158 Cabinet Minute

Minute 10 MELBOURNE, 28 August 1939, 2.30 p.m.

INTERNATIONAL SITUATION The international position was discussed at some length, and the Minister for External Affairs [1] read cablegrams which had been received from the High Commissioner in London [2], and the replies sent by the Prime Minister. [3]

With respect to the cablegram despatched by the Prime Minister of Australia on Sunday, 27th August [4], it was explained that this action was taken after discussion with Ministers who were available in Melbourne.

Mr Spender [5] asked that some method be found for keeping all Ministers properly informed with respect to international affairs, and that the cablegrams relating thereto should be circulated not only to a limited number of Ministers but to the whole Cabinet, as otherwise they could not properly exercise their judgment upon particular questions.

It was resolved that the Minister for External Affairs should take this matter up with the Prime Minister immediately.

Mr Spender also stated that in his opinion the last cablegram received from Mr Bruce was unsatisfactory as it did not convey to Ministers sufficient information. [6]

It was resolved that the Minister for External Affairs should immediately communicate by telephone with the High Commissioner in London, requesting fuller information; but before doing so should obtain the Prime Minister's agreement.

The Minister for External Affairs then left Cabinet to consult with the Prime Minister. [7] On his return he advised that the Prime Minister was thoroughly in agreement with the resolution.

Arrangements were then made with the Postmaster-General [8] for a telephone conversation with Mr Bruce, which took place at about 4.30 p.m. The Minister for External Affairs then reported to Cabinet the substance of his conversation with Mr Bruce. [9]

In reference particularly to Mr Spender's request that the High Commissioner state whether he knew the tentative terms of the reply to be sent by the British Government to Herr Hitler [10], the Minister for External Affairs reported that the High Commissioner had informed him that the terms were unknown to him but that he understood the reply to be generally satisfactory and in accordance with the view expressed by the Prime Minister, Mr Menzies, in his cablegram of Sunday last. The High Commissioner stated, further, that in his view the position was much easier than twelve hours earlier. As requested by Cabinet he would send a full cablegram immediately to the Prime Minister giving as much detail as possible in respect of the international position. [11]

1 Sir Henry Gullett.

2 S.M. Bruce.

3 R.G. Menzies.

4 Document 156.

5 P.C. Spender, Minister without portfolio assisting the Treasurer.

6 This may refer to either Document 155 or Document 157.

7 Menzies was not present until 4.45 p.m.

8 E.J. Harrison.

9 No record of this conversation has been found.

10 Adolf Hitler, German Chancellor.

11 See Document 160.

[AA: A2697, VOL. 2]