246 Curtin to Churchill

Cablegram 181 [1] CANBERRA, 19 July 1943

IMMEDIATE MOST SECRET AND PERSONAL

Reference your 177 [2], I would be glad if you could advise me more definitely of the various matters on which you have received reports, as it would help me to send a more precise answer. It would also assist me in tracing the sources from which the statements have emanated.

2. In the first place, may I say that I consider that the election campaign should be conducted as a purely domestic matter of this country without involving the views and policy of the United Kingdom or any of the Dominions or the United Nations. All my effort and influence are so directed. There are, however, interests which seek to regard your Government as an umbrella for their party slogans. Neither you nor myself can avoid this as it also happened in the elections of 1940.

3. I myself have not made any speeches so far, but probably the matter most prominently before the Australian people at the present time has been references to a report by the Commander-in- Chief, Home Forces, in February 1942 [3], which he submitted to the Government and the essence of which was concentration on the defence of the vital parts of Australia.

4. The implications of this report in relation to other parts of Australia have given rise to controversy regarding the Australian resources that were available for the defence of the Commonwealth and adjacent territories after the entry of Japan into the war. In these discussions, mention has been made of the loss of Australian forces in Malaya, Ambon, Timor and Rabaul, and the inability to hold these regions, together with the lack of forces to forestall or stop the Japanese advance in New Guinea. These questions, of course, have not involved and should not involve the policy of any Governments except those of myself and its predecessors.

5. A matter that has come to my notice which bears directly on your message is a statement by Mr. Menzies reported in the press of 13th July, in which he criticised the Australian Government for not sending an A.I.F. Division to Burma. On the following day, this was answered by one of my Ministers [4] from the aspect of the essential needs of Australian defence at the time.

6. Mr. Spender, another member of the Advisory War Council, is reported in the press of 13th July as having attributed to members of the present Government a desire to withdraw from the Mediterranean. The only knowledge of such a proposal having been mentioned to the United Kingdom Government was when the question of evacuation plans in the Middle East was raised by Mr. Menzies when he was in London in 1941, at the instance of his Government.

[5]

7. Action has been taken by me to bring your request to the notice of Ministers but it would help me to have more specific details of the reports made to you. [6]

CURTIN

1 Sent through the U.K. Dominions Office.

2 Document 245.

3 For an account of the 'Brisbane Line' controversy see Paul Hasluck, The Government and the People 1942-1945, Australian War Memorial, Canberra, 1970, pp. 711-17.

4 J. A. Beasley.

5 See Documents on Australian Foreign Policy 1937-49, vol. IV, Documents 407, 410 and 413.

6 Churchill replied on 21 July that the reports mentioned in paragraphs 5 and 6 were those that had prompted his initial cablegram. He expressed the hope that Curtin would show the ensuing correspondence not only to his ministerial colleagues but also to all members of the Advisory War Council. See cablegram 180 in FA:A3195, 1943, box, Most Secret inwards master sheets from Secdo, 1.30276.

[FA:A3196, 1943, FOLDER, OUTWARDS MOST SECRET MASTER SHEETS 0.19543-19544]