21st March, 1929


(Due to arrive Canberra 20.4.29)

My dear P.M.,

After reading the Industrial Mission's report and after talking with some of the members of the Mission [1]-the immediate work that I am doing drops (a well-chosen word) into proper perspective. The urgent tasks before you are domestic and I can well understand how annoyed you must be from time to time at having your attention distracted by External Affairs, which must be regarded, on a balanced view, as being of subsidiary importance.

I am appalled at the problems that face you-the urgent necessity for getting down the cost of production whilst maintaining the standard of living on a scale that will keep the people contented- the necessity for development coupled with the necessity for the curtailment of borrowing abroad-the urgency of finding profitable markets abroad for our surplus products-the discovery of the truth about the effects of the tariff on the prosperity of the country- the resolving of the position as between capital and labour.

I can well imagine that you have your own mind fairly clear as to what are likely to prove the real solutions of many of these difficulties although you are hampered in putting them into effect by political considerations. Remedies can only be put into effect slowly, otherwise they would not be acceptable to the general public who would not understand the basic reasons behind the scaling down of their general standards. A government that tries to introduce remedies too quickly is liable to defeat, and any government that succeeded yours would be unlikely to tackle these questions at all-as they will be unpopular and difficult to defend and push through.

I have seen McDougall's [2] letter to you by this mail, asking for your views as to the line you would propose to take as regards economic matters at the next Imperial Conference. If there is any particular line of country that you would like me to explore and work up, on the non-economic side, I would be glad to know as far ahead as possible.

I got the first of the weekly letters from Simpson [3] by this last mail and, as I have written him in reply, will welcome such a useful source of information. They will lighten my darkness considerably.

Mr. Houghton [4], the American Ambassador, leaves London in a week's time. It is said that General Dawes [5] is to succeed him but this is unofficial as yet.

Sir Hugo Hirst [6] has modified his attitude towards the American interests holding shares in the General Electric Company and is now in negotiation with them. Evidently considerable pressure was brought to bear on him, and possibly retaliation was threatened.

Mention has been made in the press of some sort of restrictive action on the part of the C.P.R. and the Burmah Corporation, designed to maintain British control of these enterprises.

This year sees the opening of a lot of important civil air routes.

London to India starts in a fortnight, London to the Cape probably within six months. And Perth-Adelaide and your other extensions in Australia during the year.

I am not sending you information about the disturbed conditions in Afghanistan and Mexico. The latter really does not interest us at all-and as regards Afghanistan we are only broadly interested in the final result-a settlement or an extension of the disturbance in which the Government of India and/or the Soviets might become involved.

The story that you are coming over here as High Commissioner is again current over here-having come from Australia. I always say that I have no word of it and that, in the present (or conceivable future) political circumstances, I can't imagine how it would be possible.

The Foreign Office are thrilled by the fact that Prince George [7] has been attached to the Western Department as from today. I haven't been over there to meet him yet, but I have an invitation from the Department to do so at an early date. Campbell [8], the head of the Western Department, being away for a month, Allen Leeper [9] (as second man in the Department) has the job of initiating the Prince into the mysteries of the office.

The Prince of Wales and the Duke of York have been seeing all Foreign Office and Dominions Office papers of importance for some time. One hears that the Duke of York takes a good deal more interest in them than the Prince.

An amusing aspect of the incident about the War Office document [10], that I have since been told, was that no less than three copies of this particular paper found their way to General Chauvel! [11] Rowe [12] (Australian Military Liaison Officer), Colonel Plant [13] (Australian exchange officer employed in the War Office and who was Secretary of this War Office Coast Defence Committee) and myself-all sent copies! I don't suppose three copies of any important paper from separate sources have ever gone to Australia before. I expect it was this fact that temporarily enraged General Milne. [14]

I have not bothered you much in these personal letters with Antarctic matters, as the extent to which you should be asked to bother about the subject should be limited to deciding on the Expedition, and convincing Cabinet of the necessity for it. [15] But in the last twelve months I have covered the subject most fully in 'Dear Sir' letters, and your files on Antarctic matters should be as complete as anything here. I have been in constant touch with Mawson [16] and have cabled you very fully in an effort to co-ordinate the views of your Australian Antarctic Committee [17] (J. K. Davis [18], Masson [19], etc.) and the Interdepartmental Committee and Mawson here. In this last week, I have used strong and unequivocal language in my telegrams in an effort to convince your advisers of the necessity for a two years' expedition, and of routeing it from here to the Cape, covering the Queen Mary-Enderby Land sector in the first season and the Ross Sea-Queen Mary Land sector in the second season. I hope this will have been definitely decided on by telegram before this reaches you. The job of even looking at this tremendous coast line (over 3,000 miles) would make a single season expedition a most cursory effort. A certain amount of flag planting is all that could be done in one season, but the term 'flag planting' has been used as synonymous with 'consolidating British sovereignty'-and to effect the latter something more serious than simple landings and placing of flags has to be effected, such as charting the coast line and some attempts at serious contributions towards the scientific knowledge of the area. Also, for our own economic reasons we will want to carry out some rough census of the whale, seal and penguin life of our sector. This all points to a two years' expedition at the least. It would seem to me a waste of effort and opportunity to outfit the 'Discovery', take her laboriously halfway round the world for a mere few months' hurried flag planting, that could easily be put in the shade by the Americans and others. The additional expense of the second season's work would be inconsiderable.

I am giving a meal for Mawson next week. Mr Amery [20], Sir Charles Close (President of the Geographical Association), Sir Hugo Hirst (possible favours to come, in respect of the Expedition!), J. M. Niall [21], C. V. Sale (Governor of the Hudson's Bay Company), Tom Jones [22] (as Secretary, Committee of Civil Research) and one or two others will be there. The High Commissioner [23] was coming but has to do an official luncheon on that day.

It is a great pity that the romantic title of the Hudson's Bay Company has given way to the present short, business-like style.

It used to be 'The Governor and Company of Gentlemen Adventurers of England trading into Hudson's Bay'. They are most interested in our forthcoming expedition and, as I have said elsewhere, are anxious to be allowed to participate with local Australian interests in the exploitation of the seals and penguins on our Antarctic coastline. They are in course of developing a technique of treatment for hair seal skins, which Mawson thinks will make the Antarctic hair seal population a most valuable asset. Hair seals, so Mawson says, abound in the Australian Antarctic sector but have hitherto been regarded as of little value. The new Hudson's Bay Company process is said to give them a value approaching that of the fur seal.

I have had an astonishing telegram from Wilkins [24], New York:-

Would be much obliged if you could ascertain from Technical Staff Submarine Section whether they believe submarine could cross Arctic Ocean. If they believe it possible may come to Europe to investigate possibilities. Best regards thanks for arranging boat fares.

On the face of it, this appears to be a wildcat idea, but I am taking it up privately with the appropriate people in the Admiralty. He cannot mean to dive under the ice on one side of the Arctic and reappear on the other side two thousand miles away. He must know that there is some open water some way inside the Arctic circle and evidently has it in mind to dive under the intervening ice as a means of progressing towards the North Pole, continuing the enterprise by foot progress over the ice from the most northerly open water. Even this appears rather a harebrained scheme, but I will see what they have to say about it. I imagine that he doesn't want this to have any publicity as yet.

I enclose copy of a letter from Simonds [25] (prominent American press man in London) to the 'National Review' on the objective of American sea power. He is anti-British in feeling, and this letter expresses very well the point of view of that section of the American public.

It looks now (after the Root [26]-Sir Cecil Hurst [27] conversations at Geneva) as if the United States would find itself able to join the World Court. [28]

Interminable meetings are still taking place in Cabinet Sub- Committees and elsewhere on Anglo-American relations, under the well-known three headings, Arbitration, Belligerent Rights and Naval Limitation. There is a Geneva Limitation of Armaments meeting about Easter and the British delegate (Cushendun [29]) is in course of being primed. The Government, for domestic election reasons, is making as sure as it can that they are not branded at Geneva with the stigma of a breakdown-a tribute to the influence that the League of Nations Union has achieved! Nothing of any importance of course can come out of the Geneva meeting, and the British representative will stand back as much as possible, but it is felt that in view of the Washington Disarmament Conference in 1931, the ball must be kept rolling however slowly, as a definite breakdown would provide a bad atmosphere for Washington.

As to arbitration, there are, as you know, very definitely two schools here-one for accepting the American draft treaty practically as it is and letting Belligerent Rights, if necessary, go to Arbitration-and the Admiralty school who are violently opposed to this course. This cannot really be decided until the Imperial Conference. All-in arbitration, however praiseworthy the tribunal, must stick in the throat of Australia owing to the fear of White Australia some day becoming a gambit. If this country concludes an all-in Arbitration Treaty with America, there is the danger that she may have to do the same thing with Japan-or Italy.

Chamberlain [30] has been engaged in trying to evolve a scheme for the composition of a Tribunal before which we would be reasonably safe in going to arbitration even on the most contentious points.

He has tentatively sketched out a Tribunal consisting of an American and an Englishman and a nominee of each country, presided over by the Lord Chancellor and the President of the American Supreme Court alternatively. This to show you how their minds are working.

I am, Yours sincerely, R.G. CASEY

[Handwritten postscript]

This is regarded as particularly secret at present.

1 The British Economic Mission to Australia of 1928.

2 F.L. McDougall, Economic Adviser to the Australian High Commissioner.

3 Julian Simpson, Bruce's Private Secretary.

4 Alanson Houghton.

5 Brig Gen Charles Dawes, Vice-President of the United States 1924-28. He served as Ambassador to the United Kingdom 1929-32.

6 Chairman and Managing Director of the General Electric Co. Ltd.

7 The future (1934) Duke of Kent, fourth son of King George V.

8 Ronald H. Campbell.

9 Australian-born First Secretary at the Foreign Office.

10 See Letter 185.

11 Lt Gen Sir Harry Chauvel, Chief of the (Australian) General Staff.

12 Major G.C. Rowe, Australian Military Board representative at the Australian High Commission and Australian representative on the Imperial General Staff at the War Office.

13 Colonel E.C.P. Plant.

14 Field Marshal Sir George Milne, Chief of the Imperial General Staff.

15 See note 13 to Letter 146.

16 Sir Douglas Mawson, leader of the British, Australian and New Zealand Antarctic Research Expedition of 1929-31.

17 In mid-1927, the Australian National Research Council established an Antarctic Committee comprising Sir David Orme Masson, Sir Douglas Mawson, Captain J.K. Davis and Professor David Rivett (Chief Executive Officer of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research). It is probably this committee to which Casey here refers, but, acting partly on this committee's request, the Government in March 1929 established an official Antarctic Committee comprising Senator Sir George Pearce (Vice-President of the Executive Council), Mawson, Masson, Rear Admiral William Napier (First Naval Member of the Australian Naval Board), Dr Walter Henderson (Head of the External Affairs Branch) and (subsequently) Sir Edgeworth David (formerly Professor of Geology in the University of Sydney) and Henry Sheehan (Assistant Secretary in the Commonwealth Treasury).

18 Antarctic explorer and Mawson's second-in-command on the 1929- 31 expedition.

19 Professor Emeritus Sir David Orme Masson, formerly Professor of Chemistry in the University of Melbourne.

20 Leopold Amery, Secretary for the Colonies and for Dominion Affairs.

21 Managing Director of Goldsbrough, Mort & Co. Ltd.

22 Also Deputy Secretary to the Cabinet.

23 Sir Granville Ryrie.

24 Sir Hubert Wilkins, Australian polar explorer.

25 Frank Simonds, foreign editor of the American Review of Reviews, and a widely syndicated writer.

26 Elihu Root, Nobel Peace Prize winner (1912), former United States Senator, Cabinet member and Ambassador, a member of the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague.

27 Legal Adviser to the Foreign Office.

28 The Statute of the Permanent Court of International Justice, amended somewhat to meet Washington's demand that the United States must be free to veto requests to the Court for an advisory opinion on a question in which the United States claimed an interest, was actually signed on behalf of the United States on 9 December 1929, but the Senate refused ratification.

29 Lord Cushendun, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster.

30 Sir Austen Chamberlain, Foreign Secretary.