96 Chifley to Beasley

Cablegram 25 CANBERRA, 18 February 1946


Reference Nos. 946 [1] and 1003. [2]

We cannot but express surprise at the procedure being followed in these matters affecting vital Australian interests in the Pacific.

(1) We received from Makin a copy of a Chiefs of Staff report dated November [3] relative to the sovereignty of British islands in the Pacific, on which we had not been consulted or given the opportunity of expressing any view. We consider it dangerous as contemplated in this document even to consider giving up rights in the Pacific as a bargaining basis for benefits in another part of the world.

(2) As stated in your cablegram No.503 of 23rd January [4], the United Kingdom suggested a joint commission with terms of reference, but the answer received to the observations in our cablegram UNO11 of 26th January [5], is that both the United Kingdom and New Zealand representatives felt they had committed themselves to the United States representative to hold a conference at Washington with terms of reference as proposed in London. This is confirmed by Fraser's personal cablegram to Dr.

Evatt of 10th February. [6]

2. It is not seen how the future use of the bases established by the United States can be considered apart from an overall plan in which their role would be defined, and in which the right to joint use and reciprocity would be provided for.

3. As the Prime Ministers' Conference is being convened primarily to consider matters pertaining to the Pacific, of which the question of bases is a vital aspect, we are of the opinion that no discussion in Washington should precede the Prime Ministers' conference. The London conference will also provide the opportunity to reach an understanding on a common British Commonwealth course of action. If the United Kingdom and New Zealand Governments feel they are committed to going ahead with the Washington conference, the Australian Government must reserve all rights in regard to conclusions which may be reached.

4. It is noted in an Australian Associated Press message from Washington published on 16th February, that Vice Admiral Forrest Sherman, Deputy Chief of Naval Operations, is reported to have stated to the Senate Naval Affairs Committee that an Australian Delegation is on the way to Washington to discuss the future of Manus. Public statements of this nature are misleading and cause misunderstanding and embarrassment, in view of our opinions on the procedure which we consider should be followed. [7]


1 Document 81.

2 Dispatched 12 February from Makin and Beasley to Evatt, it had reported the likelihood of talks on base in Washington within a month even though they had not been able to commit the Australian Govt to participation.

3 The U.K. Chiefs of Staff had seen the cession of sovereignty to the United States for the building of Pacific bases as a bargaining counter on much wider issues, from American support in revision of the Anglo-Egyptian treaty to the sharing of aviation facilities with the United States.

4 Document 48.

5 Document 55.

6 See Document 85, note 3.

7 Beasley replied on 19 February (cablegram 1144) that he would again put the Australian view to Addison.

[AA:A6494 TI, SPTS/1/4]