of the century. See Letter 172.

8 Sir Austen Chamberlain, Foreign Secretary.

9 Sir Frank Clarke, President of the Victorian Legislative Council, and a director of the National Bank of Australasia and of Goldsbrough Mort Ltd.

10 William Laurence Baillieu, Melbourne financier and perhaps the most gifted of a large and extraordinarily gifted family. One of his sons, Clive, was raised to the peerage as Lord Baillieu in 1953. See note 3 to Letter 130.

11 London firms with Australian interests, especially in shipping.