362 Bruce to Evatt

Cablegram 161A LONDON, 27 November 1944, 5.30 p.m.


Many thanks for your cable. [1] I appreciate your frankness and I hasten to reciprocate it.

Two main points appear to me to emerge from your telegram:-

(a) The broad question of consultation before major decisions are taken.

(b) The recent flutter with regard to the public statement on mandates after the Australian - New Zealand talks.

(a) I think our minds are at one on this point. To avoid any possibility of doubt I set out my attitude. I regard Australia as being a member of a group of associated nations united together by special historical associations and by common political ideals.

Such association in pursuit of common aims if it is to endure must be founded on the principles of consultation on a basis of equality in respect to all questions of international policy.

This principle must be applied in a spirit of give and take owing to the differences in population, wealth and armed strength and geographical situation of the partner nations.

At the present time, in practice, the United Kingdom generally gives leadership but in doing so it must afford the Dominions an opportunity of expressing their views on A major questions before decisions are taken and must be prepared to defer to views of a Dominion when it is primarily concerned, e.g. Australia in respect to Pacific questions.

On the other hand, a Dominion must be prepared while leaving no doubt of its attitude on any question to defer to the views of the United Kingdom and/or other Empire Governments where others are more directly affected or the matter is one of general and not particular concern.

Upon how far we can all work down these lines in my view depends the measure of Empire unity and co-operation in the future.

In considering the problem we have to recognise there are obstacles that have to be removed. Here there are still people who do not recognise the right of the Dominions to a voice in the direction of foreign policy.

Save in the case of Australia, in the Dominions there is a virtual failure to play the part they should as members of a partnership of nations. South Africa has occasional brilliant inspirations but they are few and far between. No suggestions as to the lines policy should follow are offered. Expressions of views upon policies initiated by the United Kingdom upon which they are asked to comment are rare.

Resentment at policies to which the Empire has been committed by the United Kingdom without consultation are exceptional.

In the case of New Zealand this is due to a touching confidence in the wisdom of United Kingdom statesmen, though I believe that since the Australian - New Zealand Agreement [2] of last January the position has improved. New Zealand is really showing signs of playing a useful part in shaping Empire policy.

In the case of Canada it is due to a political determination to avoid commitment of responsibility-notwithstanding an efficient External Affairs Department which would like Canada to play an appropriate part.

Upon our efforts I believe depends whether these difficulties can be overcome. Australia alone among the Dominions has consistently expressed her views on contemplated policies in the international field and protested against United Kingdom decisions on international questions taken without consultation. By continuing this policy we will gradually destroy the influence of those whose minds still think in terms of a British Empire of other days. In the process we will gain for ourselves such a position in the Councils of the British Nations and internationally that other Dominions will progressively follow in our footsteps.

If we are to succeed in the task that rests on our shoulders we will have to exercise considerable skill.

Our general line will, in my view, have to be sweet reasonableness. At times, however, we will have to go tough and shake them here out of the complacent belief that in the end they can always persuade us to come into line with them.

A good example of a time for toughness is in respect to the early consideration of the full employment issue.

A bad example, with all respect, is, in my view, the mandates issue.

(b) The Australian - New Zealand Declaration with regard to the mandates system [3] came as a considerable shock here. The telegram-Dominions Office No. 325 [4]-sent to the Prime Minister was discussed by the War Cabinet and unanimously approved without any reservation so far as I know by Attlee, Bevin or Morrison.

The reason for this attitude so far as I understand it is as follows: No exception is taken to Clause 28 of the Australian - New Zealand Agreement. The principle of trusteeship is accepted.

The method of giving effect to it was contemplated as being, however, through regional Commissions linked in some suitable manner with the World Authority and I understand proposals to this end were being worked out. These plans deliberately contemplated the exclusion of a supervision similar to that of the old Mandate Commission as it was felt that experience had shown the Commission did not work satisfactorily. This view out of a considerable experience of the Mandates Commission I must confess I share.

On the other hand I do not know how Attlee and his Labour colleagues in the War Cabinet reconciled the United Kingdom Government view with the forthright declaration on this subject of the Labour Party in March, 1943. [5]

As a result of the discussions at the Prime Ministers' Conference it was thought here that while Australia believed in the principle of trusteeship she shared the view as to the undesirability of its being given effect to by methods similar to those of the Mandates Commission.

Having this in mind the Australian - New Zealand Public Declaration came as something of a shock.

In the official reply to the Dominions Office [6] you have made a good case and rubbed in the essential fact that the whole trouble has arisen through the United Kingdom not following up the matter in 1943.

I shall do everything possible to expedite the United Kingdom promised proposals on colonial policy.


1 Document 354.

2 Document 26.

3 See Documents 337 and 344.

4 Document 347.

5 See Document 352, note 11.

6 Document 352.

[AA:A5954, BOX 294]