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143 Evatt to Curtin (in London)

Cablegram 88 CANBERRA, 12 May 1944

For Mr. Curtin from Dr. Evatt.

I think that in giving general endorsement to outline of United Kingdom Foreign Policy as expressed in your telegram No. 12 [1], care should be taken to see that certain points on which Australian Government has insisted are also properly recognised and safeguarded. It would be dangerous to allow the assumption that because Churchill's statement of British motives and ideals in Foreign Policy is in itself unexceptionable, we are satisfied with actual conduct of that policy, or are content simply to subscribe to what United Kingdom does in the name of those ideals.

2. It is to be feared that Churchill's statement, and his expressed appreciation of the support by the Dominion Prime Ministers, carries the implication that the affairs of the United Nations can very well be run on a three-power or four-power basis.

We have always strongly contested this. I believe our point of view should be firmly advanced that, as an accepted rule:-

(i) Dominions should be associated from the beginning with arrangements affecting the post-war international order, with opportunity for expression of views at every stage.

(ii) Where Dominions are not separate parties to an arrangement or declaration of this kind, what is done should (after full consultation between London and the Dominions) be in the name of the British Commonwealth and not the United Kingdom alone.

(iii) Where the primary regional responsibility is with a Dominion and not with the United Kingdom, the Dominion concerned should be as fully assured of proper support from the United Kingdom as the United Kingdom is of Dominion support in its own relations in Europe and special spheres such as the Near and Middle East.

3. As for (i) and (ii) above, you will remember the outstanding cases about which Australia has had reason to protest against its exclusion or attempted exclusion from three or four-power decisions on matters of the closest concern to ourselves. The declaration on Austria was a notorious case [2]: well known to Bruce. Others have been the Cairo Conference [3], the interim arrangements arising out of the Italian Armistice [4], the preliminary United Kingdom - United States - Soviet exchanges on security [5], and the handling of the exchanges on civil aviation.

[6] In particular, the Moscow declaration of October last [7], which contains some of the very principles enunciated to you by Churchill, showed beyond doubt the readiness of the United Kingdom, unless checked, to accept a four-power disposition of affairs of over-riding concern to all the United Nations. The Australian Government's attempt to secure a proper place in the declaration for the voice and interests of the smaller powers, or for the association with the statement of the British Commonwealth as a whole, was a wholesome check, but the trend we then tried to resist is still apparent.

4. In respect also of post-war aviation, I am concerned at reports reaching here to-day of Beaverbrook's statement in the House of Lords. [8] It shows that the United Kingdom Government has gravely misunderstood or mis-stated the position of Australia and New Zealand. It is a serious matter if, in the bilateral talks that have been going on between London and Washington, the Americans have been given to understand that the Australian Government has endorsed the conclusions reached at the entirely non-committal and informal conversations held in London last October and that the Australian and New Zealand Governments would be prepared to make concessions in regard to the vital principles enumerated in the Canberra Agreement. [9] The position now reached fully justifies the doubts we expressed as to the wisdom of joint United Kingdom - United States talks on this matter in advance of a real agreement on principles within the British Commonwealth. [10]

5. As regards (iii) of paragraph 2 above, I hope you will press the British authorities for a definite assurance that they will give willing and active support to the Pacific Conference envisaged by the Australian and New Zealand Governments in the Canberra Agreement, and will, if necessary, commend it to the United States. The conference will be a beginning with the actual application in this region of the principles expressed by Churchill with his mind mainly on Europe.

6. In the background of both Eden's and Churchill's statements, and our own approach to these matters, is the question of what can practically be done to improve the correlation of foreign policy within the British Commonwealth, given that the major points on which we insist receive recognition. I am not yet aware of what actual proposals, if any, in this respect, are now under discussion in London, and would much appreciate information from you especially in light of vague and conflicting reports about the so-called Imperial Secretariat. Best wishes.

1 Document 141.

2 See Documents on Australian Foreign Policy 1937-49, vol. VI, Document 286.

3 See ibid., Document 341.

4 See Evatt's cablegram 128 to Bruce of 18 September 1943. On file AA:A989, 43/735/1013/1/2.

5 See Documents on Australian Foreign Policy 1937-49, vol. VI, Documents 281-2.

6 See ibid., Document 313 and Documents 51 and 52 in this volume.

7 i.e. the Four Power Declaration.

8 Evatt was seemingly referring to press reports of Beverbrook's statement in the House of Lords (see Sydney Morning Herald, 12 May 1944, p. 1). On 10 May Beverbrook had also addressed the Prime Ministers' meeting on discussions on civil aviation with the U.S.

Govt. Curtin did not convey the substance of these discussions to Forde and the Commonwealth Govt until 19 May (see Document 159).

9 Document 26.

10 Document 71.

[AA:A3196, 1944, O.12870/71/72]
Last Updated: 11 September 2013

Category: International relations

Topic: History