39 Mr Torao Wakamatsu, Japanese Consul-General in Sydney, to Mr J.A. Lyons, Prime Minister

Letter SYDNEY, 15 March 1939

CONFIDENTIAL

I have the honour to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of March 3rd [1], and to express my gratitude for the careful consideration given by you to the representations contained in my letter of February 17th [2] regarding various undesirable factors which are deemed by me to be affecting the relationship between Australia and Japan.

The efforts you are so thoughtfully making to preserve and promote the friendship between our two countries, and the impartial attitude maintained by your Government towards the Sino-Japanese conflict, are greatly appreciated by me. However, when I take a long view of the general anti-Japanese attitude of the press in this country, and its actual influence upon the general public, I cannot but be sincerely anxious about the undesirable effects on the relations between our two countries which-apart from immediate consequences- will possibly accumulate in the future from such anti-Japanese phenomena, if they are left unremedied.

In this connection, I wish to supplement my former representations by mentioning the following points:-

(1) Irrespective of the system or form of internal politics of a country, it is its central Government that should be finally held responsible practically, even if not legally-for all matters relating to international amity or courtesy.

(2) According to section 52(c) of the Customs Act 1901-1935, Regulation 5 of the Customs (Prohibited Imports) Regulations 1934, Regulation 14 of the Customs (Cinematograph Films) Regulations 1932, and Regulation 3 of the Customs (Literature Censorship) Regulations, 1937, the Commonwealth Government is empowered to prohibit the importation of 'blasphemous, indecent, or obscene' films or literature, and such films as are 'likely to be offensive to the people of any friendly nation'; therefore it does not seem impossible for your Government to exercise control over foreign films and magazines of such a nature as those mentioned in (5) and (6) of my letter abovementioned.

(3) It is earnestly desired that steps be taken to discourage the exhibition (as, for example, at Swain's, 123 Pitt Street, Sydney) of photographs or cartoons which are provocative to a friendly foreign country, and some of which are even insulting to the Sovereign of such a country.

(4) On March 4th, the Sydney 'Daily News' published a remark which was obviously intentionally insulting to the Empress of Japan, and this was followed up by a further disrespectful paragraph on March 7th on the same subject (cuttings attached hereto). [3]

(5) On page 2 of your letter above referred to, you mention that occasional statements of an anti-Australian nature have been made or published in Japan. However, it seems that at no time have such statements been made or published in my country without any such provocation as, for example, the prejudiced attitude of Australian newspapers against Japan, the anti-Japanese shipping boycott by workers, the embargo on the exportation of iron ore from Yampi Sound, and so forth. If there is any particular case which you have in mind, and if you will advise me of such, I shall be prepared to take appropriate steps to prevent a recurrence in the future.

(6) Although it is realised that the alleged attempt to assassinate me was merely a threat, it cannot, nevertheless, be denied that there was an underlying intention to cause a sensation and disturbance, or to demonstrate a bitter antagonism towards my country. That it was deliberately planned is proved by the fact that some person had even previously acquainted himself with the situation of the particular school which my children attend, and had employed a boy to waylay my chauffeur on his return therefrom and hand him a note, warning him not to drive my car on February 10th.

I sincerely trust you will appreciate that it is solely due to my fears as to the possible consequences, in the long run, of a continuance of the present trend of feeling on the part of the Australian public towards Japan, and to my earnest desire for the maintenance and promotion of the amicable political and economic relationship between our two countries, that I set forth these representations for your consideration, and request you to be good enough to take appropriate steps to remedy the present situation, which is causing me great anxiety.

TORAO WAKAMATSU

1 Document 34.

2 Document 27.

3 Not printed.

[AA: A981, JAPAN 101, ii]