361 Burton to Shedden

Letter, CANBERRA, 22 April 1948


CONTROL OF DOCUMENTS RECEIVED FROM THE UNITED KINGDOM GOVERNMENT With further reference to your letter of 7th April, I have now had an opportunity to examine our files. The files concerned do not form part of our normal records, and have always been retained in the safe of the officer concerned, who at the present time is Mr. Moodie, and who previously was Mr. Kevin. No other officer sees these papers.

Mr. Milner was, as your files indicate, temporarily in charge of post-hostilities planning work during the absence of Mr. Hasluck and before the Defence aspect of this work was taken over by Mr. Kevin. No officer other than Mr. Milner would have seen the document under discussion. As your records show, Mr. Milner obtained the document from the Defence Department and returned it.

I take it that the Department has been approached on this matter because the receipt by Mr. Milner of the document opens up one of several lines of enquiry which should be made in order that a complete report can be given. There is no evidence of irregularity in the files of the Department, and the safe-custody of the files appears on enquiry to be assured. Moreover, Mr. Milner was well-known to the Department by many officers, who all maintain that there is no reason to believe the papers held by him would not be in safe-custody.

No doubt copies of this same document were seen by a number of persons in the Service Departments, and perhaps there are other avenues which should be explored. The Minister points to use by Sir Keith Murdoch[1] of material parts of top secret documents which were in the possession of one or other of the Service Departments. In the absence of some evidence to the contrary, I do not believe any implications should be drawn from the facts that no source of leakage has as yet been discovered and that Mr. Milner is absent from Australia. This particular line of enquiry cannot be followed any further without an attempt to bring Mr. Milner back to Australia, through the Secretary-General. I gather that you do not think the facts warrant any such attempt, and in this I agree.

If there is any suggestion of leakage which could not in any way be attributed to Mr. Milner, who has been absent from Australia for some two years, this in itself would indicate a high probability that he was not involved in the leakage of the document referred to.

Having these facts in mind, particular care should be taken in making a report that no suggestion is made that Mr. Milner was an officer to whom secret information could not safely be entrusted. What is even more important, no suggestion should be made that any present officer of this Department is a person to whom secret information cannot be entrusted. On the contrary, any report made should contain a firm assurance regarding the safe-custody of any secret information in the Department.

I should be obliged if you would arrange for me to see any draft report which might be returned by any channel to the United Kingdom authorities.

[1] Chairman of Directors, Herald and Weekly Times Ltd. Former Director-General of Information, June-December 1940.

[AA : A6691, AS3/1, SECTION 6]