13th June, 1929


(Due to arrive Canberra 12.7.29)

My dear P.M.,

I have not yet met the new Ministers, but hope to do so next week when they are more settled.

I hear that Sidney Webb [1] is a kindly and well disposed old man, who has the reputation, from the 1924 Labour Government, of lucidity of thought but suffers from indecision.

Their first Cabinet was held on 10th June. For your confidential information. Ramsay MacDonald [2] gave Hankey [3] instructions to record only their decisions at that and all future Cabinets, and not the arguments on which the decisions were based. [4] This threatens to make Hankey's task more onerous, as representatives of departments will have to get from Hankey in conversation some fuller indication of what was discussed in order intelligently to interpret the decisions-which will mean a stream of departmental callers on Hankey after every Cabinet. Ramsay may see the folly of this decision and alter it later.

Ramsay MacDonald intends to take the chairmanship of the C.I.D.

and Committee of Civil Research himself. He left it to Haldane [5] in his 1924 Government.

Hankey has spoken to MacDonald about my position here, and he was, at first, a little suspicious, but asked Hankey to put a note up to him about it. MacDonald made the point in talking to Hankey that he would like my name to appear in some official list, so that vis-a-vis the other Dominions there would not be any suggestion that the Labour Government were perpetrating some underground arrangement in our favour arrived at by their predecessors. Hankey assured him that the scheme under which I work had received a good deal of publicity and was made known in detail to the other Dominions both at the 1926 Imperial Conference and at other times. Luckily I had on my files the original letter from you to MacDonald accrediting me to him, but as I arrived here a fortnight after the 1924 Labour Government went out of office, I never delivered it.

You will have seen that Ramsay MacDonald intends to visit the United States at an early date. As you know, Baldwin [6] had proposed to do this if he had been returned to power. MacDonald will need careful shepherding over there as he doesn't, as yet, know either his subjects-Anglo-American relations and the naval question-or the United States.

Wheatley (Minister of Health, 1924) has been left out of the new Cabinet. He has apparently lost caste with the Labour Party as a whole in this last year or so, and has identified himself with the back-benchers. This may not be unconnected with several libel actions that he unsuccessfully conducted last year. He is a publisher and was accused of having, in his capacity as an employer, fallen away from true Marxian grace by not having paid his men the minimum wage.

There is no need of comment on Mr. Jowitt's change of party after the election. [7] I have heard nothing to make me believe that his motives are other than they appear-desire for personal advancement and office.

I have been obliged to subscribe to the 'Daily Herald'-the Labour paper. Its circulation must have gone up a lot, as one now sees it prominently displayed in all Government Department waiting rooms! The first act of the new Government was to telegraph to the British representative at the I.L.O. meeting at Geneva that H.M.G.

intends to proceed to ratify the Washington Eight Hours Convention.

A Chiefs of Staff Sub-Committee meeting of the C.I.D. was held on 11th June at which the question of Coast Defence was discussed.

This is the first of the momentous series of meetings that you will remember were to start in June. As you will realise, their proceedings are being kept very secret, and most probably I will not be able to tell you anything until their adumbrations are much further ahead.

I hear that the Admiralty are very hurt at the tone of Sir John Salmond's report on Air matters in Australia. [8] They repudiate with an oath the implication that the Air can perform any considerable service in the real Defence of Australia. I have heard that they had in mind asking the C.I.D. to pronounce on his Report, but I have done what I could to try and stop this, as no good can come of it, and it can only breed bad feeling. In any event, it is not the Admiralty's business. If Australia has any doubts as to the weight to be attached to Salmond's report, it is for Australia to ask the C.I.D. for an overriding opinion-not the Admiralty.

I send in another letter by this mail an analysis that I have been at some pains to put together of the Reparations business from the Australian point of view. The new Government's attitude towards the question is not yet known but you will get telegrams before the letter reaches you.

The Hon. George Peel goes to Australia on June 21st on behalf of the Merger Company. [9] He wrote 'The Economic Impact of America', in which I was most interested a year ago and which I summarised and added to-External Affairs have a copy, which it might interest you to look at before he arrives; it is only about 20 pages. Peel has been in to see me and I have got together a collection of books for him as well as back Hansards and copies of wireless reports, etc. He is quite a good fellow but with rather a nervous manner.

I spent the last week-end with Clive Baillieu [10], who referred to Mr. Fenton's references to him in the Federal Parliament (in connection with the Wireless Merger) in March. [11] He is writing you the facts, should you think it wise to use them, regarding the inference that the Baillieu family had financial interests that would benefit by the Merger.

I hear from Captain Feakes [12] that Captain Free (London representative of Huddart Parker) did very well in Australian interests at the Safety of Life at Sea Conference just terminated.

I enclose notes from Tyrrell and Vansittart with thanks for your congratulations. The others telephoned asking me to thank you appropriately. [13]

Antarctic Expedition business goes on at a great pace. I have been in this office from 9 a.m. till 6.30 p.m. and about four nights a week till 11 p.m. for many weeks.

I enclose letter from Chamberlain [14] in answer to a p.p.c. note that I wrote him on his leaving office.

I enclose 'Times' cutting (11th June) giving the losses of the Canadian Merchant Marine.

I enclose a collection of selected press cuttings which may be of interest with regard to the new Government.

I send in another letter by this mail a summary that I have compiled from all the authoritative sources available of the tariff position of Australian goods entering foreign countries.

Henderson [15] asked for this-I think the Trade and Customs Department wanted more information than was on their files.

I shall probably telegraph you shortly asking if I can have two or three weeks' leave starting early in August, as soon as Davis [16] and the 'Discovery' depart, as I am beginning to feel the need of it.

I am, Yours sincerely, R.G. CASEY

1 President of the Board of Trade in 1924 and now, as Lord Passfield, Secretary of State for the Colonies and for Dominion Affairs.

2 Prime Minister.

3 Sir Maurice Hankey, Secretary to the Cabinet.

4 For a discussion of this issue, see Stephen Roskill, Hankey, Man of Secrets, Vol. 2, 1919-1931, Collins, London, 1972, pp. 475-7.

5 The late Lord Haldane, Lord High Chancellor as a Liberal 1912-15 and as a Labourite in 1924.

6 Stanley Baldwin, Prime Minister until 4 June 1929.

7 Sir William Jowitt, formerly a Liberal M.P., became Attorney- General in the Labour Government in 1929.

8 See note 7 to Letter 161.

9 See note 2 to Letter 170.

10 R.P.C. Baillieu.

11 In the House of Representatives on 14 March 1929 Guy Fenton (Labour) had aired his suspicions that Australian delegates at the wireless-cable merger talks in London had had a financial stake in the outcome.

12 Captain H.J. Feakes, Australian Naval Liaison Officer in London.

13 See notes 16-19 to Letter 201.

14 Sir Austen Chamberlain, Foreign Secretary in the previous Conservative Government.

15 Dr Walter Henderson, Head of the External Affairs Branch.

16 Captain J.K. Davis, second-in-command of the British, Australian and New Zealand Antarctic Research Expedition of 1929- 31.