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364 Note of Conversation

Extract[1] , LONDON, 12 July 1948


Note of Conversation Between Mr. Chifley and the Minister of Defence, at the Ministry of Defence, on Monday, 12th July, at 10 a.m.

In Attendance:Lt.-General Sir Leslie Hollis.

Mr. Richard F. Wood.

1. Australian Security Measures in the Scientific Field
MR. CHIFLEY said that he would like to discuss the question of security in relation to Australia's scientific research programme. The impression had got about that the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research was not entirely to be trusted. This was largely due to an unfortunate statement by Sir David Rivett[2] to the effect that scientists ought not to be called upon to engage in work of a secret character. Actually Mr. Chifley himself had no misgivings whatever about Sir David's integrity, but the statement had been made and he felt that it would be necessary to take some definite administrative action to demonstrate Australia's awareness of the importance of security. He further understood that the Americans were proving a little reluctant to pass on information of an entirely secret character to Great Britain because they feared that Great Britain might feel bound to pass such information on to Australia and the other Dominions. So far as he was concerned, he wanted to do everything possible to help and to remove any doubts that were felt about Australia's security arrangements. He was contemplating two specific measures:-

(a) To bring the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research under the control of the Public Service Act which was the Australian equivalent of the United Kingdom Official Secrets Act; and
(b) To create within the new Supply and Development Department a special secret department which would have control of the guided missile development programme.

If these two things were done, it would of course still remain necessary to have contacts with the universities for purposes of fundamental research in much the same way as he understood happened in the United Kingdom.

MR. ALEXANDER[3] said he was obliged to Mr. Chifley for this indication of his plans. He would like to reassure him that the British Chiefs of Staff had consistently pressed the United States Chiefs of Staff for permission to release information to the Dominions. While the United States had a close link with Canada they were not at present prepared to go further and the Minister thought that any steps which Australia was able to take to tighten up security would be a help.

As regards the security control of scientists, the Minister suggested that Sir Henry Tizard would be in a position to indicate to the Prime Minister the measures which were adopted over here. From this point of view, Sir Henry Tizard's special position as chairman of the Defence Research Policy Committee and also of the Scientific Advisory Committee, responsible to the Lord President, was of particular interest.

(Note: It was subsequently arranged for Mr. Chifley to have a talk with Sir Henry Tizard and Sir Ben Lockspeiser[4] at 3.15 p.m. on Tuesday, 13th July.)

[1] The note forms an attachment to UK Cabinet Office memorandum GEN.243/7, dated 12 July 1948.

[2] Sir David Rivett, Chairman, Executive Committee, Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR).

[3] A.V. Alexander, UK Minister of Defence.

[4] Sir Ben Lockspeiser, Chief Scientist, UK Ministry of Supply.

[AA : A5954, 1790/3]
Last Updated: 11 September 2013
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