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Historical documents

381 Shedden to Chifley

Letter, LONDON, 7 September 1949


As advised in my cablegram I am leaving by sea on 9th September and will arrive in Melbourne on 8th October, when I shall seek a convenient opportunity for a talk with the Minister and yourself.

2. Mr. Alexander told me yesterday that he was going to Washington at the end of the month and reverted to the question of a partial settlement with the Americans on the subject of technical information. He was considering whether he should ask Mr. Attlee to write to you on the matter.

3. I stated that you were adamant on an over-all settlement, and that it would be weak to adopt any other attitude, before a reply was received from the Americans. I said that we understood the United Kingdom anxiety to avoid any further delay with the Guided Missiles Project, but we also knew that the Americans were intensely interested because of the reciprocal information that they would obtain from the United Kingdom on the tests to be carried out in Australia. The Guided Missiles project was the main strength of the Australian case and the Government could not be expected to agree to its case being weakened by taking the heart out of it.

4. At a meeting with the Chiefs of Staff today, they raised the same question again, but unfortunately Sir Henry Tizard was not there. I repeated that they were approaching it from the angle of technical information only whereas it was a political question, as the embargo had been imposed generally. The reputation of a Government and a country were at stake. An adequate case had been submitted to the Americans and it was up to them to answer it on that basis.

5. I hope that you will have received a satisfactory answer from the Americans by the time of my return. As mentioned in my letter to Mr. Gordon Gray, they will no doubt wish to lay down rules according to the categories of the information to be released. The people here who have dealings with the Americans on classified information and know of American security measures say that the Australian Government is now in a very strong position. They add that, in fact, our security measures and legislation are ahead of those of the United States which have not prevented leakages of information. Of course the background to my discussions in Washington, which I shall convey to you verbally, will really show you what we have been up against. Should the Americans be stalling on an answer until after the election, as mentioned previously, we may not get an answer until then. If the need for a public statement should arise before then I could prepare one for you on my return.

6. I have covered the whole range of Defence Policy and Machinery here in my discussions and there are aspects which I shall discuss with you and the Minister as opportunity arises. I presume the only early need will be some short reference to Defence for inclusion in your Policy Speech.

7. The press here have been dogging me throughout about my mission but I have steadfastly refused to say anything beyond that I am having Defence talks on the official level, that I shall report to you and that if any statement is made it will be by you.

[AA : A5954, 1795/3]
Last Updated: 11 September 2013
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