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Historical documents

362 Bruce to Evatt

Cablegram 161A LONDON, 27 November 1944, 5.30 p.m.


Many thanks for your cable. [1] I appreciate your frankness and I
hasten to reciprocate it.

Two main points appear to me to emerge from your telegram:-

(a) The broad question of consultation before major decisions are

(b) The recent flutter with regard to the public statement on
mandates after the Australian - New Zealand talks.

I think our minds are at one on this point. To avoid any
possibility of doubt I set out my attitude. I regard Australia as
being a member of a group of associated nations united together by
special historical associations and by common political ideals.

Such association in pursuit of common aims if it is to endure must
be founded on the principles of consultation on a basis of
equality in respect to all questions of international policy.

This principle must be applied in a spirit of give and take owing
to the differences in population, wealth and armed strength and
geographical situation of the partner nations.

At the present time, in practice, the United Kingdom generally
gives leadership but in doing so it must afford the Dominions an
opportunity of expressing their views on A major questions before
decisions are taken and must be prepared to defer to views of a
Dominion when it is primarily concerned, e.g. Australia in respect
to Pacific questions.

On the other hand, a Dominion must be prepared while leaving no
doubt of its attitude on any question to defer to the views of the
United Kingdom and/or other Empire Governments where others are
more directly affected or the matter is one of general and not
particular concern.

Upon how far we can all work down these lines in my view depends
the measure of Empire unity and co-operation in the future.

In considering the problem we have to recognise there are
obstacles that have to be removed. Here there are still people who
do not recognise the right of the Dominions to a voice in the
direction of foreign policy.

Save in the case of Australia, in the Dominions there is a virtual
failure to play the part they should as members of a partnership
of nations. South Africa has occasional brilliant inspirations but
they are few and far between. No suggestions as to the lines
policy should follow are offered. Expressions of views upon
policies initiated by the United Kingdom upon which they are asked
to comment are rare.

Resentment at policies to which the Empire has been committed by
the United Kingdom without consultation are exceptional.

In the case of New Zealand this is due to a touching confidence in
the wisdom of United Kingdom statesmen, though I believe that
since the Australian - New Zealand Agreement [2] of last January
the position has improved. New Zealand is really showing signs of
playing a useful part in shaping Empire policy.

In the case of Canada it is due to a political determination to
avoid commitment of responsibility-notwithstanding an efficient
External Affairs Department which would like Canada to play an
appropriate part.

Upon our efforts I believe depends whether these difficulties can
be overcome. Australia alone among the Dominions has consistently
expressed her views on contemplated policies in the international
field and protested against United Kingdom decisions on
international questions taken without consultation. By continuing
this policy we will gradually destroy the influence of those whose
minds still think in terms of a British Empire of other days. In
the process we will gain for ourselves such a position in the
Councils of the British Nations and internationally that other
Dominions will progressively follow in our footsteps.

If we are to succeed in the task that rests on our shoulders we
will have to exercise considerable skill.

Our general line will, in my view, have to be sweet
reasonableness. At times, however, we will have to go tough and
shake them here out of the complacent belief that in the end they
can always persuade us to come into line with them.

A good example of a time for toughness is in respect to the early
consideration of the full employment issue.

A bad example, with all respect, is, in my view, the mandates

The Australian - New Zealand Declaration with regard to the
mandates system [3] came as a considerable shock here. The
telegram-Dominions Office No. 325 [4]-sent to the Prime Minister
was discussed by the War Cabinet and unanimously approved without
any reservation so far as I know by Attlee, Bevin or Morrison.

The reason for this attitude so far as I understand it is as
follows: No exception is taken to Clause 28 of the Australian -
New Zealand Agreement. The principle of trusteeship is accepted.

The method of giving effect to it was contemplated as being,
however, through regional Commissions linked in some suitable
manner with the World Authority and I understand proposals to this
end were being worked out. These plans deliberately contemplated
the exclusion of a supervision similar to that of the old Mandate
Commission as it was felt that experience had shown the Commission
did not work satisfactorily. This view out of a considerable
experience of the Mandates Commission I must confess I share.

On the other hand I do not know how Attlee and his Labour
colleagues in the War Cabinet reconciled the United Kingdom
Government view with the forthright declaration on this subject of
the Labour Party in March, 1943. [5]

As a result of the discussions at the Prime Ministers' Conference
it was thought here that while Australia believed in the principle
of trusteeship she shared the view as to the undesirability of its
being given effect to by methods similar to those of the Mandates

Having this in mind the Australian - New Zealand Public
Declaration came as something of a shock.

In the official reply to the Dominions Office [6] you have made a
good case and rubbed in the essential fact that the whole trouble
has arisen through the United Kingdom not following up the matter
in 1943.

I shall do everything possible to expedite the United Kingdom
promised proposals on colonial policy.


1 Document 354.

2 Document 26.

3 See Documents 337 and 344.

4 Document 347.

5 See Document 352, note 11.

6 Document 352.

[AA:A5954, BOX 294]
Last Updated: 11 September 2013
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