164 Shedden to Burton

Letter MELBOURNE, 28 April 1947


You will recall from the correspondence between the Acting Minister for External Affairs and the Minister for Defence in November 1945, concerning Australia's interests in the disposal of units of the Japanese Fleet, that the Minister for Defence referred to the close relation between External Affairs Policy and Defence Policy and to the need for the fullest co-operation and exchange of information between the two Departments. The Minister mentioned in particular the vital interest of the Defence Department and the Services in the security aspect of the United Nations Organisation and the importance of this Department being kept informed of developments in this direction and the background in general.

2. Subsequently, in my memorandum of 11th April 1946, this Department's special interest in all matters relating to the Security Council and the Military Staff Committee was stressed, and the wish was expressed that the Department of External Affairs would ensure we are kept fully informed on all matters of Defence interest connected with the United Nations Organisation.

3. As you know, there is constant consultation between our respective Departments on subjects of this nature and, in order that the Defence Department can be in a position to furnish its views on the Defence aspects of the various problems as they arise, it is important that copies of all overseas cablegrams which are exchanged on these questions should be forwarded to Defence promptly, in order that the knowledge and background necessary for their proper consideration will be available for assimilation as received, and that we will not be gorged with spasmodic issues in bulk. The Departmental Machinery is handling many problems of Post-War Policy, and sudden rushes and urgent demands upset its smooth and efficient working.

4. Your memorandum No. UN.47/SC/6 of 16th April on Disarmament, with which you furnished a series of cablegrams on this subject not previously sent to the Defence Department, recognised the difficulty with which we are confronted when called upon for our comments at the last minute on a matter on which there has been an extensive exchange of views over a lengthy period, of which we have no knowledge. This difficulty is accentuated by the need for preliminary examination of these subjects in the joint Service Machinery of the Defence Department, by the joint Planners and the Defence Committee, where careful study and investigation and the possession of adequate background should be an essential pre- requisite to the formulation of a considered policy covering all aspects from the Defence and Services' point of view.

5. Cablegram No. UN.410 (Trusteeship 42) of 18th April from the Australian Delegation, New York, is another recent illustration of the difficulty presented by a last-minute request for the urgent comments of this Department on the Defence aspect of cablegrams on these subjects. [1] Although this cablegram has a definite Defence interest and stated that the United Kingdom Representatives in New York were seeking the opinion of their military advisers, the External Communications Directorate's distribution list at its foot shows that copies were sent only to 'Minister and Department of External Affairs and Territories'. A single copy, without any formal reference to the Defence Department, was received in this Department in the mail late on the afternoon of 22nd April amongst that day's general batch of cables. It was then necessary to reproduce copies to for-ward to the Joint Planners and Defence Committee for comments, in anticipation of the request subsequently received in your teleprinter message No. 269 of 23rd April.

6. The assurance in your memorandum of 16th April that copies of all cablegrams on Disarmament will in future be forwarded to the Defence Department on receipt, is appreciated, and I would earnestly request your co-operation in ensuring that this procedure is followed in respect of all the subjects in which this Department is interested.

7. I would mention in particular, in this connection, the question of the Peace Settlement with Japan, on which it is important that the Defence Department should be kept up to date, as it will be necessary at a later stage to furnish opinions on the Defence aspects. You will recall that the Defence Department's general views on the strategic questions involved in the Pacific Settlement and its preliminary advice on certain specified aspects connected therewith have already been requested in your memorandum No. PCPS.A/22 of 24th March, and this matter is at present under consideration by the Defence Committee. It is noted from copies of cablegrams on this question which have been sent to this Department, that there are other telegrams which we have not received. Cablegram No.77 of 11th April from New Zealand, for example, refers to Australian cablegrams Nos. 83 and go and to New Zealand cablegram No. 66, which have not been sent to us, and it appears from New Zealand cablegram No. 88 of 19th April that an Australian reply may have been sent to Dominions Office cablegram No. D.367 of 11th April. It would be appreciated if our file of cablegrams on this subject could be completed, and if we could be kept posted with further developments in order that, at the appropriate time, we shall be in a position to furnish our comments on the Defence aspects of problems associated with the Peace Settlement as they arise. [2]

1 Cablegram UN410 concerned the extent of reporting on security and defence matters to be required of powers administering trust territories.

2 In an attached letter Shedden assured Burton that reservations concerning the circulation of 'political level' cablegrams to service representatives were unwarranted as the distribution of such cablegrams was carefully controlled.

[AA: A1838, TS669/3, i]