94 Evatt to Curtin

Letter CANBERRA, 24 March 1944

I have received your letter of 13th March, 1944 [1], regarding certain arrangements for the forthcoming conference of Prime Ministers in London.

In accordance with your request, I am preparing certain memoranda on the subjects in the suggested Agenda which fall within its scope.

I note from the Agenda that a very large part of the discussions will be concerned with external matters of the highest importance in Australia's international relations. No doubt such informal talks as you will have at Washington and Ottawa will touch on the same ground.

Several of the matters listed on the Agenda have, already been the subject of exchanges between the Australian Government and other Governments or have been taken into account in making decisions on various phases of our international relations. Moreover, a number of these topics have also been made the subject for special study by myself and my officers. It is obvious that on such matters ad hoc documentation cannot be a complete substitute for actual experience in the daily handling of a subject in all its details and familiarity with all aspects of these intergovernmental exchanges.

To illustrate my meaning, I would refer particularly to Item 3 of the Agenda as given in telegram D.335 of the 5th March. There have been exchanges of views between the United Kingdom and Dominion Governments on the subject of the post-war settlement on several occasions during the past two years. To give a recent example, in July 1943 (telegram 174 to the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs [2]) we expressed our views on proposals put forward in telegrams D.364 and D.365 [3] regarding an approach to the United States and the Soviet Union on problems connected with the cessation of hostilities with enemy powers in Europe. Since then the subject has been continuously under notice and has again come to the forefront in the more definite proposals made by the United Kingdom early this year for an approach to the United States Government regarding the nature and membership of any world organisation. Any discussion among the Prime Ministers in London regarding the nature of a post-war organisation could not take place without taking into account the earlier exchanges among the Great Powers and the earlier expression of views by the Dominions.

Equally, it has been my duty to give close attention to those various sections of the post-war world organisation which are already taking shape (for example UNRRA, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation, the Intergovernmental Committee on Refugees, the International Wheat Agreement and the European Advisory Commission). My department has also assumed a major responsibility among Australian departments in the handling of numerous political and economic questions which have a direct bearing on the post-war settlement, for example the conclusion of the Armistice with Italy, the Australian participation in various United Nations' declarations regarding the postwar order, the future of the International Labour Office and international economic collaboration in all its phases.

My department has also been closely in touch with the Post Hostilities Planning Committee set up in the United Kingdom. It is anticipated that the work of the Post Hostilities Planning Committee will have had a considerable influence on the views held by the United Kingdom Government in this field. The department has also made a special point of studying the views held by other members of the United Nations regarding the post-war settlement.

Regarding the specific matters listed under Item 3 of the Agenda, I would point out that it has been my responsibility to give close and practical consideration to those subjects when dealing with current political matters. The future of Italy and the Italian colonies had to be re-examined in advising the Government in regard to the Armistice with Italy and the re-establishment of Ethiopia. The future of France and the French Colonial Empire has been approached as a realistic problem on several occasions since June, 1940, when giving advice on the political aspects of the embargo on French Indo-China in June, 1941, assurances to New Caledonia, the campaigns in Syria, Mauritius [4] and North Africa and the accompanying Allied declarations, the recognition of the Free French and our later relations with the French National Committee of Liberation.

World security has been a prominent topic in all the Anglo- Russian-American exchanges referred to above and has been kept prominently in mind in the shaping of all the communications which the Australian Government has made to other Governments in relation to the Pacific, including my own negotiations in London relating to Portuguese Timor. The same subject has also entered into consideration on such diverse subjects as colonial policy, the resumption of the administration of re-occupied Pacific territories and the post-war use of oil installations and bases.

Regarding regional arrangements in the Pacific, the recent Australian - New Zealand Conference must be regarded as the base from which future discussion should spring. The work of my department in the preparations for and in the course of that Conference should prove an invaluable aid to any wider examination of the subject. Since the Conference the department has proceeded to implement the arrangement by which the undertakings into which the Australian Government entered in the Australian - New Zealand Agreement [5] can be carried out.

Item 4 of the Agenda covers two subjects-transport and migration- which, although not the primary responsibility of the Department of External Affairs, have important international aspects. The department has taken an active part in recent departmental enquiries regarding both civil aviation and migration and thus is well aware of the Australian as well as the external considerations to be borne in mind. During the past year, in close consultation with the Department of Civil Aviation, the department had to consider all international aspects of civil aviation and particularly the proposals for Anglo-American discussions and for British Commonwealth talks in London. In connection with its membership of the Interdepartmental Committee on Civil Aviation and the preparation for the Australian - New Zealand Conference, the department has also made an extensive examination of all international aspects of this subject and has taken particular care to inform itself of the policy of the United Kingdom and the sister dominions of Canada and New Zealand.

Apart from the particular matters listed on the Agenda, it also appears likely that in London, Washington and Ottawa various other matters of Australian foreign policy will be raised, either formally or informally,-for example our interest in the Middle East political discussions which are pending, post-war control of petroleum products, our participation in the International Rubber Agreement, the future of Mandates, matters arising from the Canadian Mutual Aid Agreement [6], matters arising from the Australian - New Zealand Agreement, relief and rehabilitation measures, and the resumption of administration in reoccupied territories. It is impossible to forecast exactly the form in which such questions may be raised.

I have arranged that all the services of the Australian diplomatic representatives abroad will be available to you. However their familiarity with the topics outlined above is far less complete than that of my department.

I appreciate that the Agenda relating to the Prime Ministers' Conference may not represent the true nature of the informal talks which are to take place. if the foreign relations of this country come seriously into discussion you will be at a considerable disadvantage for the reasons already outlined in this letter. On the other hand, the Prime Minister of Great Britain will have at hand his Foreign Minister and the special advisers attached to the Foreign Office. My own view was expressed to you in writing to the effect that the time had arrived for a full Imperial Conference as opposed to informal discussions between Prime Ministers. However, the desire of the British Prime Minister was otherwise.

I am very seriously concerned lest Australia's external policy should be affected in any way by the discussions and I take it that before they are entered. upon at all I would receive timely information. It might be of great advantage for the whole matter of British and Dominion foreign policy to be deferred to a special conference to be held later in the year. I am most anxious that in July next we should receive full United Kingdom and United States assistance for the conference contemplated under the Australian - New Zealand Agreement.

All these matters are of such importance to this country and to the administration of my department that I think it would be an advantage if you permitted me to appoint an officer of my department who would be at hand during any discussions on external affairs either in London, Washington or Ottawa. This officer need not necessarily be a member of your party although it would be very convenient if he could be added to it.

I will be glad to have your views on the subject of this letter so that any necessary arrangements can be made.

H. V. EVATT

1 This letter referred to Cranborne's cablegram D335 of 5 March which suggested certain subjects for the agenda of the Prime Ministers' meeting. On file AA:A5954, box 646.

2 Documents on Australian Foreign Policy 1937-49, vol. VI, Document 242.

3 ibid., Document 227 and note 1 thereto.

4 Presumably Madagascar.

5 Document 26.

6 Document 68.

[AA:A5954, Box 646]