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246 Mr P. Liesching, U.K. Acting High Commissioner to Australia, to Lord Stanley, U.K. Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs

Cablegram 167 CANBERRA, 2 September 1938


My telegram No. 166 of 1st September. [1] I learn in confidence
from the Head of the Department of External Affairs [2] who was in
closest touch with the Cabinet proceedings yesterday that weight
of opinion throughout the discussion was heavily in support of the
Prime Minister's [3] views as outlined in my telegram No. 165 of
31st August. [4] Mr Casey [5] led this section of opinion and went
even further to point where at one stage a telegram was drafted
which would have said that the Commonwealth Government regarded
the Czechoslovakian Government as having forfeited all claims to
sympathy or any form of support and would have urged that the
United Kingdom Government should wash their hands of them. Mr
Hughes [6] opposed to this point of view a more far sighted and
realistic appreciation of the complexities of the dilemma and with
little support succeeded in putting the whole issue into what I
conceive to be a better perspective.

It is inevitable that with the comparative inexperience of the
Departmental advisers and a Cabinet so infrequently assembling
there should be vacillation and a lack of sustained study of a
situation which in the best conditions is sufficiently baffling.

The Prime Minister's views as recorded in my telegram No. 165 are
in my opinion representative of a widefelt feeling in this
country. With all the disadvantages of the dispersal of the
Ministers and the infrequent Cabinet meetings it must be
recognised that there is a compensating advantage in that contact
is maintained with the broad lines of public opinion which were
presumably reflected with accuracy in slightly modified support
given in the Cabinet to the views expressed to me on 31st August
by the Prime Minister. In so far as his views suggested the
probability of an embarrassing divergence from the policy of the
United Kingdom Government I think that this was due to the fact
that he was and had for some weeks been out of touch with
colleagues with whom he could share and discuss his anxieties and
to an over-simplified appreciation of the complex issues which I
know had been submitted by the Departmental advisers. I have
reason to believe that having done their best to express
accurately the attitude of the Commonwealth on the situation as it
is Government will be anxious to have the views of Page [7],
Menzies [8] and White [9] fresh from the European scene before
volunteering further observations. They arrive at Fremantle on 6th

1 Not printed; see PRO: DO 35/554
2 Lt Col W. R. Hodgson.

3 J. A. Lyons.

4 Document 242.

5 R. G. Casey, Treasurer and Minister in charge of Development.

6 W. M. Hughes, Minister for External Affairs.

7 Sir Earle Page, Minister for Commerce.

8 R. G. Menzies, Attorney-General.

9 T. W. White, Minister for Trade and Customs.

[PRO : DO 35/554]
Last Updated: 11 September 2013
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