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316 Bruce to Curtin

Cablegram 209[A] LONDON, 27 October 1943, 6.56 p.m.


Your telegram 153 of 25th October. [1]

I am afraid my telegrams 186 and 187 [2] did not give you as clear a picture of what happened at the Aviation Conference as they should have. While a full report of the conference and all relevant documents was posted air mail on the 20th inst. [3], it is desirable I should amplify my previous telegrams.

The following extracts from my notes for the opening meeting will give you the atmosphere of the conference. Begins-

'Australian Government welcomes opportunity for exchange of views between Empire Governments.

Understands discussions will be informal and exploratory. While anxious to contribute towards an understanding between Empire Governments look forward to this question being dealt with on a wide international basis.

This meeting for purpose of clearing our minds with a view to an international conference.

In view of the Australian Government "starting point for international consideration of the problem of post-war civil aviation should be affirmation that civil aviation is subject to those principles of international collaboration which is hoped to see applied to the related problems of a world system of security and post-war economic reorganisation". [4]

It feels that if any major post-war issue, such as civil aviation, is decided ad hoc along the lines merely of national interest, the general hopes for the settlement of other issues on an international plane will be undermined.

For these reasons, and in particular because of the close relationship between air transport policy and any future world system of security, the Commonwealth Government attach the greatest importance to this meeting.

Broadly the attitude of the Commonwealth Government is in accord with the views expressed by the Canadian Government, namely-"We believe that no policy which might prove feasible should be eliminated from discussions in advance to the international meetings and we are therefore of the opinion that the forthcoming international meetings should discuss the merits and demerits of full internationalisation and of partial internationalisation, and of any other policy which might prove feasible". [5]

In view of the attitude of the Canadian and Australian Governments this conference must deal with the problem in its widest, in fact in all its aspects, and clear our minds on the issues that may arise at the international meetings.

This necessity raises the question of how we are going to organise the work of this conference.

The principles put forward by the United Kingdom Government are of the utmost importance and will require the closest consideration.

They, however, treat the problem from the economic and financial aspect and are designed to promote the development of civil aviation and to ensure internationally and nationally the provision of services of the maximum efficiency.

Admirable as these objectives are, post-war security is more vital.

May well be principles will require modification in the light of methods adopted for post-war security.

Whatever methods may be adopted the civil air strength and potential for the production of aircraft by individual nations will be of supreme importance.

Suggest necessary that a sub-committee should be appointed to examine relationship of post-war civil aviation to security before any decisions are reached upon the principles submitted by the United Kingdom Government. With regard to these principles my Government, subject to what I have already said, is broadly in sympathy with the suggestion for the establishment of an international air transport authority to administer a convention which would be designed to achieve maximum degree of international co-operation in the development, operation and regulation of air transport. With regard to the individual provisions I will indicate the views of my Government as and when they are under consideration.' Attitude indicated in above notes was adopted by conference. The security aspect was dealt with by sub-committee whose report you have already received. [6] Merit of this report is in decision 1 and final paragraph, the object of which was to emphasise the necessity for immediate consideration of security aspect. Having made this point and ensured that no feasible policy would be barred from consideration at the international meeting, the conference then examined the possibility of an international authority administering an air convention for development of civil aviation.

The line which the conference took on this question was, I suggest, in accord with paragraphs 5 to 8 of your telegram 146 of 8th October. [7] With regard to paragraph 9 of your telegram the security aspects I have already dealt with. In addition, during the conference I made it clear that our acceptance of any convention, and in particular the contemplated freedoms of the air, would depend upon degree of co-operation which could be reached in regard to the operation of air services and that Australia would probably require to make reservations with regard to islands contiguous to it where we regard ourselves as having special responsibilities and that in any system of control of post-war aviation Australia would insist upon adequate representation.

Question of co-operation between British countries and provision of air services between Empire countries was discussed on basis of joint memorandum of Beaverbrook and Howe. The discussion, however, was purely on basis of the desirability of maximum co-operation between British countries and although a map was produced by Beaverbrook on which proposed air routes connecting various parts of Empire were indicated, including one from Sydney to Edmonton via Manila and Vladivostok, the planning or suggesting of particular routes was considered outside the purpose of conference and map was not discussed.

Position as I see it is that in event of international convention being accepted embodying rationalisation of main external air routes Empire countries would be in position establish their right to participation in most of main routes and objective would be maximum of co-operation between them in providing the service, for example, Australia to the United Kingdom via India-the service would be a joint Anglo-Australian one, run either on pre-war basis of individual responsibility for part of the route or some even closer arrangement.

While we should be thinking on these problems it seems to me decisions as to our course of action must wait upon results of the international conference.

I would reiterate that discussions at conference were entirely informal and exploratory and any other impression that you have got is probably due to statements outside conference, e.g.

Beaverbrook's statement in House of Lords on 20th October 'that the Government had complete plan for Empire civil aviation'. [8] This statement was, no doubt, made to meet criticisms that Government has no policy but he was certainly not speaking for the conference nor for the Dominions.

With regard to his conversations with Americans it was made abundantly clear during conference that these would be of an entirely informal and exploratory character and would in no way purport to indicate a considered and agreed Empire policy.


1 Document 313.

2 Documents 298-9.

3 The report and documents are on file AA:A989, 43/735/832/5.

4 See Document 188.

5 See copy of Canadian memorandum of 28 July attached to Canadian High Commission's letter to Evatt of 11 August on file AA:A989, 43/735/834.

6 See section V of the report cited in note 3.

7 Document 292.

8 See House of Lords, Parliamentary Debates, fifth series, vol.

129, cols 242-52.

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

Category: International relations

Topic: History