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280 Curtin to Attlee

Cablegram 244 CANBERRA, 16 September 1943


Your D.650 and D.651. [1]

It appears to us [2] that the positive value of a declaration of the nature proposed lies in the fact that the three main Military powers, viz., British Commonwealth, United States and Soviet Russia, would definitely commit themselves to post war collaboration, and to policing the peace settlement.

2. But the terms of the obligations are of such a nature that it is extremely doubtful whether China could be regarded as capable of fulfilling them. For this reason the declaration might lose much of its positive effect, if China is included.

3. It may have been politic from the point of view of public opinion in the United States that China should be proposed as a party to the declaration. It is noticeable that it is not proposed that China should be represented at the Three Power Conference where the proposed declaration is to be listed and we doubt the inclusion of China in the declaration.

4. From the point of view of effectiveness, of weight, and of avoidance of future difficulties we believe that the three major powers only should be associated, viz., the United States, the British Commonwealth of Nations, and the Soviet Union. We appreciate that this entails prior agreement between the members of the British Commonwealth, but if they cannot agree amongst themselves it is obvious that wider agreement is impossible.

5. As to the terms of the proposed declaration- (a) We agree to your amendment para 3.

(b) We agree to your first proposed amendment para 4. We are not prepared to agree to your second suggested amendment to para 4.

The words 'peace loving' and 'just part' may give rise to untold difficulties. They may well be regarded as permanently excluding present enemy powers from future participation and also as contradicting a basic principle of International Law -viz., the general principle of equality of States.

6. We regard paragraph 5 as of crucial importance. We consider that in order to agree to it, Australia should either separately, or as part of the British Commonwealth of Nations, be definitely included as one of the parties to act on behalf of the community of nations.

Appropriate drafting should make it certain that Australia is included in the connotation of the community of nations. Our view is that in this and analogous matters, it is desirable to give recognition to the British Dominions who have contributed so much to the Empire War Effort during the past four years.

The view is held to some extent in Australia that this principle is very important, otherwise our status may decline to the position existing before the Treaty of Versailles in 1919. It is desirable to keep in mind that in 1926 the Balfour Declaration [3] asserted the equality of status of British Dominions with the United Kingdom in External Affairs.

7. Paragraph 5 of the Declaration goes to the root of the proposal. We therefore regard it as essential that the views we have expressed in paragraph 6 of this message should be given effect to in form as well as in fact. [4]

1 Documents 278-9.

2 This cablegram was prepared by Evatt, who dispatched it to Curtin for approval. See draft on file AA:A989, 43/1/1.

3 i.e. the report of the committee appointed by the 1926 Imperial Conference to consider intra-imperial relations.

4 Curtin also instructed Bruce to see Attlee's copy of this message. See cablegram 127 of 16 September on the file cited in note 2.

[AA:A989, 43/1/1]
Last Updated: 11 September 2013

Category: International relations

Topic: History