96 War Cabinet Submission by Dr H. V. Evatt, Minister for External Affairs

Agendum 36711941 4 November 1941



1. War Cabinet on October 17th [1] had before it an account of the preliminary steps taken by the previous Government with a view to an invitation to Russia to appoint a Russian Consul-General to Australia. [2] That proposal was not followed up by the previous Government because of advice from the High Commissioner in London that the suggestion would probably bring a request from Russia for an exchange of Ministers. [3] Mr. Bruce subsequently reported that the Russian Ambassador in London [4] if now approached on the lines suggested would probably be content with a Consul-General in Australia and would not press for an exchange of Ministers. In view of this, Mr. Bruce asked to be advised of the wishes of the Commonwealth Government. [5]

2. The establishment of direct trade and diplomatic relations between Australia and the Soviet Union has been urged in a large number of representations from individuals, trades unions and public bodies received by the Commonwealth Government since the outbreak of the Russo-German war. The reasons advanced in these representations may be summarised as follows:-

(a) The necessity for giving the fullest material and moral support to Russia and encouraging continued Russian resistance.

(b) Common political interests, in particular the consideration that Soviet policy in respect to Japan in the Middle [sic] East is of importance to Australia-and (c) The potential importance in Australian economy of Australian- Russian trade.

3. War Cabinet deferred further consideration of this question until October 30th when it was decided that I should submit for consideration an agendum as to the composition of a special Australian delegation to Russia. [6]

4. It is presumed that the visit of a delegation from Australia would be for the promotion of understanding between the two countries, encouragement of the Russian morale and as an earnest of our desire to cooperate and assist in the common cause. The delegation should thus be constituted in a form which would exemplify both the moral and the practical aspect.

5. To this end the delegation might be composed as follows:-

(i) A Member of Parliament as head of the mission.

(ii) One or two officers from the Service Departments.

(iii) An expert in Commerce conversant with the distribution and supply of primary products and with the shipping position.

(iv) An officer of the Supply Department with knowledge of supplies which Australia might provide.

(v) A leading member of the Trades Union Movement.

(vi) Two other persons, one preferably a woman, the other a clerk or secretary with knowledge of Russian.

The question of route and transport of the delegation and other details need not be considered at this stage pending a decision in principle.

6. Attached [7] is a list of bodies who have, inter alia, made representations to the Commonwealth Government. [8]


1 This matter was in fact considered by War Cabinet on 15 October.

See Document 83 and AA : A2673, vol. 8, minute 1408.

2 See Economic and Industrial Committee of Cabinet agendum E36 of 24 July on file AA : A461, D703/1/4.

3 See S. M. Bruce's cablegram 594 of 29 July on the file cited in note 2.

4 I. M. Maisky.

5 See cablegram 64 of 7 October on the file cited in note 2.

6 See AA : A2673, vol. 9, minute 1460.

7 On file AA : A981, Soviet Russia 44.

8 Following a decision of War Cabinet on 12 November Bruce was informed on 13 November that there was a considerable body of public opinion in Australia favourable to the dispatch of a representative Australian delegation to the U.S.S.R. Bruce was instructed to ascertain the views of the Soviet authorities on the project, but not, for the present, to take any further action on the question of an exchange of Consuls-General. See AA : A2673, vol. 9, minute 1487, and cablegram 6960 on the file cited in note 2.