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Historical documents

128 Evatt to Curtin

Letter CANBERRA, 24 February 1943

You will have seen from Dominions Office telegram D.78 [1] that
the United Kingdom Government has set up under the Foreign Office
a committee to examine certain major political and strategic
questions connected with the peace settlement. These questions
include armistice terms on the cessation of hostilities in Europe,
Atlantic security, the treatment of Germany and the territorial
disposition in Eastern Europe.

Taken in conjunction with Dominions Office telegrams D.74 and D.75
[2], which set out important instructions to the British
Ambassador to Moscow, and Dominions Office telegram, Saving No. 1,
of 4th December [3], which referred to the appointment of a
Military Sub-Committee to study the military issues likely to
arise at the armistice, this step is evidence that the United
Kingdom Government is now engaging in intensive preparations for
handling the practical questions which will arise immediately on
the defeat of the European Axis Powers.

It is indicated in the telegrams under reference that in due
course the views of Dominion Governments will be sought on these
and related questions. [4]

Most of these questions, particularly those affecting the future
of Germany and the relations between the principal members of the
United Nations, are of vital interest to the Commonwealth of
Australia. Already we have demonstrated our concern with them by
the effective representations we made to the United Kingdom
Government concerning the declaration of war on Finland, Hungary
and Rumania [5] and by expressing our views on more than one
occasion regarding Anglo-Russian relations, especially in regard
to post-war collaboration. It goes without saying that a sound
settlement in Europe is essential to general security and to
general improvement in economic standards.

For some time my own department has been working on the
international side of post-war reconstruction, and is in a
position to proceed still further with this work. It is evident,
however, that most of the questions listed above call for
knowledge of strategic, as well as political matters, and that the
examination of armistice terms or other instruments will call for
legal expertness. For this reason I consider that the time has now
come to provide means of collaboration in the study of the
questions listed in telegram D.78. At the same time, the fact that
these topics are all most secret requires that the collaboration
be restricted to as small a circle as possible, while the fact
that they will eventually involve decisions on matters of high
policy requires that the results of the study shall be directly
available to War Cabinet.

My suggestion is that senior officers be appointed from the
Department of Defence, the Defence Committee (as comprising the
Chiefs of Staff), the Department of External Affairs and the
Attorney-General's Department to collaborate in an examination of
political and strategic matters connected with the peace
settlement. These officers would work in their own departments but
in consultation with one another and their work would be
coordinated by the Department of External Affairs, which would
also attend to any necessary secretarial duties. It is suggested
that this body would, in the first instance, be concerned chiefly
with the topics likely to come before the United Kingdom Political
and Strategic Committee mentioned in telegram D.78, for these are
questions on which we may have to find an early answer. As and
when required, however, they would turn to examine corresponding
problems in other spheres of Australian interest, and changes or
additions of personnel could be made to maintain the necessary

The fact that European questions are referred to them initially is
due only to the circumstance that these questions have already
arisen. For some time, however, an inquiry has been proceeding in
the Department of External Affairs on the broad lines of
Australian interests in South-East
Asia and doubtless considerable work has also been done by the
services regarding our strategic needs in this area. At the
appropriate time, the results of this work will be available for a
joint study of specific questions relating to the armistice terms
or the peace settlements in the Far East.

It may be mentioned that, on the economic side of our external
relations, my department has already established liaison with the
Director-General of Post-War Reconstruction while, on matters of
external economic reconstruction, such as trade reorganisation and
food relief, which involve the interests of more than one
department, the machinery for consultation has been provided in
the form of an interdepartmental committee, with joint secretaries
in the Department of External Affairs and the Department of Post-
War Reconstruction. This committee covers a different field from
the body now under consideration and its work will not be
duplicated by the joint studies suggested above. A link between
the two phases of our preparations for the international
settlement-the examination of our economic needs and the study of
political and strategic factors-will be provided in the Department
of External Affairs.

If you concur in the suggestion which I have made, I propose to
direct the Secretary of the Department of External Affairs to
request the Secretary of the Department of Defence, the Secretary
of the Attorney-General's Department and the Chiefs of Staff to
nominate the senior officer who will actually engage in this work
and to arrange the method of their collaboration with a view to
starting the work immediately.


1 Dispatched 13 February. On file AA:A989, 43-44/735/1009.

2 Cablegrams D74-5 were dispatched on 12 February and are on the
file cited in note 1.

3 Not found on Commonwealth Govt files.

4 The Commonwealth Govt advised the U.K. Govt on 27 February of
the importance it placed
on preparations for a peace settlement and emphasised the need for
full consultation and exchange of views. See cablegram 50 on the
file cited in note 1.

5 This issue is covered in vol. V of Documents on Australian
Foreign Policy 1937-49.

[AA:A989, 43-44/735/1009]
Last Updated: 11 September 2013
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