Skip to main content

Historical documents

175 Chifley to Evatt (in Washington)

Cablegram SW19 CANBERRA, 6 May 1943


Fully appreciate your views regarding proposed London talks. [1] I
feel, however, we cannot ignore fact that Canada has accepted and
if other Dominions do likewise it would be useless for us to seek
to shelve talks indefinitely.

2. Pending advice as to attitude of other Dominions and discussion
with Prime Minister who is on his way back from Perth no reply has
been sent to United Kingdom Government.

3. If, however, United Kingdom is determined to initiate talks at
early date with U.S.A. for reasons given and other Dominions agree
to join in preliminary talks I feel it would be a serious mistake
for Australia to stand aloof.

4. My view is that if talks are to be held we should press
strongly for postponement until after Food Conference for
following reasons:-

(a) It is quite impossible in time available to send any
representative from Australia to reach London by third week in

(b) Postponement would obviate possible misunderstanding with
U.S.A. and embarrassment to us if we withdrew any of our
representatives to Food Conference.

(c) Coombs, who I consider most suitable representative, would be
available and we will also have great advantage of your own
presence in London for reference.

5. Talks would only be entered upon on condition that they were on
non-Governmental plane, that there would be no commitment of
Government policy and that every possible step must be taken to
prevent any leakage as was case with Clearing Union. [2]

6. If postponement is not possible, I think we should inform
United Kingdom Government that we regret our inability to be
represented on the same footing as other Dominions and ask that
Bruce be regarded as observer at meeting. Fletcher [3] might then
be made available to assist him in the first instance, with the
possibility that after Food Conference is under way Coombs could
get to London in time to be on the spot for some part of the

7. Suggest therefore you give further consideration in light of
foregoing and cable your views so that whole question may be
considered by Prime Minister on his return on Sunday. [4]

1 See Documents 169 and 172.

2 See Document 104, note 14.

3 See Document 74, note 13.

4 Burton sent the following message to Hodgson on 10 May:

'Reference S.W.19 Minister asked me to send this telegram as he
has not replied to Treasurer. His views already contained in E.47
[Document 172]. These are not incompatible with those of the
Treasurer but place far greater emphasis on the desirability of
indefinite postponement for reasons set out.

If this proves impossible after every effort Minister would agree
with views set out in paragraphs 4 and 5 of S.W. 19. Suggestion
referred to in paragraph 6 should not be mentioned to the United
Kingdom at this stage.' See cablegram E67 on file AA:A989,

[AA:A989, 43/735/57/1]
Last Updated: 11 September 2013
Back to top