484 Dr H. V. Evatt, Minister for External Affairs, to Mr John Curtin, Prime Minister

Cablegram E3 [1] LONDON, 6 May 1942


1. The broad conclusion to which I have come after conferring with the Prime Minister [2] and attending meetings of the War Cabinet on Monday night and of the Pacific War Council last night is that Australia has had very little if any share in the formulation and direction of the general policy of the war. It seems to me that policy in relation to the war has been determined outside the War Cabinet by the Prime Minister and his Service advisers and that Page [3] has had no share in the shaping of it. What takes place at War Cabinet is for the most part a narrative of action to which the Government is irrevocably committed or which has actually taken place. Madagascar provides the latest example. [4]

2. In relation to Australia, the division of operational responsibility as between Great Britain and the United States seems to have led to a tendency to regard matters in the south west Pacific as being of little concern to the United Kingdom Government but of concern mainly to the United States Government.

The result is that there was no report even in relation to the threatened Japanese attack or invasion of Australia, which one would naturally assume would occupy a prominent part in the proceedings. Further the Government's primary interest has been with the defence of India and there is reason to believe that one of the objectives of the concentration of aircraft carriers in the Indian Ocean is to force the Japanese to operate on the Pacific side of Singapore. That immediately adds to the danger to Australia.

3. Nevertheless the Prime Minister has again promised me in the presence of the Cabinet that if Australia is heavily invaded (a) He will at once divert at least two divisions including an armoured division as they pass round the Cape.

(b) He will throw everything possible into the defence of Australia preferring it to the defence of India.

4. In reply to promises in 3, I stated that the problem was to take such action now as this might discourage or prevent a Japanese attempt to invade and not to await the disaster of actual invasion.

(a) Provision of additional aircraft over and above what would be obtained as a result of General MacArthur's [5] recommendations under his directive.

(b) Undertaking to give greater support at Washington to General MacArthur's recommendations for the south west Pacific.

(c) A munitions allocation system which will be more satisfactory to Australia.

(d) A greater share by Australia's representative in the formulation of war policy and strategy.

6. Regarding aircraft in 5(a) some positive suggestions from Air Department would help me, providing they are sent by Monday morning. [6] As the aircraft would be additional to ordinary allocations the suggestions will probably be better received if they are not capable of being regarded as excessive.



1 Repeated to A. S. V. Smith, Secretary of the Supply and Development Dept (then in Washington), as no. 20.

2 Winston Churchill.

3 Formerly Special Representative in the United Kingdom. See Document 439, note 8.

4 See Document 499, note 8.

5. I think the atmosphere is favourable for the United Kingdom taking some action along the lines of 4, specially by way of 5 Allied Supreme Commander in the South-West Pacific Area.

6 See cablegram PM59 of 11 May in Flinders University Library:

Evatt Papers, Cables to and from Dr Evatt, March-May 1942. It conveyed MacArthur's recommendation that Evatt should 'concentrate on a general plan of reinforcement' for the R.A.A.F. and supplied details of the various categories of aircraft required.