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164 Note by Bruce of Conversation with Curtin

I had a long talk with the Prime Minister in which we covered a
variety of subjects.

He told me that after the Lunch by the Australia Club the U.K.

Prime Minister had asked him to come to tea at Chequers on Sunday.

In doing so the Prime Minister had said he would very much like
Curtin to meet his daughters and he the Prime Minister was also
very anxious to see them. If Curtin came that would be a reason
for him to ask that his daughters should be released from their
respective services for the purpose of entertaining a
distinguished guest. The whole atmosphere was a quiet and family
tea party. When Mr. Curtin turned up on Sunday afternoon there
were no signs of any daughters but he was ushered into a room
where the Prime Minister had Leathers [1], Cherwell [2] and Hollis
[3] armed with a large note book. The Prime Minister opened the
conversation by saying that he wanted to have a full discussion
with regard to the question of United Kingdom troops going to

My Prime Minister said that he was taken completely by surprise
but had to go in to bat. He told me that on Monday night they
received a record of the conversation [4] which represented
anything but what had taken place. This record however was altered
by Shedden and the United Kingdom people had to accept it.

We then went on to the meeting tomorrow morning which the Prime
Minister said he did not expect a great deal from as it had been
arranged for 12. o'clock as the Prime Minister put it, as part of
Winston's cunning to ensure there would not be too much time.

Mr. Curtin then went on to tell me of a Cabinet meeting he had
been summoned to last night, which was to consider a proposal by
the President that he should make a Declaration to the Germans as
soon as the invasion started. The President was desirous of making
this by himself and not in conjunction with the Prime Minister
here or with Stalin.

My Prime Minister said that he was strongly opposed to the idea on
the grounds that it was very undesirable that any statement should
be made by one of the three leaders, but that any Declaration
should be by the three jointly. He also made the sound point that
any Declaration could only be made after a resounding success had
been achieved as otherwise it would be regarded as an appeal to
the Germans to cease their resistance owing to the military
operation not going well. At the Cabinet Meeting he expressed
these views and was backed up to some extent by Smuts. The result
was that the Prime Minister here is telegraphing to the President
suggesting that consideration of the matter should be postponed.

The point of interest was that my Prime Minister said no member of
the War Cabinet other than Bevin expressed any views at all, and
he went on to make some crisp observations on this point. There is
no doubt but that my Prime Minister has grasped what the position
is here and how completely Winston dominates the War Cabinet.

We then had some conversation with regard to the position which
would arise if and when substantial United Kingdom Forces arrived
in Australia. The Prime Minister is quite clear, and in this I
agree with him, that this cannot be allowed to interfere with
MacArthur's position as Supreme Commander-in-Chief in the S.W.

Pacific area and he will, I think, make this quite clear to them
here before he leaves.

We then discussed the question of conversations with the Americans
in regard to Post War Civil Aviation. I told the Prime Minister
that I had not sent a written reply to his letter of the 16th May
[5] because political issues entered into the matter.

I then reminded the Prime Minister of the episode when it had been
suggested that there should be a Conference between the United
Kingdom, the U.S.A. and Canada and that for that Conference had
been substituted the idea of bi-lateral conversations with the
Americans [6]; that such conversations had already taken place
with the United Kingdom and Canada and were being held this month
with Russia and China. It was also contemplated to hold
conversations with other Nations. In these circumstances I did not
think that it was politically possible for Australia not to have
conversations. I said, however, I was sure the Prime Minister
should not undertake them himself, and recommended that he should
send Drakeford from Australia to conduct them and arrange for
McVey to be in America as his Adviser. This view the Prime
Minister accepted.

I then told the Prime Minister there were one or two rather
unpleasant matters I felt I must touch upon.

The first one was the necessity of our representatives abroad
behaving with a little more tact. I said that in this country and
in America Evatt had done incalculable damage by his manners.

This, the Prime Minister agreed to and said he had seen signs of
the damage done ever since he had left Australia.

I then told the Prime Minister that what had brought it
immediately under my notice was from information I had received as
to the view of the I.L.O. Conference held by Jenks, who is the
Legal Adviser to the I.L.O. and a quite responsible person. I then
read to the Prime Minister the attached note [7] adding that I had
no knowledge which Member of the Australian Delegation was
concerned in the episode with Miss Perkins. The Prime Minister
said he did not think it could have been Beasley as while Beasley
was somewhat outspoken he would not have been likely to indulge in
an outburst of the character that was referred to in the note I
had read.

We then had some discussion with regard to Beasley and the Prime
Minister said that while he was quite good he had been rather
ganging up with Evatt. The Prime Minister also told me that he had
talked to Beasley and had urged him to stand on his own feet
pointing out that for a long time he had leaned up against Lang
[8], and now he was proceeding to do the same with regard to

I told the Prime Minister that all the reports I have received
with regard to Beasley were that he was training on extremely well
as a Minister and this the Prime Minister endorsed.

I then said that the next episode I wanted to refer to was an
extremely murky one with regard to W. S. Robinson. [9]

I told the Prime Minister I thought the best thing for me to do
would be to read to him a communication which I had drafted at the
time of the episode in February 1943 but had not sent to him as I
did not wish to add to his many difficulties and preoccupations.

I then read to the Prime Minister the attached note. [10] I did
not read to him the actual telegrams. [11]

I told the Prime Minister that I had brought this episode under
his notice not because I wanted him to take any action but because
there might be developments with regard to it in the future and I
felt it was only right that the Prime Minister should know what
had occurred. The Prime Minister expressed his regret that this
should have happened but added it only confirmed what Dixon had
said to him.

He then told me that when in Washington Dixon had shown him a
telegram [12] from Evatt in which Evatt had instructed Dixon that
Robinson was visiting America to handle the question of Post-War
Civil Aviation and that he, Dixon, was to act on Robinson's
instructions. The Prime Minister said that the telegram was quite
unauthorised as far as he and the Government were concerned, and
he was horrified by it.

The Prime Minister then said that Robinson had attempted to see
him eight times since he had been in London but he the Prime
Minister had refused to receive him. The Prime Minister then asked
me what Robinson had been doing in London and I told him I had not
the faintest idea but that I imagined he had come here in the hope
of playing the same part in the Prime Minister's delegation as he
had during Evatt's visit.

I think the Prime Minister is now fully alive to the dangers of
the nefarious combination between Evatt and Robinson.

We then had some conversation about my position but did not go
into any details about it. I told the Prime Minister I would be
prepared to stay here while he was Prime Minister [if] he desired
me to do so and I was of any help to him. I added, however, that I
should tell him that I did not think I could possibly continue
under any other Prime Minister with the possible exception of
Chifley. This the Prime Minister indicated he quite understood.

I then dealt with a number of unimportant matters such as seeing
Cranborne, Machtig [13] and Duncan and had a few words with regard
to wool. In this connection I urged that the matter of whether the
present agreement [14] terminated with the European or with the
total war was to my mind only one issue. I added that I thought
the best course would be to send someone over from Australia to
discuss with the people here the whole problem of the future of

The Prime Minister asked me what I thought of Owen [15] and I told
him that I thought he was first class and had done a most useful
job here and there would be no person better qualified to handle
any such discussions. I arranged that the Prime Minister would
further discuss this matter with Duncan when he saw him.

S. M. B.

[AA:M100, MAY 1944]

1 U.K. Minister of War Transport.

2 U.K. Paymaster General.

3 U.K. Senior Assistant Secretary in the War Cabinet Office.

4 See Document 161.

5 On file AA:A5954, box 658.

6 See Documents 51, 52 and 67.

7 Not published.

8 Premier of New South Wales 1925-27 and 1930-32.

9 Businessman and adviser to Evatt.

10 Not published.

11 Not published.

12 Not located.

13 Permanent Under-Secretary of State at the Dominions Office.

14 For wartime arrangements regarding the sale of wool see S. J.

Butlin, War Economy 1939-42, Australian War Memorial, Canberra,
1955, pp. 60-6.

15 Justice William Owen, Chairman of the Central Wool Committee.

[LONDON], 25 May 1944
Last Updated: 11 September 2013
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