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Historical documents

107 Attlee to Chifley

Letter LONDON, 31 January 1949


We have studied with great interest the Report [1] which you sent
me under cover of your letter of the 10th December, 1948 [2],
giving the views of the Australian Defence Committee on the United
Kingdom Government's Memorandum 'World [Situa]tion and its Defence
Aspects', which was circulated as P.M.M.(48) 1 [3] to Commonwealth
Prime Ministers before the meeting last October.

We have noted that you have authorised your Defence Committee to
examine, in conjunction with the United Kingdom and New Zealand
Liaison Staffs, certain aspects of Commonwealth Defence policy,
and that the views of the United Kingdom are an essential
prerequisite to this study. The United Kingdom Chiefs of Staff are
now engaged in the preparation of a paper entitled 'Defence
Appreciation as a Basis for Military Planning by Commonwealth
Staffs' which gives the United Kingdom view on the two aspects of
Commonwealth Defence which your Defence Committee are to study.

The paper will of course take into account the comments of your
Defence Committee on P.M.M. (48) 1. As soon as it is ready we
shall, as you suggest, discuss it with the Australian Defence
Representative in London, who will no doubt forward our views to
your Defence Committee.

Before your letter arrived we had already given a good deal of
thought to the procedure for the next step in Military planning
between the staffs of our two countries and of New Zealand. We had
come to the conclusion that the best course would be for a
planning team from the United Kingdom to visit Australia and New
Zealand and discuss the matter there with the Service authorities.

However, in view of your preference for discussion in the first
instance with the Australian Defence Representative here, we are
content to adopt this procedure. The United Kingdom Chiefs of
Staff think however that there will be much value in a visit to
Australia by a United Kingdom Service planning team as soon as
your Defence Committee have considered the United Kingdom paper to
which I referred above. The purpose of the visit would be to hold
detailed discussions with your Service authorities on regional
defence arrangements and matters arising out of the United Kingdom
paper. Would you let me know what you think of this proposal? We
hope that the study of the basic problems of Commonwealth policy
and strategy might progress fast enough to enable a visit from a
United Kingdom team to take place if possible before the middle of
this year. Our suggestion is that after discussions in Australia
(to which you would no doubt invite New Zealand representatives)
the United Kingdom planning team should go on to New Zealand to
hold similar discussions. We are putting this proposal to the New
Zealand Government for their consideration.

In paragraph 8 of your letter, you asked whether we had any views
on your suggestion to distribute a copy of the Australian Defence
Committee's Report to the other Commonwealth Governments. While in
general we fully agree as to the desirability of the free
interchange of information and views between Commonwealth
countries, our own view is that the first need is for Australia,
New Zealand and the United Kingdom to clear their own minds on the
complex issues involved, and to agree as between Governments on a
strategic policy and basic plan, and that consultation with other
Governments should be the next stage. A further consideration in
this connection is that Defence talks have still to take place
with the new Dominions, and that it might cause embarrassment if,
before they have taken place, and agreement as to policy and
planning been reached, receipt of copies of your present Report
were to lead to a request for the automatic circulation of all
such Papers produced by Commonwealth Governments. In the
circumstances, I hope that you will agree to send a copy of the
Report to the New Zealand Government only at this stage.

1 Document 104
2 Document 105.

3 Document 100.

[AA: A816/52, 14/301/353]
Last Updated: 11 September 2013
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