10 Memorandum prepared for Delegation to Imperial Conference

Extract n.d. [after 10 February 1937]


The first part of this memorandum dealt with U.S.-U.K. relations, and the second part with U.S.-Australian relations. The extract printed here is the second section of the second part; the first section dealt with trade relations between the U.S. and Australia.


In June 1936 it was suggested that the appointment of an External Affairs Officer to the British Embassy at Washington would be an opportune step, both as a gesture of friendship to the United States Government to offset any misunderstanding which might have resulted from the Commonwealth's Trade diversion policy, and also as providing a direct means of approach to the United States Government. Such an attachment had been advocated by Mr Bruce in 1932. [1] The Foreign Office also intimated that they would welcome such a proposal. Representatives in Australia of foreign countries and especially those of the United States, have often said that their officials feel the lack of an Australian officer with whom they could discuss matters of common interest and obtain the Commonwealth point of view.

The question of the appointment of an Australian liaison officer to the British Embassy at Washington was submitted to Cabinet on 10th July, 1936, which approved of the principle of such an appointment. The Foreign Office was thereupon consulted as to the details of the appointment. A reply was received on 17th October expressing the pleasure of the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs at the proposal, which was described as 'a practical contribution to the cause of intra-Imperial co-operation'. He also suggested that the status of 'Counsellor' would be the most suitable. This suggestion was agreed to by Cabinet on 7th December, 1936, and it was decided to proceed with the appointment of an officer to be known as the 'Australian Counsellor'. The salary of the post was fixed at 636-708, to be supplemented by an allowance at the rate of 1,000 per annum if unmarried, and of 1,200 per annum if married.

On 6th January, 1937, the Foreign Office was asked to submit to His Majesty the King the Commonwealth Government's proposal for the appointment of an Australian Counsellor and on 30th January the Foreign Office advised the High Commissioner that His Majesty was glad to approve of the proposal that a member of the Australian Department of External Affairs should be attached to His Majesty's Embassy at Washington. It was decided to appoint Major F. K. Officer, O.B.E., M.C., LL.B., to this post, and the appointment was announced in the morning press on 10th February, 1937.

Considerable interest has been displayed both in the Australian and American press, and as early as 30th November 1936, the press reported that great interest had been aroused in Washington by the news that an Australian representative was to be appointed there. On 17th December, the press again referred to what was still only a rumour and alleged that Washington viewed the scheme very favourably and that it was thought likely that Mr Pierrepont Moffat, at present Consul-General for the United States in Sydney, should be made Consul-General in Canberra, and that the post might later be raised to that of Minister. Following the announcement on 10th February, a great deal of favourable comment was made in the Australian press, including a number of leading articles in the principal metropolitan dailies.

It is felt that the appointment of officers to centres of particular importance to Australia will give continuity to the policy of maintaining the closest and most friendly relations with all countries in the Pacific zone. It will also facilitate the provision by the Commonwealth Government of trained and experienced officers in international affairs and lay the foundation for any future representation of a higher status which the Government of the day may consider necessary. [2]

1 A report, written by S. M. Bruce in 1932, has not been found, but its contents were referred to in a Cabinet submission from the External Affairs Department dated 8 July 1936 (AA: A981, EA Dept 152) and in a Cabinet submission from the Prime Minister's Department on the Commonwealth Office in New York (PM&C: A2694, 10 December 1937). It appears from these submissions that Bruce advocated that a member of the External Affairs Department be attached to the staff of the British Embassy in Washington as a liaison officer. In 1932 Bruce was Minister resident in London; in 1933 he became High Commissioner in London.

2 Memorandum prepared in Department of External Affairs.