334 War Cabinet Minute

Minute 894,

MELBOURNE, 5 March 1941

SPEECH BY MR. MENZIES AT THE FOREIGN PRESS ASSOCIATION LUNCHEON IN LONDON

The Acting Prime Minister [1] referred to press references to the speech made by Mr. Menzies [2] at the Foreign Press Association luncheon, which appeared to have been interpreted by some local newspapers and by public opinion in some quarters in Australia as one of appeasement towards Japan. Messrs. Curtin [3] and Beasley [4] had also approached him and stated that, in their opinion, Mr.

Menzies had created the unfortunate impression in his speech that the warning given to the public of Australia by the Advisory War Council on 13th February had not been justified. [5] War Cabinet did not concur in this view.

The Acting Prime Minister stated that he proposed to despatch the following cablegram to Mr. Menzies, and this was approved:-

'Your speech Foreign Press Association luncheon has been interpreted here by some newspapers and certain public opinion as one of appeasement of Japan.

'Such newspapers recapitulating support they gave to warnings issued by Government and War Council on Pacific position a fortnight ago.

'Japanese Consul-General [6] seized opportunity publication of your speech to tell public here that warnings issued by Australian Government unjustified.

'Think that necessarily abbreviated accounts of your speech published here have given rise in some quarters to wrong impression. Cabinet consider this should be cabled to you as a guide to reactions.' [7]

1 A. W. Fadden.

2 Prime Minister. For a report of the speech see Sydney Morning Herald, 5 March 1941, p. 12. Menzies was quoted as saying:

'Nothing disturbs me more than to encounter that type of mind which appears to assume that, because we Australians and other British people are engaged in a deadly war-and a war which will not terminate except with our victory-we should at the same time, because Japan has made an agreement of some kind with the Axis Powers, permit ourselves willy nilly to drift into an atmosphere with regard to Japan which is dubious and dangerous.' 3 Leader of the Opposition and member of the Advisory War Council.

4 Leader of the Lang Labor Party in the House of Representatives and member of the Advisory War Council.

5 See Document 289.

6 Masatoshi Akiyama.

7 The cablegram (numbered 98) was dispatched to Menzies the same day. See file AA:CP290/9, ii.

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