108 Chifley to Attlee

Letter CANBERRA, 7 February 1949


Thank you for your letter of 29th December 1948 [1] and the attachment containing the comments of the United Kingdom Chiefs of Staff [2], on the two Council of Defence memoranda of 20th April 1948. [3]

2. Subject to anything you may wish to add in reply to my letter of 10th December 1948 [4], with which I forwarded the Defence Committee's comments [5] on PMM(48) 1-The World Situation and its Defence Aspects [6]-it would appear that there is agreement between our two Governments with regard to:-

(a) Strategic planning by the Australian Higher Defence Organisation,in conjunction with the United Kingdom and New Zealand, in a zone of strategic planning, the boundaries of which have yet to be determined.

(b) Examination, in conjunction with United Kingdom and New Zealand Liaison Staffs, by the Australian Higher Defence Organisation of the basic objectives of British Commonwealth defence policy and strategy, and a suitable basis for the distribution of strategic responsibility and war effort.

3. In my letter of 10th December 1948, I stated in relation to Australian consideration of the questions referred to in paragraph 2(b) above that:-

'The Defence Committee consider that "it is an essential pre- requisite to a study of these subjects in Australia that the United Kingdom views be made available".'

I note that United Kingdom views on Defence Policy are stated in the comments by the British Chiefs of Staff on the major military aspects of my letter of 24th May 1948 [7], and that these views have the United Kingdom Government's endorsement.

4. The interpretation in paragraph 3 of your letter of 'the Australian Zone of strategic responsibility' to be the region in which Australia would assume the initiative for defence planning in peacetime, is correct. The Council of Defence in April 1948 authorised the development of 'strategic planning', but, as indicated in my letter of 24th May, the fullest reservations were made regarding any implications of commitments involved in 'strategic responsibility', without the specific approval of the Australian Government. Your observations on the relation of planning to executive control in peacetime and the maintenance of the United Kingdom Command in the Far East either in peace or war, are noted.

5. In the light of the foregoing information received so far, it is proposed to proceed on an official level, through the agreed machinery, with an Australian examination (in conjunction with the United Kingdom Service Liaison Staff in Australia, and, if their Government wish them to participate, the New Zealand Joint Services Liaison Staff), of the matters referred to in paragraph 2 above. As indicated in cablegram No. 339 of 24th December, the Australian Government's approval of recommendation number six of the meeting of Commonwealth Prime Ministers in October, relating to machinery for consultation on Defence, is to be read as expressed in the detailed views in its memorandum of 23rd May 1947 on Cooperation in British Commonwealth Defence [8], and my subsequent letters of 24th May and 10th December 1948.

6. If the development of this work should later indicate that any increase in strength in the United Kingdom Liaison Staff may be desirable, either in regard to the nature or volume of the work involved, this could no doubt be raised on the official level.

7. I would also refer to the relation of United States plans in the Pacific to Australian and British Commonwealth planning, which was originally mentioned by me at the Prime Ministers' Conference in 1946 and referred to in paragraph 3 of the conclusions of the Council of Defence in April 1948 [9], in paragraph 4 of document PMM(48)1, and in paragraphs 4, 5, 15, and 26-28 of the Defence Committee's report on document PMM(48)1. Though the Defence Committee's examination under 2(b) above will enable the Government to determine the broad basis on which the general outline plans to meet immediate and long term dangers will be prepared, it will be essential, before the Government can consider and accept such plans as envisaged in paragraph 15 of PMM(48)1, to have something more concrete than the statement of the United Kingdom Chiefs of Staff in the attachment to your letter that 'we consider that the threat in the Pacific can be adequately matched by American naval and air strength'.

8. Copies of the Australian memoranda of 20th April 1948 to which you refer in paragraph 5 of your letter of 29th December 1948 were forwarded on 24th May 1948, simultaneously to you and to the New Zealand Prime Minister. I am forwarding to Mr. Fraser, at your request, a copy of your letter of 29th December 1948 with a copy of this reply.

1 Document 100.

2 Not published.

3 See Document 98, paragraph 6 (i) and (ii), and footnotes thereto.

4 Document 105.

5 Document 104.

6 Document 100.

7 Document 98.

8 See Volume 12, Document 172, Attachment thereto.

9 Document 97, see pan (3), iii (c).

[AA:A5954, 1628/5]