298 Mr John Curtin, Prime Minister, to Lord Cranborne, U.K. Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs

Cablegram 74 CANBERRA, 24 January 1942


Following for the Prime Minister [1] from the Prime Minister. [2]

1. Reference your 93. [3]

Paragraph 1. At the point which will be decisive we do not consider there is real as distinct from nominal equality of voice.

Paragraph 2. Your agreement to our request is noted. Sir Earle Page will continue in London for time being as accredited Australian Representative. We regard this arrangement as complementary to Pacific War Council and ask that no public statement be made until arrangements for Council are also finalised.

Paragraph 3. It is desired, as this machinery was evolved between the President [4] and yourself, that in the first instance our views be submitted by you to the President for his consideration.

2. Page has communicated a note on the Council which he has received from the Dominions Secretary [5], on which we make the following comments:-

(i) Instructions to the Commander-in-Chief, South-west Pacific Area, are issued by the President who will be advised by the Combined Chiefs of Staff Committee in Washington. Australia, New Zealand and the Netherlands East Indies are not represented on this body. It is a more logical and expeditious arrangement to have the Pacific Council in Washington alongside the President and the Combined Staff, than in London.

(ii) With a Pacific Council in Washington relying for its advice on the Allied Joint Staff there is less possibility of conflicting advice arising from the technical advisers than if it is in London consulting another set of officers on the United Kingdom and Dominions joint Staffs. If the views of the members are irreconcilable and cannot be 'focussed', a satisfactory solution is more likely at Washington, the seat of the final authority, than in London.

(iii) It is stated that the Combined Chiefs of Staff Committee will 'receive the opinion of the Council'. As the Council is a political body on the governmental plane, this procedure indicates that the functions of the Council are of an advisory and not executive nature.

(iv) In the event of differing views on the Council, the Australian Representative in London might be in agreement with the United States Representative on the Combined Chiefs of Staff in Washington, but the Australian viewpoint might not reach the President, who is the final arbiter. With the Council at Washington the points of difference could be discussed with the Combined Staffs and the President or his representative on the Council would obtain first-hand knowledge of the Australian member's viewpoint.

(v) As the President is the final authority, and as the President and the Prime Minister are to discuss points that are in dispute or matters of great urgency, this also indicates that the proposed Council will be advisory as it will certainly not possess any final executive authority in London. Furthermore, the views of the London Council are to be represented to the Joint Staff in Washington by the Prime Minister, who is also to report to them any differences of view between the four members of the Council and in the last resort to reach a settlement with the President.

The presence of the Council in Washington would facilitate a conclusion if the Prime Minister and President are unable to agree.

(vi) In short, we strongly urge a Pacific Council at Washington, its jurisdiction not to be limited to the A.B.D.A. Area and its personnel to be representative of the United Kingdom, United States of America, Australia, China, Netherlands and New Zealand.

1 Winston Churchill.

2 See editorial note before Document 294.

3 Dispatched 22 January (on file AA:A2680, 14/1942). It referred to Curtin's cablegram published as Document 289, and stated that the proposed Far Eastern Council in London would not be purely advisory and that Australia's voice on it would be equal to the United Kingdom's.

4 Franklin D. Roosevelt.

5 See cablegram P30 of 22 January on the file cited in note 3.

[AA:A2680, 14/1942]