13th May, 1926


(Due to arrive Melbourne-12.6.26)

My dear P.M.,

I write hurriedly to catch a mail which goes out just a few hours after the General Strike [1] has ended.

It was a half-hearted strike from the very first. Although it caused a good deal of inconvenience and monetary loss, it never really disturbed the life of the country. Everyone took the inconveniences well-they swelled a vague remembrance of the war period without its dangers. No one went hungry and no one who had urgent need to move from one place to another had much difficulty in so doing.

There was some intimidation of volunteer workers in the poorer districts, a few motor cars were turned over and a few heads broken, and the first lesson learnt has been that adequate protection has to be organised to ensure that volunteers are not interfered with.

I will send you later a brief account of the Government's organisation to meet the General Strike situation. It has proved very effective. Its few weak points have been shown up. A confidential report is being produced by H.M.G. which I will try to send you-or at least a summary of the important points.

Hankey [2] is very pleased. He always said that it was evident that the General Strike had to happen to clear the air. It has all gone, he says, according to plan.

On the surface at any rate there is not much evidence that the Communists have had much direct hand in it all. Except with regard to money. The Communists, no doubt, had a good deal of indirect influence in the calling of the strike in the first place, in the persons of their members who have permeated the Unions and their Executives. But they never advertised themselves as Communists.

However, I expect Arcos (the Russian Trading Company) will have to look to themselves now as H.M.G. will be interested to find out how far they lent their aid.

2. As a sidelight on events. I went in to see Tom Jones [3] on Friday 7th May and found him in what was for him a very agitated state of mind. He had just come back from an interview with Winston [4] and had not got over being appalled at the lack of wisdom of his point of view about the General Strike position.

Winston had apparently waved his arms and engulfed T.J. in a flood of eloquence as to the necessity for troops and armoured cars, parades of forces and all the rest of it. 'We are at war' said Winston 'and must take all measures to defeat the other side.' The provocative nature of such measures had quite passed him by. T.J.

commented on the interview as a brilliant example of a fiery eloquence, quite untempered by balance or statesman-like judgement.

One disability that H.M.G. labour under is a lack of good negotiators in their ranks. Of the people who have been in the forefront of the negotiations, Steel-Maitland [5] (Minister of Labour) and Lane-Fox [6] (Minister of Mines) are said to be no good at all. The Prime Minister [7] himself is a good steadying influence on any conference, and undoubtedly his character has a good effect on the country generally at such a time as this. But in the quick to and fro of a Conference he has some difficulty in keeping up, and is rarely able to be on the spot with suggestion or timely compromise. Birkenhead [8] was used a good deal in the 48 hours that preceded the strike and is said to have been very useful.

Tom Jones has been in the forefront of the negotiations the whole time and has had little rest.

3. Winston's main preoccupation has been the organising and running of the Government newspaper. When the Strike started, the press generally decided that they couldn't produce anything more than small sheets. They couldn't agree amongst themselves as to the publication of a joint paper by pooling their staffs and they eventually asked Winston if he would not publish a Government paper, which he, of course, jumped at. Practically all the papers lent men and paper and the 'Morning Post' lent building and plant.

Winston was installed in the editorial chair and the 'British Gazette' came into being overnight. The 'Times' did least as regards help, and managed themselves to produce quite a good copy each day. It is felt that Winston overreached himself a little in the type of paper he produced-but that seems inevitable with a man of his temperament.

4. As a small contribution towards the show, my car and man have done over a thousand miles during the week in delivering bundles of the Government Gazette to Wales.

5. I was a guest at a most interesting feast at your Middle Temple ten days ago, at one of their rare functions. Birkenhead, Reading [9], Amery [10], several High Commissioners, the permanent Under- Secretaries of State of several departments and a few other guests connected with the Dominions were asked to an 'Empire Grand Day' dinner. It was a particularly pleasant function in the old Middle Temple Hall, which you will remember. One was surrounded by judges who unbent in a remarkable manner. Reading looked extremely well and youthful. It sounds like a fairy tale to think that he first went to India as a ship's boy and the next time as Viceroy.

Birkenhead was rather shabby looking but very sprightly and young and in particularly good form.

In the Parliament room after dinner, Reading sat underneath the painting of himself which was done ten years ago, and looked a better man than his portrait.

Judge Horridge [11], who escorted me through the proceedings, remarked to Birkenhead what a wonderful thing it was that Reading had such a collection of Grand Crosses. Birkenhead said: 'Oh, yes, he's well covered-in fact, when he's got them all on, he hasn't got to wear any other clothes.' [12]

6. In conversation with McDougall [13] lately, he tells me he has written you his ideas on the value of the top dressing of pasture lands and the use of submarine clover. Before I left Australia, I had some considerable interest in the growth of the practice of using superphosphate on both sheep and dairy pastures, and was convinced that it was of great value. It is not a universal panacea, as it has definite limits in the type of land on which it can profitably be used, and, more important still, it depends on the rainfall, which should be something not much less than 17-18 inches.

My angle of considering the matter was connected with the sale, in N.S.W., of superphosphate manufactured at Port Kembla, for which the Company [14] wanted an increased market. We did not go into the business until we were convinced of its real value.

The farmers, dairy farmers and pastoralists wanted a lot of convincing at first and, during the first two years, the sales of super for this purpose were very small, in spite of keen propaganda and the free gift of many tons of fertiliser for trial by representative farmers.

You could judge of the growth of the practice by getting a return from the various State Fertiliser Associations (through the Phosphate Commission) of the yearly tonnage sold in each State over the last six years for purpose of top dressing of pastures.

You will, I feel sure, find that the curve is steeply growing.

As long ago as 1922, from the point of view of a fertiliser manufacturer, I looked to pasture fertilising as the means whereby we would vastly increase our sales. From the national point of view, the great extension of this practice means greater possibilities for closer settlement, and greater production of dairy products and of wool from a given area.

And as far as I know, Australia is leading the way in this pasture fertilising. Until I left Australia, I had not been able to hear of any other country that was ahead of us-or even level with us-in this new departure, except possibly a limited area of New Zealand.

7. I asked a man in the Navy recently if Australia was a popular station for naval people to be sent to. He said quite seriously:

'Well, it used to be popular for its own sake, now it's popular as a means of avoiding the Atlantic Fleet!'

8. The Athenaeum Club recently took in a number of the members of the United Service Club while the latter club was being cleaned.

When they first arrived, two black-coated old gentlemen were talking and one asked the other who all these new people were.

'Oh, they're soldiers and sailors from across the way-you can tell by their brutal faces!'

I am, Yours sincerely, R. G. CASEY

1 The strike was called by the T.U.C. from midnight 3 May 1926. It lasted nine days. It was not, and was not meant to be, a 'General Strike', but a partial national stoppage to assist the already striking one million coal miners, whose industry had been marked by unrest since the war. The strike did, however, extend to all forms of transport, the main heavy industries, the building and printing trades and gas and electricity workers.

2 Sir Maurice Hankey, Secretary to the Cabinet.

3 Deputy Secretary to the Cabinet.

4 Winston Churchill, Chancellor of the Exchequer.

5 Sir Arthur Steel-Maitland.

6 George Lane-Fox.

7 Stanley Baldwin.

8 Lord Birkenhead, Secretary for India.

9 Lord Reading, until recently Viceroy of India.

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

11 Sir Thomas Horridge, Judge of the King's Bench Division of the High Court.

12 Lord Reading was a Knight Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order, Knight Grand Commander of the Star of India and Knight Grand Commander of the Indian Empire.

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

14 Australian Fertilizers Ltd.