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Historical documents

84 Evatt to Chifley

Cablegram P186 PARIS, 24 August 1946, 4.05 p.m.


We are leaving to-morrow afternoon and hope to arrive in Sydney on
Thursday afternoon next.

The Conference has been difficult in certain respects,
particularly in connection with the procedure of voting. The final
point was whether a simple majority was sufficient to permit a
recommendation to be made by the Conference to the Council of
Foreign Ministers or whether, as Russia insisted, no
recommendation could even be looked at by the Council of Foreign
Ministers unless a 2/3rds majority were obtained.

In order to maintain the right of freedom by the Conference as a
basis for reasonable review by the Council of Foreign Ministers we
fought strenuously for the more democratic view. This led to
fierce opposition from the Soviet in which they picked me out for
special attention although, as you know, I have always tried to
understand their point of view and never unnecessarily condemned
them or joined in the pastime of 'red-baiting'. In the end they
got as good as they gave and in substance we won our point.

The last week has been spent for the most part by the larger
powers and the Russian Satellites in giving historical accounts of
the share of the various Balkan Countries in connection with the
war. You would think from the speeches that our enemies in the
Balkans were really our friends all the time and although they
were helping Hitler they were really by some mysterious means also
helping the Allies.

The third stage of the Conference is now commencing when the
treaty is being considered in detail and our proposals will be
discussed in the various Commissions and sub-commissions.

On the whole except for some skin wounds inflicted by our Russian
friends I think we have easily maintained Australia's status and
prestige-certainly we have had solid support from the British
Press and the relationships between Attlee, Bevin, McNeil and
Alexander on the one hand and myself and Beasley on the other
ha[ve] been those of close and sincere friendship and co-
operation. Of course this does not necessarily mean that there
will not be points of difference but, as you know, the same remark
applies to the other Dominions and the great thing is to be united
on the essentials.

For this reason, I was specially disgusted to read a sentence or
two in Menzies' reported policy speech making two points. His
point that we must always have one British Empire Foreign Policy
is of course a view which is completely inapplicable to modern
conditions and has been outmoded since the Balfour Declaration of
1926. He makes the point I suppose in order to try and catch a few
votes on the theory that there is some opposition between us and
the British Government. This is untrue and indeed fantastic. Our
relationship has never been better and I have done everything
possible to conduct affairs in the spirit in which you yourself
showed in London. The same remark applies to the work I did in New
York, both on the Security Council and on the Atomic Commission.

For Menzies to say that we seek the leadership of other Nations
for advocating democratic procedures is also untrue. It is natural
enough, however, that, if we favour democratic procedures, this
would often be to the benefit of the less powerful nations and
accordingly Australia will get some credit or reputation for
leadership in this matter. The truth is that if we did not take
the lead in some of these matters everything would go by default.

At San Francisco the same thing happened. We took a consistent
line throughout and support came to us although we never sought
it. I think you yourself hit the nail on the head when you
suggested in the House that the real trouble with Menzies and
others in this matter was frustration and jealousy of Australia's
success in foreign policy, not concern at our failure. At the
present moment we hold an honoured and responsible position on the
Security Council elected thereto by the votes of all the nations.

The same applies to the work on the Atomic Commission and on that
cables sent to Australia have indicated the nature of the work
that we have done. In the Far East, despite setbacks and
disappointments, we are at any rate well in the lead.

I feel that in your policy speech you will be able to handle
Menzies faithfully along these lines. After all we went into the
war of 1939 very ill equipped, and had the Curtin Government not
been most active in insisting upon Australia's rights as a nation
we would have found the greatest difficulty in getting supplies
following from my earlier mission in 1942 and 1943 to the United
States and England. I remind myself of the War Council meeting and
War Cabinet meeting when you, Curtin, Beasley and I had to decide
upon the return of the A.I.F. to Australia. In face of the
opposition of Bruce and Page in London, and Menzies, McEwen,
Fadden, Spender and Hughes in Australia. By adhering to our views
the troops were safely returned after tremendous anxieties, and
the result of the battle of New Guinea was of great significance.

In many of these great matters I think there is a real difference
between the Menzies point of view and the view of the Curtin and
Chifley Governments. I think we adopt the policy of a more self
reliant Australia, sometimes taking the initiative in
International matters, always conscious of its kinship with
Britain but insisting upon our rights especially in connection
with Pacific affairs. In contrast to this Menzies proves himself
as a supporter of the old doctrine of subordination which is
completely out of date. It led to unpreparedness for war and no
positive policy save appeasement of Hitler. As you know it is
utterly impossible to get agreement on every point between all the
Dominions. Canada slants its view towards the United States, South
Africa has a far more conservative view than we have and it is
only since our agreement with New Zealand that our joint point of
view has become of importance and significance.

It distresses me after five years of hard slogging work on all
these matters covering missions abroad for aircraft, the
initiation of projects designed to help our future security and
welfare, of the tremendously hard strain of executing these
projects at Conferences to find these things a matter of Party
Politics in Australia. Somewhat similar is Menzies' cry for a
joint committee on foreign policy. It does not exist in England
where the system of responsible Government is the same as our own.

It exists in America only because there the Government of the day
is not represented at all in Congress and it must deal with
Congress as a body. Further, in relation to foreign affairs, the
United States Senate has the right of vetoing treaties and
international conferences unless there is a 2/3rds majority in
favour of their adoption. This makes the situation very different
from Australia. I have never had any absolute objection to the
establishment of any committee but I am disgusted at the personal
bitternesses and jealousies displayed and I cannot forget that
when we had an Advisory Council in our Country throughout the war
Menzies deliberately abandoned it, thus showing the emphasis on
Party Politics for war which you and Curtin repudiated.

Watt and Dalziel in the Department and Hewitt [1] in Sydney have a
great deal of material with comments upon my work in foreign
affairs and I can assure you that your own generous references to
myself in recent months have been extremely encouraging. As you
might imagine we are extremely fatigued and the air trip may be
more strenuous still. When I return the keynote of my speeches
will be that you have splendidly continued the splendid work of
the Curtin Government, that we have carried the country through
its period of greatest crisis in the war and it is well on the way
towards satisfactory reconstruction for peace.

It would help me if you would arrange with Bill Dickson [2] to
give me as much broadcasting time to synchronise with public
meetings as is impossible [3] because in such cases the audience
is enormously enlarged and the strain is lessened.

Mary Alice joins with me in sending you and Mrs. Chifley our most
affectionate greetings and best wishes for a completely successful

1 J. M. Hewitt, Administrative Assistant to Evatt as Attorney

2 W. E. Dickson, an Assistant Minister in the N.S.W. State Govt
and campaign director for the Australian Labor Party.

3 The word 'impossible' presumably should read 'possible'.

[AA:A3195, 1946, 1.21110]
Last Updated: 11 September 2013
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