1st August, 1929


(Due to arrive Canberra 30.8.29)

My dear P.M.,

Many thanks for your long letter of 20th June. I have acquainted Clive Baillieu [1], in confidence, with the general terms of the position with regard to Amalgamated Wireless and the Merger Company [2], as I think you would want him to know some of the background.

I note what you say about superphosphates. It is true, as you surmise, that the Dominions Office consult Dickinson on all matters connected with these negotiations. [3] They have complete faith in him and will not make any move except in consultation with him. They realise he is a difficult and temperamental person to deal with but they have great faith in his ability and knowledge of the phosphate business. I have asked them on several occasions not to communicate to Dickinson the substance of what I was about to discuss-but I am quite sure from subsequent events that they did so.

I note what you say about Officer and the External Affairs Department [4] and I am most sorry-with you-at the position that has arisen. As I anticipate that Officer will have to leave the External Affairs Department, I am seeing what I can do here to get him another job.

I have made it my business in the last three or four months to write to McLaren [5] from time to time in order to establish a friendly personal relationship with him. I will continue to do this as I think personal touch in these matters is useful.

Harding [6] of the Dominions Office (now acting as Permanent Head) asked me to go and see him during this week. He wanted to say that, in his opinion, the Imperial Economic Conference would be held to better advantage in Canada than in London. His reasons (which he does not want quoted) were that there would be so much opposition to your views from Snowden and from the Labour back benchers that a Conference in London would be abortive. [7] He admitted that if such a Conference were held in Canada it could only be attended (in respect of the British Government) by the President of the Board of Trade (Rt. Hon. W. Graham) and possibly another Minister, and he agreed with my statement that in this event they would most certainly be so tied by Cabinet decisions before they left that they would not be able to agree to, or possibly even discuss, anything that would be of much use to Australia. Harding thinks that if the money can be found (and he says that feverish search is being made to find it) the duties will come off by next Budget and, of course, the preferences with them, and it is his impression that any subsequent Tory Government would only come into power on the basis of a pledge not to reinstitute the food duties, whatever they might do about safeguarding. I ventured to disagree with him to the extent of saying that from our point of view Snowden would have to be fought at some time and that this Imperial Economic Conference would be our only opportunity of contesting his ideas for the next three or four years.

I have since discussed the above with McDougall [8], who agrees with you-and with me-that the Imperial Economic Conference must be held in London. McDougall is not at all sure that the duties will come off. Apart from the obvious difficulty in finding the money, he thinks it is not at all certain that the Labour Party really wants to interfere with them-and then there is the question as to whether the Liberals would vote in a body for such procedure.

There seems little doubt but that the economic side of the next Imperial Conference will be far and away more important than the political side. Although there are a number of political questions that are now very active (Singapore, Egypt, Russia, Disarmament, etc.), they must all be resolved before next June-and there really will remain little more than reviewing by the full Imperial Conference of the results of the prior Experts Conference on the incidence of Dominion legislation, shipping legislation and the like.

It seems quite certain that, if you manage to keep the existing duties and preferences, it is all you will do. No further tariff assistance to Australian imports into this country for some years seems possible. We will have to rely on a, gradual improvement due to voluntary preference arising out of the activities of the Empire Marketing Board. McDougall thinks it possible, in addition and as a more concrete contribution, that the Labour Government may consider 'bulk buying' in favour of the Dominions as applied to, say, dairy products and dried fruits.

McDougall tells me that Neville Charnberlain [9] told him that he had been made Chairman of the Conservative Party's Committee on Imperial Affairs-which I presume means that Amery [10] has been put into the background in this regard. I have always suspected, since before the Election, that Baldwin [11] had had some such conversation with Amery-from the fact that I saw Amery early one morning a week or so before the Election and he was in high spirits on leaving me to see the Prime Minister. I saw him again that afternoon and he was plunged into the depths of depression. I have always suspected that Baldwin told him at that interview that he was not to have the Dominions Office if the Conservatives were returned to power.

I talked to Sir Charles Hipwood lately (head of the Marine Department of the Board of Trade). He admits that he does not know the inwardness of the dispute between Lord Kylsant and his brother, St. Davids, over the affairs of the Royal Mail Steam Packet. He says that Kylsant is more of a financier than a shipowner and that it is generally thought that he has to use a good deal of ingenuity at times to keep all his various balls in the air. He does not think for a moment that Kylsant is going to crash-in fact, he says that he would not be allowed to crash as it would involve too big interests.

I expect you will realise that Hankey [12] has not got quite the same freedom, with this Government, to give me practically carte blanche to send you what papers I want. Hankey is very good about it and stretches his authority in this regard to the utmost-but we will have to take great care that we do not let him down. I think it would be a good thing, if you don't mind, to ask the Minister for Defence [13] to take particular care that his Department does not inadvertently make any comments by telegraph or despatch that would indicate to His Majesty's Government, or any of the Departments here, that we are having papers or information that we should not have. This applies at present more particularly to such delicate subjects as Egypt and Singapore.

I enclose photograph taken on the 'Discovery' shortly before she left. Davis [14] has cut off the red beard with which he was encumbered on arrival in London. I am (according to my wife) showing signs of wear. The others are Dr. Hugh Robert Mill, the 'Grand Old Man' of the Antarctic and the author of the most authoritative works on the subject-and a clergyman called the Rev.

J. Gordon Hayes, who has recently produced an up-to-date summary of Antarctic work called 'Antarctica'. [15]

It is possible that Lord Lloyd [16] (so he tells me) may make a trip to Australia towards the end of this year, of which I will, if it matures, give you warning later.

I have heard a rumour, which I have no means of substantiating, that McCormack [17] (ex-Premier of Queensland), who is now in London, is contemplating entering politics in this country.

Hankey has just been made Secretary to the British Delegation to the Reparations Conference at The Hague, which will mean that he will be away for most of August and September.

The man who has been teaching me to fly has just killed himself by running into another machine in the air, so that I am at present subject to certain domestic pressure to give it up.

The 'Discovery' got away this morning, to my great relief. She bumped the dock, so I hear by telephone, but apparently not seriously. I have still a few press contracts to fix up and some clearing up work-but the slavery of the last six months is at last at an end. I have learnt a good deal about making arrangements for an Antarctic Expedition-information which it is not easy to capitalise on!

I am, Yours sincerely, R.G. CASEY

1 R.P.C. Baillieu. This letter (on file AA:A1420) dealt mainly with the politics of the situation, and the danger that W. M.

Hughes would create difficulties. Hughes had placed himself on the board of A.W.A. when he was Prime Minister and had remained.

2 See note 2 to Letter 170.

3 See note 6 to Letter 25.

4 Casey had recruited F.K. Officer to the External Affairs Branch in 1927 but he could not be appointed to one of two permanent Branch positions advertised in 1929 because of his age (he was then 37). In the event, he remained at External Affairs, and was appointed a permanent officer in 1933. He became one of Australia's pioneer diplomats and ended his career (as Sir Keith from 1950) as Ambassador to France 1950-55.

5 John McLaren, Secretary of the Prime Minister's Department 1929- 33.

6 Sir Edward Harding, Assistant Under-Secretary at the Dominions Office.

7 Australia and the other Dominions were concerned during early 1929 that elections in the United Kingdom might see the return of a Labour Government anxious to abolish food taxes and, in the process, Empire preference on foodstuffs. With an Imperial Conference due, Bruce was anxious for an Imperial Economic Conference to coincide with it or even to pre-date it. In the event, a Labour Government was returned and a statement in July 1929 by the new Chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Snowden, that he hoped to end food taxes during his term in office, further frightened Bruce. However, the Labour Government proved to be extremely gradualist. An Imperial Conference was not held until 1930 and an Imperial Economic Conference on such issues as imperial preference had to wait until 1932 at Ottawa.

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

9 Minister of Health in the previous Conservative Government.

10 Leopold Amery, Secretary for the Colonies and for Dominion Affairs in the previous Conservative Government.

11 Stanley Baldwin, Prime Minister in the previous Conservative Government.

12 Sir Maurice Hankey, Secretary to the Cabinet.

13 Senator Sir William Glasgow.

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

15 J. Gordon Hayes, Antarctica: a Treatise on the Southern Continent, Richards Press, London, 1928.

16 High Commissioner for Egypt and the Sudan 1925-29.

17 William McCormack, Premier of Queensland 1925-29. He did not become a member of the House of Commons.