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300 Drakeford to Curtin

Letter CANBERRA, 19 October 1943

Following on Mr. Bruce's cablegram No. 187, dated 13th October [1], in which is set out a summary of the talks at the recent conference in London on post-war civil aviation, I have just received from Air Marshal Williams a signal containing certain other important details which will, I feel sure, be of interest to you.

The text of that signal is as follows:-

'1. General: That it is proposed that an international convention be sought on the general framework drawn up by the technical subcommittee and that- (a) an international air transport authority (I.A.T.A.) be set up with an operational executive and regional panels to administer that Convention;

(b) that standards decided for aircraft safety, including ground organisation etc., shall apply to international services, it being hoped that contracting States will also apply them to internal services;

(c) sanctions may be applied for non-compliance with the requirements of the Convention on international service and this is important;

(d) contracting States undertake to extend to one another- 1. the right of innocent passage;

2. any right to land for emergency refuelling, etc.;

3. the right to disembark passengers, etc., from the aircraft's own country of origin;

4. the right to embark passengers, etc., for the aircraft's own country of origin.

This goes beyond anything which was in operation in civil aviation prior to the war. Probably that requiring most attention is the right of foreign air lines to pick up passengers, although K.N.I.L.M. [2] all [sic] enjoyed that privilege in Australia without restriction on destination. A nation's sovereignty over its own air is not affected as rights accrue only to nations subscribing to the Convention.

2. As concerns Australia in particular: it is proposed that the British Empire Governments develop inter-Empire services and that- (a) The self-governing parts of the Empire establish and operate those sections in and adjacent to their own territories. This will meet Australia's wishes in regard to the exercise of complete control of her own services, the employment of Australian personnel, freedom of choice of aircraft, etc., provided that the organisation entrusted with the operation of the service is not so tied up financially with one in another part of the Empire as to allow pressure from that other Government being brought into the matter.

(b) It is suggested that each Government of the Empire submit its recommendation as to the part of the route it is prepared to operate.

As the route and extent of these inter-Empire services are not yet defined, Australia now has a free hand to submit any proposal she may wish. I suggest that it would be opposed to Australia's prestige and general interests to reduce her pre-war contribution to inter-Empire routes. It is possible that a route to New Caledonia or to the Solomons might not finally be considered international nor internal, but under some such headings as 'Services to contiguous or adjacent countries not competing with international routes', but I suggest that at this stage all proposals for services outside the Australian mainland be submitted. A service to Papua will probably be classed as an internal one.

It will be realised that proposals from different parts of the Empire will have to be co-ordinated before the complete Empire proposal is finalised and that the rates on international services decided by the operational executive will practically control the outlay involved (if Government operated) or the subsidy necessarily paid (if contracted to a private Company) by the respective Governments on their portion of the international routes. To this extent the complete control of costs on international routes by the Government concerned will be modified.

This in general covers the main points as far as they have been taken. Further progress will involve consideration of each phase in detail.' Should any further messages be received from Air Marshal Williams in this connection I will immediately inform you of their contents.


1 Document 299.

2 Koninklijke Nederlandsch-Indische Luchtvaart Maatschappij (i.e.

Royal Netherlands Indies Airline Company).

[AA:A989, 43/735/832/5]
Last Updated: 11 September 2013

Category: International relations

Topic: History