4th July, 1929


(Due to arrive Canberra 3.8.29)

My dear P.M.,

I met Sidney Webb in his new role as Lord Passfield last week. [1] He is a pleasant and genial old man who talked away happily for half-an-hour. A doctrinaire rather than a 'doer', who has embraced Socialism because of his altruistic pity for the under-dog, and who has never encountered the difficulties of putting his doctrines into effect.

I have now met all the Labour Cabinet with whom I am likely to have to deal and they have all expressed themselves as being ready to help. They have nearly all used the same form of words-'I will tell my Private Secretaries to give you access to me whenever you want it'.

I was reminded in the Dominions Office this week that H.M.G. is faced with the problem of finding Governors-General for Australia, New Zealand and South Africa-all during 1930; and that this was giving them some concern as there were very few applicants. I was asked to try and discover privately if Somers would be a welcome name to suggest to you for Governor-General, or if the fact that he had been a Victorian State Governor would tell against him- particularly in New South Wales. [2] If you have anything to say in the above regard, I know any suggestions would be well received and treated in the greatest confidence.

I send in another letter copy of the Chiefs of Staff Report (1929). The Labour Government were very non-committal about accepting it-as it is based on the political premises of the Conservative Government. They therefore merely 'took note', and reserved themselves the right of revision of the political basis of the Report.

I write on the Air route to Australia in another letter. The gist of it is that it is most unlikely that the route will be through from England to Singapore before the end of 1931. India is the stumbling block and apparently there is no means of overcoming the reluctance of the Indian legislature to find the money to subsidise the route from Karachi to Rangoon any sooner. This means that it is not much use your getting the Australia-Singapore route going much before the end of 1931.

It is still possible that the Labour Government may take this matter up and find some means of expediting the Indian section. I am to see Lord Thomson (Air Minister) next week and will keep the matter alive.

In January last Chamberlain [3] sent an important despatch to Lampson [4] in Peking asking him if the time was not ripe for a 'drive' in favour of British trade in China and asking for his observations in the matter of loans to China, etc. Lampson now replies (in print going to you by this mail) in the general tone that he does not recommend any positive action on the part of British interests at present-in other words, he doesn't think the time is ripe.

Not having heard from you, I gathered that you had no specific points that you wanted included in the Queen's letter to go to you by Dame Janet Campbell [5] on Maternity and Child Welfare. I got in touch with Dr. Park [6], Medical Officer at Australia House, and together we made out a suitable draft letter. I now understand that the Queen is going to sign this letter to you conveying her satisfaction that the Commonwealth Government is giving increased attention to the national problems of maternity and child welfare.

This is in a form in which you can give it to the press, and it ought to give the movement a certain amount of fillip.

I hear confidentially that Morris [7] has decided to sell his special overseas six-cylinder 21/60 h.p. Wolseley closed saloon car at 285 f.o.b. works England to Australian and overseas dealers-which will mean, I understand, a selling price of about 400 in Australia-if the local dealers are willing to take a reasonably small profit. Morris's best price to British dealers is to be 425 less commission or 340 nett. I have tried this car and it is my definite impression that it is a good, full-sized and full-powered machine with many up-to-date refinements, and I think that a selling price of 400 in Australia will be the first real attempt at competition that the Americans will have encountered.

It had been arranged that I was to meet Morris at lunch this week, but J. H. Thomas's [8] Secretary got to hear of it and Thomas is now taking my place at lunch-and I am to meet Morris later.

I enclose, as a matter of interest, a set of the new Irish Free State coins.

I have managed to get five or six hundred pounds more money for Wilkins [9], and he has himself got another thousand, so that his financial worries in respect of the coming season's work are behind him.

There is nothing but a mass of detail to tell you about the Mawson Expedition [10] arrangements at this end. The specifying in detail of an aeroplane, ship and aeroplane wireless, echo-sounding gear, ship's laboratory, trawling gear-and all the rest of it-all come into the day's work.

All concerned (in which is included myself-and I expect yourself) are heartily tired of the controversy over the purchase of outside phosphates. I managed to get the Dominions Office to compromise a good deal in the matter generally, but failed to budge them over the necessity for unanimity between Commissioners in the matter of total annual tonnage of outside phosphates to be purchased. If finance was not such a bogey at present, it would seem to me to be worth while considering buying H.M.G. out of the Nauru agreement and giving them an undertaking to supply this country with a stipulated proportion of the Nauru and Ocean tonnage on a 'cost plus x' basis, if and when they required it. There would be opposition to this, of course, but we might get away with it. [11]

The Labour Government have not yet decided what they will do about Singapore. One fears the worst but hopes for the best.

They are to make a cut of a million odd in the Admiralty vote for this year, cut out two submarines and suspend construction on two cruisers-as a gesture to the Americans pending discussion on Naval Limitation. The Admiralty are rather relieved that it is not more sweeping.

The place is alive with rumour and prognostications which I will not bother you with-a natural corollary of the extreme secrecy which is the order of the day.

They conduct Cabinet meetings with Hankey [12] present up to a certain point, when they ask him to leave-so that my usual reliable sources of information are not so productive as usual.

The Hudson's Bay Company has asked McDougall [13] and myself unofficially to assist them in the drafting of a letter to you which will open the question of the formation of a company to develop and exploit the Australian sector of the Antarctic. We have agreed and I have a draft prepared which, after discussion with McDougall, we will pass to them, making it clear that it represents personal views and is in no way committal. If we had not done this they would have asked for a Charter and all sorts of absurdities that you could not have looked at and which would only have delayed the negotiations. I have put down what is reasonable and which I think you might be willing to accept-but I don't know that the Hudson's Bay people will accept it.

Since the above, I have seen Lord Thomson (the new Air Minister whom I knew previously). He asks me to tell you that you can count on his active assistance in the matter of expediting the air route to Australia, and he is to consult his colleagues at the India Office and Dominions Office. Lord Irwin [14] arrives in London in a fortnight and is to be importuned in the matter.

I am, Yours sincerely, R.G. CASEY

1 Secretary for the Colonies and for Dominion Affairs.

2 Lord Somers, Governor of Victoria 1926-31.

3 Sir Austen Chamberlain, then Foreign Secretary.

4 Sir Miles Lampson, Minister to China.

5 See Letter 193.

6 Dr Charles Park, from 1931 Director of the League of Nations Eastern Bureau at Singapore.

7 Sir William Morris (later Lord Nuffield) automobile manufacturing pioneer.

8 Lord Privy Seal and Minister of Employment, General Secretary of the National Union of Railwaymen.

9 Sir Hubert Wilkins, Australian polar explorer.

10 The British, Australian and New Zealand Antarctic Research Expedition of 1929-31 led by Sir Douglas Mawson.

11 See note 6 to Letter 25.

12 Sir Maurice Hankey, Secretary to the Cabinet.

13 F.L. McDougall, Economic Adviser to the Australian High Commissioner.

14 Viceroy of India (later, as Lord Halifax, Ambassador to the United States 1941-46).