125 Evatt to Curtin (in London)

Cablegram 36 [1] CANBERRA, 3 May 1944


1. It is apparent from Bruce's telegram 60A of 26th April [2] that questions of major importance which did not appear on agenda for conference will be decided in the course of discussions on agenda topics. Agreement for instance on any of the suggestions for disposal of the Italian colonial empire set out in telegram must entail conclusions on post-war colonial policy in general.

Telegram D.335 [3] conveying the suggested agenda gave no warning that this would be raised. It appears furthermore from the general tenor of the memorandum that you will now be expected to express Australia's views on all principal questions connected with the peace settlement. It was the understanding before you left Australia that the conference was to be a personal one and that final conclusions would not be reached. In consequence the documentation prepared for your delegation was strictly factual and contained no discussion on policy.

2. We find great difficulty in commenting on an isolated subject until we have a broad picture of the proposals in mind for post- war security and new international order. On the particular question raised we are in doubt on certain fundamentals, e.g., whether the view is that (a) Italy should be severely punished, or (b) again built up to enable it to play a decisive role in European affairs, or (c) established in an intermediary position, freed from Fascism and with its energies directed to the social progress of its own people. Proposals set out are for most part unobjectionable, although we consider that it is unrealistic to deprive Italy forcibly of its colonies and then expect it to take part honestly and contentedly in their supervision by an international agency (Paragraph 9 (3) and final paragraph of Part C), while no change is made in regard to colonies of other Powers.

3. As two major questions of colonial policy and post-war security have not yet been considered it is unwise to comment on those aspects of items which enter into this issue. We feel that these should not be decided piece-meal in relation to particular topics.

4. With regard to colonial policy, for instance, the present Australian Government has consistently held the view that there should be general agreement to bring all colonial territories under the supervision of an international agency. This body should discuss and review the administration of colonies, and its powers should be comparable to those of the Permanent Mandates Commission but extending to all colonial territories. The proposed Advisory Regional Commissions would be concerned with arrangements for practical collaboration in their particular regions, and their activities, like those of the individual colonial administrations would be subject to supervision by the General Commission, to which they would report.

5. The United Kingdom Government has been willing hitherto to accept only the principle of regional consultative committees.

Telegram 60A, however, seems to suggest (paragraph 10 (3) and Part B (1) and the final paragraph of Part C) that it is now thinking in terms of overall international supervision in the case of ex- enemy territories.

6. It also appears (Part A, paragraph 2) that if British Somaliland is merged with Italian Somaliland this principle of international supervision might be extended even to what is now a British colony. It is possible that the United Kingdom has now reconsidered its attitude in this matter and we would like urgently to have further information on this.

7. These questions are so vital that I suggest for your consideration that we should make every effort to avoid committing ourselves now and endeavour instead to obtain agreement for their consideration by a further conference in three months' time, when we have had opportunity to study them adequately.

8. Meanwhile, I would like to see all memoranda on agenda items at earliest opportunity to enable me to comment as necessary, and also have reports as to the nature and course of discussions.

9. You have no supporting Ministers but even now so long as documents are forwarded to me immediately I shall be placed in a position where I can be of assistance to you.

1 Sent through the High Commissioner's Office in London.

2 On file AA:A5954, box 659. Bruce advised that a number of memoranda were being prepared for the Prime Minister's meeting and outlined U.K. views on the future of Italian colonies.

3 See Document 94, note 1.

[AA:A989, 43/735/1021]