103 Mr S. M. Bruce, High Commissioner in the United Kingdom, to Mr John Curtin, Prime Minister

Cablegram 87 LONDON, 5 November 1941, 8.45 p.m.

IMMEDIATE FOR THE PRIME MINISTER MOST SECRET

Your cable 6652. [1]

In a private conversation with Van Kleffens [2] and the Dutch Minister [3] I told them that I had now been advised that the Commonwealth Government was desirous of finalising exchange of representatives, and asked them whether the Dutch Government would be agreeable to this being done on the basis of a Netherlands Minister in Australia and appointment of an Australian Consul General at Batavia' Their reaction was very definitive [sic] against this course. They put it that it would be a very unusual and, from their point of view, undesirable procedure for a Minister to be accredited by one Government when the other Government was only appointing a Consul General. They further stressed that, even if such an unusual arrangement were entered into, the Consul General would have to be appointed to the seat of Government and not to a dependency of the Country in which he was to represent his Government.

They also indicated to me that they had been under the impression from our previous conversations that the question of an exchange of diplomatic representatives had been informally agreed to, the only point left for settlement being the action to be taken in regard to the Netherlands East Indies.

This contention I was in some difficulty to contest (see telegrams 3887 [4] and 4157 [5]). In view of this position they said that the Dutch Government had been under the impression, and the Queen had been so informed, that finalisation of arrangements for an exchange of diplomatic representatives only awaited agreement with regard to the Australian representative at Batavia.

While in the conversation the above points were put forward, the real basis of the Dutch Government's objection to the proposed arrangement is that they are very sensitive of any action which in any way suggests that the Netherlands East Indies is anything but a dependency of Holland, and this feeling is accentuated at present by the fact no doubt that the Netherlands Government is an exile of its own country.

In view of the trend of conversations, I said that I had only been discussing the matter with them informally, and now that I had their views, I would communicate further with my Government.

At the close of the interview they asked me if there would be any objection to their instructing their Consul General [6] to see the Minister for External Affairs [7] and explain their point of view to him. I said that I was sure that the Minister would welcome such action.

BRUCE

1 See Document 83, note 3.

2 Netherlands Foreign Minister.

3 Jonkheer E. Michiels van Verduynen.

4 Dispatched 21 July. On file AA : A981, Netherlands 20, i. It advised Bruce that the Commonwealth Govt was prepared to receive a Netherlands Minister in Australia immediately; in return Bruce would be accredited as Minister to the Netherlands, resident in London with a Counsellor or First Secretary resident in Batavia.

If the Netherlands Govt would not accept a formal diplomatic appointment to Batavia Bruce was to suggest (a) the appointment of a Diplomatic Agent accredited to the N.E.I. Administration or, if this was also rejected, (b) the appointment of a Charge d'Affaires resident in Batavia and accredited to the Netherland Foreign Minister.

5 Dispatched 31 July. On the file cited in note 4. See also Document 83, paragraph 2.

6 Tom Elink Schuurman.

7 Dr H. V. Evatt.

[AA : A981, NETHERLANDS 20, i]