148 McIntosh to Burton

Letter WELLINGTON, 15 March 1949


I received your letter of 10 March [1] yesterday, and following the despatch of another telegram [2] by Mr Fraser to Mr Chifley.

This matter greatly interests the Prime Minister personally, and he is handling it himself. I understand that it has been discussed in Cabinet and that the Prime Minister's personal views have received general acceptance.

Within the Department there is a division of opinion but at this stage the staff have no option but to carry out instructions.

I agree with you that this question as to how we approach South East Asia is of vital importance to both Australia and New Zealand but, as things stand, we are not only bound to pursue different policies, it is more than that, New Zealand is bound to be upset by what you propose to do. As you will see from Mr Fraser's reply to Mr Chifley, he found the latter's message anything but reassuring.

I note also what you say about the defence question, and here again our two Governments will be pursuing diametrically opposed policies. Obviously, the occasion calls for detailed discussions and the best I can suggest at the moment is an interchange of views following any talks which our Masters may have in London. It will be physically impossible on this side to do anything beforehand.

I am sorry I was not able to write to you privately on this matter before the despatch of the telegrams, but in each case the Prime Minister came to his own decision very rapidly and instructed that the message be sent off forthwith.

Please regard this message, as I do your own, as being secret and personal.

1 Document 147.

2 See note 3 to Document 146.

[AA:A1838/278, 383/1/2/1, iv]