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94 Evatt to Curtin

Letter CANBERRA, 24 March 1944

I have received your letter of 13th March, 1944 [1], regarding
certain arrangements for the forthcoming conference of Prime
Ministers in London.

In accordance with your request, I am preparing certain memoranda
on the subjects in the suggested Agenda which fall within its

I note from the Agenda that a very large part of the discussions
will be concerned with external matters of the highest importance
in Australia's international relations. No doubt such informal
talks as you will have at Washington and Ottawa will touch on the
same ground.

Several of the matters listed on the Agenda have, already been the
subject of exchanges between the Australian Government and other
Governments or have been taken into account in making decisions on
various phases of our international relations. Moreover, a number
of these topics have also been made the subject for special study
by myself and my officers. It is obvious that on such matters ad
hoc documentation cannot be a complete substitute for actual
experience in the daily handling of a subject in all its details
and familiarity with all aspects of these intergovernmental

To illustrate my meaning, I would refer particularly to Item 3 of
the Agenda as given in telegram D.335 of the 5th March. There have
been exchanges of views between the United Kingdom and Dominion
Governments on the subject of the post-war settlement on several
occasions during the past two years. To give a recent example, in
July 1943 (telegram 174 to the Secretary of State for Dominion
Affairs [2]) we expressed our views on proposals put forward in
telegrams D.364 and D.365 [3] regarding an approach to the United
States and the Soviet Union on problems connected with the
cessation of hostilities with enemy powers in Europe. Since then
the subject has been continuously under notice and has again come
to the forefront in the more definite proposals made by the United
Kingdom early this year for an approach to the United States
Government regarding the nature and membership of any world
organisation. Any discussion among the Prime Ministers in London
regarding the nature of a post-war organisation could not take
place without taking into account the earlier exchanges among the
Great Powers and the earlier expression of views by the Dominions.

Equally, it has been my duty to give close attention to those
various sections of the post-war world organisation which are
already taking shape (for example UNRRA, the United Nations Food
and Agriculture Organisation, the Intergovernmental Committee on
Refugees, the International Wheat Agreement and the European
Advisory Commission). My department has also assumed a major
responsibility among Australian departments in the handling of
numerous political and economic questions which have a direct
bearing on the post-war settlement, for example the conclusion of
the Armistice with Italy, the Australian participation in various
United Nations' declarations regarding the postwar order, the
future of the International Labour Office and international
economic collaboration in all its phases.

My department has also been closely in touch with the Post
Hostilities Planning Committee set up in the United Kingdom. It is
anticipated that the work of the Post Hostilities Planning
Committee will have had a considerable influence on the views held
by the United Kingdom Government in this field. The department has
also made a special point of studying the views held by other
members of the United Nations regarding the post-war settlement.

Regarding the specific matters listed under Item 3 of the Agenda,
I would point out that it has been my responsibility to give close
and practical consideration to those subjects when dealing with
current political matters. The future of Italy and the Italian
colonies had to be re-examined in advising the Government in
regard to the Armistice with Italy and the re-establishment of
Ethiopia. The future of France and the French Colonial Empire has
been approached as a realistic problem on several occasions since
June, 1940, when giving advice on the political aspects of the
embargo on French Indo-China in June, 1941, assurances to New
Caledonia, the campaigns in Syria, Mauritius [4] and North Africa
and the accompanying Allied declarations, the recognition of the
Free French and our later relations with the French National
Committee of Liberation.

World security has been a prominent topic in all the Anglo-
Russian-American exchanges referred to above and has been kept
prominently in mind in the shaping of all the communications which
the Australian Government has made to other Governments in
relation to the Pacific, including my own negotiations in London
relating to Portuguese Timor. The same subject has also entered
into consideration on such diverse subjects as colonial policy,
the resumption of the administration of re-occupied Pacific
territories and the post-war use of oil installations and bases.

Regarding regional arrangements in the Pacific, the recent
Australian - New Zealand Conference must be regarded as the base
from which future discussion should spring. The work of my
department in the preparations for and in the course of that
Conference should prove an invaluable aid to any wider examination
of the subject. Since the Conference the department has proceeded
to implement the arrangement by which the undertakings into which
the Australian Government entered in the Australian - New Zealand
Agreement [5] can be carried out.

Item 4 of the Agenda covers two subjects-transport and migration-
which, although not the primary responsibility of the Department
of External Affairs, have important international aspects. The
department has taken an active part in recent departmental
enquiries regarding both civil aviation and migration and thus is
well aware of the Australian as well as the external
considerations to be borne in mind. During the past year, in close
consultation with the Department of Civil Aviation, the department
had to consider all international aspects of civil aviation and
particularly the proposals for Anglo-American discussions and for
British Commonwealth talks in London. In connection with its
membership of the Interdepartmental Committee on Civil Aviation
and the preparation for the Australian - New Zealand Conference,
the department has also made an extensive examination of all
international aspects of this subject and has taken particular
care to inform itself of the policy of the United Kingdom and the
sister dominions of Canada and New Zealand.

Apart from the particular matters listed on the Agenda, it also
appears likely that in London, Washington and Ottawa various other
matters of Australian foreign policy will be raised, either
formally or informally,-for example our interest in the Middle
East political discussions which are pending, post-war control of
petroleum products, our participation in the International Rubber
Agreement, the future of Mandates, matters arising from the
Canadian Mutual Aid Agreement [6], matters arising from the
Australian - New Zealand Agreement, relief and rehabilitation
measures, and the resumption of administration in reoccupied
territories. It is impossible to forecast exactly the form in
which such questions may be raised.

I have arranged that all the services of the Australian diplomatic
representatives abroad will be available to you. However their
familiarity with the topics outlined above is far less complete
than that of my department.

I appreciate that the Agenda relating to the Prime Ministers'
Conference may not represent the true nature of the informal talks
which are to take place. if the foreign relations of this country
come seriously into discussion you will be at a considerable
disadvantage for the reasons already outlined in this letter. On
the other hand, the Prime Minister of Great Britain will have at
hand his Foreign Minister and the special advisers attached to the
Foreign Office. My own view was expressed to you in writing to the
effect that the time had arrived for a full Imperial Conference as
opposed to informal discussions between Prime Ministers. However,
the desire of the British Prime Minister was otherwise.

I am very seriously concerned lest Australia's external policy
should be affected in any way by the discussions and I take it
that before they are entered. upon at all I would receive timely
information. It might be of great advantage for the whole matter
of British and Dominion foreign policy to be deferred to a special
conference to be held later in the year. I am most anxious that in
July next we should receive full United Kingdom and United States
assistance for the conference contemplated under the Australian -
New Zealand Agreement.

All these matters are of such importance to this country and to
the administration of my department that I think it would be an
advantage if you permitted me to appoint an officer of my
department who would be at hand during any discussions on external
affairs either in London, Washington or Ottawa. This officer need
not necessarily be a member of your party although it would be
very convenient if he could be added to it.

I will be glad to have your views on the subject of this letter so
that any necessary arrangements can be made.


1 This letter referred to Cranborne's cablegram D335 of 5 March
which suggested certain subjects for the agenda of the Prime
Ministers' meeting. On file AA:A5954, box 646.

2 Documents on Australian Foreign Policy 1937-49, vol. VI,
Document 242.

3 ibid., Document 227 and note 1 thereto.

4 Presumably Madagascar.

5 Document 26.

6 Document 68.

[AA:A5954, Box 646]
Last Updated: 11 September 2013
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