165 Burton to Shedden

Letter 2 May 1947,


Thank you for your personal letter of 29th regarding the distribution of telegrams.

There has been no change that I am aware of in instructions to the officer in charge of cables regarding the distribution of telegrams, either since Mr. Mulrooney [1] left or since my predecessor [2] left.

There has, however, been a considerable increase in the volume of telegrams, and, moreover, an increase in the complexity of the issues raised in telegrams. In particular, the existence of a United Nations Organisation has meant that subjects such as Trusteeship, Disarmament, and others, which might previously have been treated separately, are now brought together and discussion on one subject inevitably raises discussions on others. For this reason, occasions will be found when cables are distributed to Departments which seem to be concerned and, at a later date, side issues are raised which are the concern of other Departments.

This, perhaps, underlines your point that Defence Department should receive most policy telegrams, so that, when related issues of interest to the Department do crop up, the background is available.

The procedure we have been adopting has been, as in the case of Trusteeship, to refer to you back telegrams when advice is required on a particular issue.

Apparently this has not worked out satisfactorily and you would prefer to receive copies of most policy telegrams. You will appreciate that many telegrams, and, in fact, perhaps most telegrams exchanged between Governments, are not so much on policy but concern rather procedure and the implementation of policy.

Some of these are exchanges on the highest levels and, as such, are not distributed even within this Department. Some of those missing numbers to which you refer were of this nature and they would add nothing to a general understanding of policy.

I am glad you have raised this matter and we will do everything possible to see that you receive telegrams on policy and the further distribution will be in accordance with your own discretion. If files do not seem complete, missing telegrams probably deal with exchanges which add nothing to an understanding of the position, but, if at that stage your officers consider there may be information which has not been made available to them, they have only to advise by teleprint or other means and we will do our best to supply it.

You at present receive the Political Intelligence Summary each two weeks and I am arranging for you to receive also a Summary of Despatches which is prepared each two weeks and which may help to give background information.

All that we can do, however, in this way will not completely satisfy the needs of close liaison between the two Departments, particularly on matters of primary concern to this Department, such as Japanese Settlement, Trusteeship, and also on the many matters of primary concern to your Department in which we are interested and in which we might from time to time be able to assist. The basic difficulty is a geographic one with a consequent absence of informal and personal contacts between officers of the two Departments. Any senior officer who visits Melbourne on any matter will make a point of calling on one or more of your officers, and I hope that your officers will adopt a similar practice when they are in Canberra. [3]

1 J.L. Mulrooney, First Secretary, Dublin; formerly Officer-in- Charge of External Communications, Department of External Affairs.

2 W.E. Dunk.

3 in his reply on 15 May Shedden disputed Burton's observation that most telegrams were less concerned with policy than with its implementation. He did endorse Burton's view of the importance of personal contacts, noting that the Defence Department would provide for External Affairs representation on the Joint Intelligence Committee and would co-opt an External Affairs representative to the Joint Planning Committee as required. Burton subsequently nominated Moodie for permanent liaison work with the Defence Department, including the Joint Intelligence Organisation.

[AA : A1838, TS669/3, i]