78 Mr S. M. Bruce, High Commissioner in London, to Mr R. G. Menzies, Prime Minister

Letter LONDON, 16 February 1940

I enclose herewith copy of a Memorandum on the question of the problem of establishing closer relations between Australia and the United States of America. The Memorandum was prepared by Dr.

Clunies Ross. It contains, in my view, extremely practical and useful suggestions. Knowing the great interest you take in this subject I think it will have a very real appeal to you.

I have discussed his ideas with Clunies Ross on several occasions and during the present week Sir Frederick Whyte, who is the head of the American section of the Ministry of Information, and Clunies Ross lunched with me when we had a very full discussion with regard to the ideas contained in the Memorandum.

As Clunies Ross is proceeding to Australia by the same plane as carries this letter there is no need for me to write to you at length upon his proposals. I would, however, strongly urge you to send for Clunies Ross and give him an opportunity of elaborating his views personally.

I am sending a copy of the Memorandum to Casey [1] in Washington, telling him that I have communicated directly with you on the matter.

Personally I hold the view that there is no more important question at the present time than the relations between the United States of America and the British Empire. For this reason, and because I consider the proposals put forward by Clunies Ross are well conceived and would produce good results, I sincerely hope that you will interest yourself personally in the matter, will initiate the necessary action in Australia and will instruct Casey to put his back into getting results. [2]


1 Minister to the United States.

2 On 19 March 1940 Menzies instructed Casey to discuss the memorandum with Earl Newsom, a New York public relations consultant (see unnumbered cablegram on file AA: A1608, L37/1/5).

Casey replied on 20 March (see cablegram 44 on file AA: A1608, L37/1/5): 'I agree with the first two pages of the memorandum but disagree with remainder. My first reaction is that the proposal rather dangerous, as the suggested organisation would be obliged to register under the United States Act for registration of propagandists and I believe that its activities would be quickly exposed by some of many people hem who investigate any and all suspected propagandist bodies.' In the copy of the memorandum Clunies Ross gave to Bruce the second page ended after the paragraph 'Any attempt by Englishmen . . .'


Memorandum by Dr I. Clunies Ross, Australian Member of International Wool Secretariat in London

Extract [?22 January 1940] [1]




During the present condition of the world the relationship of Australia to the United States has a very special importance in view of:-

1. The bearing of such a relationship on problems of Australian security in the Pacific, and 2. The possibility of establishing a better understanding of Great Britain and her problems in the United States through the interpretation of those problems by Australia.

1. Australian security and the U.S.A.

Australia to-day is fortunate in finding in the United States (a) a traditional dislike and suspicion of Japan and her designs in the Pacific, and (b) a latent fund of interest in and sympathy for Australian social ideals and character.

In contrast to a rooted objection by Americans to the involvement of their country in European problems, there is to-day evident a much greater readiness to accept responsibility for conditions in the Pacific. This has even been shown in California by the statement to us that the United States is virtually an ally of Britain since she has shown her willingness to restrain Japan at this time through such action as the transference of her fleet from the Atlantic to the Pacific. Were Japanese aggression contemplated against Australia in particular the latter would have the advantage that her people wherever they are known are liked by Americans, whom they are considered to resemble in their general outlook, their freedom from convention and the democratic nature of their ideals and institutions.

That such sympathy for and appreciation of Australia and her people exists is the more remarkable in view of the little conscious effort that has been devoted to its development by either country. Moreover, Australian opinion of the United States and its people is too often influenced by ignorance of all but the most undesirable aspects of American life and by the fact that Australians are the heirs to that attitude of condescension and superiority too frequently shown by the English, which in itself is a bar to the fuller development of understanding.

The conjunction of American dislike of Japan and her liking and sympathy for Australia, however meagre the knowledge on which the latter is based, offers a foundation on which by careful planning could be built an immeasurably stronger friendship and understanding. So strong could this be made that it could entirely change Australia's strategical position in relation to Japan. It would in addition create a more favourable atmosphere for the improvement of trade relations and other interchanges.

2. Australia as an interpreter of Britain to the United States In relation to the war, the understanding of the British case by the U.S.A. suffers from misconceptions which, on the one hand, lend support to the views of the more vigorous isolationists, and, on the other, cause uncertainty and doubt to the great body of conscientious and earnest people who are anxious to decide how great their obligations are in the present conflict. The isolationists maintain that (a) the allies are largely responsible for losing the peace, (b) they are first involved in the old game of power politics and only secondarily concerned with fundamental rights, (c) Britain is still an imperial power rather than a collection of free democracies, and (d) America was mistaken in intervening in the last war and is free from responsibility both in regard to the postwar situation or towards the present war; all this in spite of their decided sympathy for the allies and their dislike of Hitler and Stalin. Though moderate opinion is by no means decided in regard to these matters it suffers doubt and uncertainty in regard to all of them.

Any attempt by Englishmen whether official or unofficial to present the true position in regard to either the objectives of the allies, as no less real democracies than the United States, or the joint responsibility of U.S.A. for the postwar deterioration and the outcome of the present war, suffers (a) from the fact that any expression of opinion by an Englishman is regarded as propaganda and suspect, while (b) the American too often senses a feeling of superiority and a lack of understanding and sympathy in his relations with Englishmen.

These difficulties are so fully appreciated by those responsible for British propaganda that it is considered unwise to make any real effort to state the British case, but rather to hope that with the lapse of years truth will out. Such an attitude must result in the abandonment of hope that anything except the pressure of events, such as even more blatant acts of aggression on the part of the Dictators, or evidence of a direct threat to American security would lead to more active participation of the U.S.A. in the war.

There is, however, the possibility of Britain finding in Australia an interpreter in the U.S.A. who would be subject to none of the above suspicions provided the techniques followed were skilfully conceived and executed. Australia could present her own attitude to the war as a free and independent democracy but still a member of the British Commonwealth; she could present herself as the heir to British democratic institutions and ideals; she could express her understanding of such problems as British India, Palestine, etc., which are both vexing and confusing to the Americans; she could express her attitude as a country far detached from European problems to such questions as American responsibility for the failure of the peace; and finally as a far-off country and like America of the Pacific, she could express her attitude to the fundamental responsibility and obligation of all free peoples for the preservation of law and order and democratic ideals in Europe as elsewhere.


The following proposals for the setting up of an organisation to achieve the above objectives are based on the conviction that the technique to be followed in changing public opinion is essentially the same whether applied to a commodity or to social and political principles. Instead of seeking to change habits of food or clothing one seeks to change habits of thought. The one is no more difficult than the other. The aim is not to influence a limited income group in the one case or a small body of intellectuals in the other, but the widest possible public. In the case under consideration the aim would be to create such a body of informed and vocal opinion in the U.S.A. that it would support if not dictate political action towards the objectives sought.

THE TECHNIQUE With the safeguards dealt with below the technique to be followed would be that employed by a Counsel in Public Relations in the United States, in relation to an ordinary business contract. In this case the contract would be not on behalf of International Wool or International Tea, but International Relations, and specifically American-Australian and British-American Relations.

The function of a Counsel in Public Relations does not include advertising but rather the creation and dissemination of news designed to change and create public opinion towards a specific end, but so disguised that its purpose, unlike advertising, is not apparent. It must first be news and be accepted without payment by media such as newspapers, magazines, the radio, etc., purely for its news value.

[AA: M104, 1940, ITEM 8]

1 Clunies Ross forwarded this memorandum to Bruce with a covering letter dated 22 January 1940 (on file here cited).

[AA: M103, JANUARY-JUNE 1940]