127 Cablegram From Casey to Spender
Cablegram, Canberra, 18 March 1952
273. CONFIDENTIAL PERSONAL
Many thanks for your telegrams 339 and 367, and for your letter of 7th February. It is disappointing, though not perhaps altogether surprising, that you have found signs of apathy and even opposition in some quarters towards planning and action designed to extract full value from the Pact. This confirms what I myself have felt all along, and I am sure you also - that the main impetus would have to come, especially at the beginning, from ourselves and New Zealand, as the chief beneficiaries, if the Pact is to realise our full hopes.
I am particularly glad that in your talks with Cowen you have emphasised the role of the Council. This is clearly the most important element of the Pact; it offers the chance to enter into consultation and planning extending in practice well beyond the limits of joint resistance to armed attack in the Pacific. It is for this reason that I am firmly convinced that the first meeting of the Council, which will in effect launch the Pact, must be staged under the best possible auspices if the results we want are to flow. Without a successful opening meeting, any arrangements we may make for machinery and functions will be handicapped from the beginning. This makes the choice of place and time for the first meeting a matter of considerable importance.
It seems to me highly desirable that Acheson, or at least one of his principal deputies, should be present. However appropriate it might be in some ways to launch the Pact in Canberra, therefore, it would appear that the choice of venue might have to be limited to the Continental United States or perhaps Honolulu. It is probably idle to expect that Acheson would come to Australia or New Zealand, and it would be anything but satisfactory if the United States Government were to nominate a man of indifferent calibre and status for the opening meeting. If the venue is to be in the Continental United States, logic would suggest Washington.
From the point of view of my own attendance, this would in turn affect timing. Having only recently returned from Europe, and being about to leave again for the Consultative Committee meeting at Karachi, I would find it most difficult to go abroad again in the next few months. While it is difficult to plan so far ahead, it could well happen that the next occasion when I could go to the United States might not be until immediately before the next session of the General Assembly. This would delay the bringing of the Pact into operation but I do not feel that on balance we need lose anything by it.
In the meantime we can continue to list and consider items we may decide to take up with the Americans at the first meeting. We have already begun informal discussions with Defence and other Departments, and a number of ideas are being developed. The possibility of using the Council in some way to define the part that Australia and New Zealand can play in wartime food production, for example, and to seek higher priorities for equipment, sulphur etc. is under consideration; and the defence authorities are anxious to obtain more intimate co-operation with the Pentagon in strategic and logistical planning. The Americans will need to be approached somewhat carefully on matters of this sort, particularly where they extend into field of global planning, and I think we should not at this stage discuss our intentions in such a way as to put them on their guard. But they can be assured in general that it is our firm desire that the Council should be made to work.
The necessary machinery will, I suggest, be determined in the light of needs shown at the first meeting. It might well take a form somewhat on the model that you have suggested; the essence of it should be simplicity and flexibility. Above all, it should not be allowed to overshadow or detract from the Council itself.
The foregoing represents my present thinking, and I should be glad of your comments on it.
[NAA : A4534, 48/2]