20th June, 1929


(Due to arrive Canberra 19.7.29)

My dear P.M.,

The result of the General Election here is well summed up by the Philadelphia Public Ledger-'The Election represents not so much a victory for the Labour Party as a crushing defeat for the Conservatives'.

Professor Smiddy lunched with me this week. He was I.F.S. Minister at Washington and is now High Commissioner here. He is an attractive Irish type and talks freely. He admits that an the score of work to be done there is little justification for an I.F.S. Legation at Washington, but it was created, as he says, in order to get diplomatic recognition for the I.F.S. by the great American nation, which meant a lot to them, both at home and abroad, in the early days of the Free State. The same desire for recognition for themselves as a nation has prompted the creation of Irish Legations at Paris, Berlin and the Vatican.

He has just been back to Dublin on a board of selection for recruits to the Diplomatic Service, for which they had 14 applicants and picked 3 young men. He tells me that they are stipulating qualifications roughly similar to our own-a University degree, etc., but they leave themselves open to disregard the academic qualifications should applicants be particularly suitable in other directions. They lay great stress on suitable personality and applicants being what is recognised as of the right type.

I said that this Diplomatic Service must be going to cost them a great deal, and he said that unfortunately they were doing it 'on the cheap' and that each post (other than Washington) would cost a total of less than �5,000 a year. They would consist of a Minister, a Secretary and a female clerk. He deplores this economy because, as he says, they will not be able to maintain the standing of other diplomatic missions, and as, particularly in their case, the Ministers will not have a great deal to do, but will have to justify themselves by creating an impression, they are handicapped from the start.

The I.F.S. are going to establish, I think, two consular posts in the United States, in New York and Boston.

I send in another letter by this mail copy of I.F.S. debate (5th June) on the estimates for their External Affairs Department. It is worth your looking through McGilligan's speech (Minister for External Affairs), which concerns itself with making a case for their diplomatic costs abroad, for increased expenditure on External Affairs, and with the 'national status' of the I.F.S.

If, as I hope, you find time to read his speech, you will notice that he says:-

London, Washington, Berlin, Paris, Geneva and the Vatican are the great nodal points of the life of nations. Representation at these centres is the very minimum which any country with a State existence should secure. We hope, of course, to extend our representation at a somewhat later date to Canada and some other of our sister nations in the Commonwealth. We are in constant touch with these nations by correspondence, but it is felt that the method of personal contact will become more and more a normal requirement as our relations increase.

There is nothing much to tell you about the activities of the new Government as yet. Ramsay MacDonald [1] has been away for ten days, returning tomorrow for Cabinet.

MacDonald and Dawes [2] did a sort of circus entertainment about Anglo-American Reparations and Naval Disarmament, to the accompaniment of suitable-or unsuitable-publicity. They met at the house of MacDonald's great friend (Sir Archibald Grant, Bart.), the biscuit manufacturer, in Scotland, and subsequently both made speeches, which have not advanced the subject at all in people's minds, as they contained nothing new and were far from lucid.

Dawes made the Pilgrims' dinner the occasion for his speech, which he read very quickly from a typed document, and which has failed to impress people at all.

He 'featured' the 'yardstick', by which he meant the formula which is to correlate big and small cruisers. Apparently each nation is to be asked to produce its proposals for a 'yardstick', and then the six or so 'yardsticks' are to be correlated-an unenviable job.

None of the Departments that I have encountered are very happy about their new Ministers, but I expect they will get used to things.

People here are fairly sure, from the published indications, that Hoover [3] does not intend to press consideration of the subject of Belligerent Rights-and has very rightly decided that naval limitation must come first.

I hear that the new Government intend to discuss the question of relations with Russia at an early date.

I enclose 'Times' leader (20th June) attacking Ramsay MacDonald for an injudicious press article.

I note the letter you sent me from Dow [4] in New York with regard to Wilkins. [5] This does not give me much pause. Dow knows only a part of the story. I have never thought Wilkins was a very thorough or inspired scientific man, but his usefulness lies in the fact that he has the initiative and courage to open up new areas and do a little rough but useful scientific work which gives the lead to the more scientific but less hardy individuals who follow in his footsteps. He is the tin-opener. In his Antarctic work I would almost disregard the scientific side and look on him merely as an individual who can do a good deal to keep our end up in the way of straight discovery.

As regards his connection with the Hearst Press, I do not blame him in the least. He has never been able to raise money in Australia and until this last month he has never been able to raise money here. The Americans came at him with their purses open and did not impose conditions-other than that he should write a good deal of rather monotonous rubbish for their papers.

I am delighted that our efforts to help Wilkins with the Discovery Committee have been successful-and (as I report in another letter [6]) he is getting �10,000 and the use of the small ship 'William Scoresby' from the Discovery Committee.

According to your instructions, no commitments are being made at this end in respect of our Antarctic Expedition for more than a single season's exploration. This applies to the Charter Party, Press Contracts, Insurance, Publicity, etc. As you know, I feel most strongly that the work of consolidating our claims cannot be done in one season's work. I could expand to you for many pages on this point, but my constant endeavour is to compress my remarks in these personal letters so as not to weary you.

I can imagine that you have no other motive than economy behind your desire not to be committed to more than one season. This I can appreciate-and if lack of funds stops the activities at the end of one season, then there is no more to be said-much as I would deplore it.

But after many talks to Davis [7], I gather that there is every chance (in this as in every other Antarctic Expedition) of the Expedition's breaking down after one season's work owing to internal dissension. Conditions of life on the 'Discovery', although possibly better than a number of previous expeditions, will be hideously cramped and uncomfortable and, for the greater part of the time, wearisome. Mawson, although he has many qualities, is incapable of producing any organisation or of tactfully keeping people contented and interested. Davis predicts, and I think with some reason, that although the Expedition will in all probability produce quite considerable results during one season, there will be a general disinclination on the part of the members to embark on a second season's work.

If, as I hope, the results of the first year's work encourage you to authorise a second season, then I think it would be a good plan for you to talk to Sir David Masson [8] and ask him to bear in mind, even at this early stage, the possibility of his having to replace a large number of the personnel for the work of a possible second season. If he has individuals marked down in his mind in this way, there need not be any great break in continuity of the work.

The accident to the Imperial Airways machine in the Channel [9] has preoccupied their General Manager and he has asked me to postpone temporarily the discussion with him of the details of the proposed Australia-Singapore service, but I will pursue it as soon as possible.

The accident is deplorable but will do good as it will, I hope, force Imperial Airways to write off all the old two-engined Handley Pages-which I have personally refused to travel in for the last two years. It will also, I hope, have the result of tightening up the regulations about flying over the Channel at comparatively low altitudes. The London-Paris route is not a very safe one and I have always maintained that it should be flown at 6,000 instead of 2,000 feet. I have done it about 20 times now in various weather conditions, and have been considerably scared at times, mostly by low flying.

I gather from Officer [10] that he has no option but to get out of the External Affairs Department. I know from your telegram that you have done whatever was possible. I am particularly sorry, both on personal grounds and because I feel that the work and effectiveness of the Department will suffer.

I enclose 'Times' report (14th June) of Lloyd George's Liberal Party's policy, which is a pretty low-down effort. [11]

I enclose, as a matter of interest, 'Times' report of Lord Hewart's [12] address on Modern Oratory.

I am, Yours sincerely, R.G. CASEY

P.S. I enclose an interesting leading article on the Gold Standard from the 'Financial Times' of 17th June.

1 Prime Minister.

2 Brig Gen Charles Dawes, U.S. Vice-President.

3 Herbert Hoover, U.S. President.

4 David Dow, Official Secretary to the Australian Commissioner in the United States.

5 Sir Hubert Wilkins, Australian polar explorer.

6 Letter 201.

7 J.K. Davis, second-in-command of the British, Australian and New Zealand Antarctic Research Expedition of 1929-31.

8 Emeritus Professor of Chemistry in the University of Melbourne and Vice-President of the Australian National Research Council.

9 Seven people had drowned when a Handley Page W10 plane on a London to Paris flight came down in the English Channel near Dungeness.

10 F.K. Officer, recruited to the External Affairs Branch by Casey in 1927, was deemed too old for permanent appointment, but in fact stayed on to become in the late 1930s a pioneer of the Australian diplomatic service.

11 David Lloyd George (Prime Minister 1916-22) had stated the main aims of Liberal Party policy to be world-wide disarmament, international arbitration rather than confrontation, domestic unemployment relief through reconstruction and electoral reform through proportional representation.

12 Lord Chief Justice.