Cablegram 24 LONDON, 16 May 1944, 9.55 p.m.
Following for the Acting Prime Minister, Mr. Forde.
Improvements in the Machinery for Empire Co-operation.
The following statement was submitted by me to the Conference.'
1. THE ASSOCIATION OF THE DOMINIONS IN THE HIGHER DIRECTION OF THE
If one might draw a general conclusion on the consensus of opinion
of these meetings it is the unanimity of view that there is no
question of greater importance than the development of co-
operation and consultation between the members of the British
Commonwealth. There may be a variety of views as to ways of doing
it but there is unanimity as to objective that we seek to attain.
Methods of consultation and co-operation have been progressively
evolved since the world war of 1914/18. In addition, the Imperial
Conferences of 1923, 1926 and 1937 were marked by the enunciation
of important guiding principles of Imperial defence.
Notwithstanding satisfactory progress it was recognised that
should another war unhappily come these methods would require
At the Imperial Conference of 1937, the Australian Government
raised with the United Kingdom Government the question of
Australian representation in any Imperial machinery that might be
devised for higher direction in war.  The matter was noted as
one for consideration on the outbreak of war.
After the commencement of the present war, though steps were taken
to keep the Dominions fully informed, notably by cables from Prime
Minister to Prime Minister, by increase in flow of Dominion Office
cables and by daily meetings of the Secretary of State for
Dominion Affairs with the High Commissioners, there was no
implementation of the suggestion for the association of Dominion
representatives with higher direction of the war.
Upon the outbreak of war with Japan the Australian Government felt
that it was imperative that they should play a greater part in the
formulation of policy and accordingly asked that the Australian
(1) Should have full knowledge of all essential facts,
developments and trends of policy;
(2) Should obtain this knowledge in time to express its view
before decisions are taken and
(3) Should have the opportunity, through its accredited
representative, of presenting to and discussing with the War
Cabinet important committees (such as the Defence Committee) and
the Prime Minister or other senior ministers any suggestions as to
new policy or views on policy under consideration that Australia
might from time to time desire to submit. 
In January, 1942, the Advisory War Council in Australia upon which
are representatives not only of the Government but also of the
Opposition, when considering proposals for the establishment of
Far Eastern Council in London with which it did not agree
'That the accredited representative of the Australian Government
shall have the right to be heard in War Cabinet in formulation and
direction of policy.' 
The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom replied to Australia's
request indicating acceptance and stating that:-
'The fullest opportunity for knowing all essential facts and
putting forward suggestions and views will be afforded to Sir
Earle Page' 
who had been nominated by Australia as their accredited
Early in 1942 Mr. Bruce, the Australian High Commissioner in
London, succeeded Sir Earle Page as the accredited representative,
and has continued to act in this capacity ever since. This system
of an accredited representative has worked reasonably well but
this in considerable measure has been due to advantages which Mr.
Bruce enjoyed. He was Prime Minister of Australia for nearly seven
years and at the outbreak of war had been resident in London as
High Commissioner for some six years. The personal relations which
he had been able to establish with British Ministers and with the
United Kingdom Departments has enabled him to carry out his duties
as accredited representative in a way that would not have been
possible to anyone who had not close contacts here which Mr. Bruce
The system, however, is not an ideal one, because the War Cabinet
is not an Imperial War Cabinet but the United Kingdom War Cabinet
responsible to the United Kingdom Parliament.
In carrying out its duties the Cabinet has to discuss and
determine the United Kingdom attitude upon all questions of
policy. Anyone with experience of Cabinet work knows that at times
differences between Ministers arise and it is certainly not
desirable and at times extremely embarrassing to sort these
differences out in the presence of an outsider, however discreet
and understanding he might be.
In addition to these practical difficulties there is the fact that
it is somewhat anomalous that there should be an Australian
representative in War Cabinet when none of the other Dominions
have taken advantage of the invitation of the Prime Minister of
the United Kingdom to appoint an accredited representative in the
same way that Australia has done.
While I am loath to propose anything which would add to the
tremendous burden which Mr. Churchill is bearing at the present
time I would like to make this suggestion for consideration.
It would be invaluable if the Prime Minister could find the time,
notwithstanding his heavy and onerous responsibilities, to meet
the High Commissioners and the Secretary of State once a month.
The object of these meetings would be for the Prime Minister to
give a review of the current situation and problems and to enable
the Dominion representatives to raise any questions which they
consider should be the subject of special consultation with
In addition to these advantages such a meeting would give the
Prime Minister of the United Kingdom a regular personal contact
with spokesmen from the Dominions and provide an opportunity of
hearing at first hand of the problems of those countries.
The adoption of this suggestion which would give to the accredited
representative of the Australian Government a contact with the
Prime Minister in association with his Dominion colleagues has
such advantages that I would prefer it to the present practice of
the accredited representative of Australia sitting in isolation in
the United Kingdom War Cabinet. In short, the Australian
representative would be the accredited representative to the War
Cabinet and not the accredited representative in the War Cabinet
but he would continue to function in the same way as he has done
in the past in regard to his detailed activities. Should the
circumstances surrounding the consideration of any matter indicate
the desirability of the Australian accredited representative
attending a meeting of the United Kingdom War Cabinet he would, of
course, be able to do so in accordance with the principle already
agreed to by the United Kingdom Government.
I feel that the monthly meeting of the Prime Minister with the
Dominion representatives would be another and valuable link in the
chain of Imperial consultation and co-operation.
2. IMPROVED MACHINERY FOR EMPIRE CO-OPERATION
I would now refer to certain proposals in a speech made by me last
December  in which I outlined some ideas for improved machinery
for Empire consultation and co-operation:-
(i) Meetings of Prime Ministers
The aim of all machinery must be to provide for full and
continuous consultation. This consultation must be consistent with
the sovereign control of its policy by each Government.
No machinery which may be established can be superior to or more
satisfactory than the periodical conferences of Prime Ministers of
various parts of the Empire, provided they are held frequently.
The Prime Ministers are the heads of their respective Governments
and no one else can speak with the same authority. There can be no
substitute for conferences of Prime Ministers on questions of
major Empire policy.
Difficulties of course will arise in arranging such meetings owing
to local circumstances in each part of the Empire but in normal
times conferences should be possible at fairly frequent intervals.
The place of meeting should not necessarily always be in London.
Opportunity should be taken to meet in other parts of the Empire.
Such a procedure would emphasise to the various parts of the
Empire the reality of the inter-relation of the Governments and
people of the Empire in the same way that the King's
representative in each Dominion and Colony typifies their loyalty
to a common sovereign.
(ii) Meetings of Ministers and Officials
The meetings of the Prime Ministers should be supplemented and
reinforced by meetings of other Ministers of the British
Commonwealth as the occasion may require to deal with important
questions of mutual interest such as trade and communications.
Again such conferences need not necessarily be held always in the
There should also be meetings at the official level between
officers from the various parts of the Empire to deal with
technical matters or to carry out exploratory discussions with a
view to their subsequent consideration by Governments. The
meetings of Ministers and officials should be summoned as the
occasion may require and at most appropriate or convenient place
(iii) Procedure Between Conferences of Prime Ministers
The procedure to be followed in London between Conferences of
Prime Ministers would therefore be:-
(a) The monthly meetings of the Prime Minister of the United
Kingdom and Dominion representatives as suggested earlier.
(b) The regular daily meeting of the Secretary of State for
Dominion Affairs and all the High Commissioners.
There is also the ordinary day to day machinery for dealing with
the three major groups of important questions comprising foreign
affairs, defence and financial, economic and social questions.
(1) Foreign Affairs
The External Affairs staffs in the respective High Commissioners'
offices are in close contact with the Foreign Office. Each
Dominion will create such machinery and employ such methods as
appear desirable in the light of his own circumstances.
All the Dominions have their service representatives in the United
Kingdom. The position of the individual Dominions varies so
greatly that it would seem desirable to avoid attempting to
establish a uniform system of co-operation. The essential thing is
that there should be agreement to co-operate not only between the
United Kingdom and the Dominions but between the individual
(3) Financial, Economic and Social Questions
During the War there has been a great expansion of co-operation in
regard to financial, economic and social questions. It is
desirable that this co-operation should be maintained and
increased. This will happen as a result of the contacts
established during the War, provided the Empire Governments accept
the principle and so instruct their officials.
(iv) Examination of Desirability of Centralisation of Efforts
It is suggested that so much individual co-operation has now been
established that it would seem that the time is approaching when a
start might be made in bringing it under a central direction.
As the term 'Empire Secretariat' appears to arouse a certain
anxiety and is liable to create misunderstandings, I do not employ
I would suggest, however, that the question should be examined as
to whether some centralisation of effort would be desirable. Such
an examination could be carried out by a small committee to which
the United Kingdom and each of the Dominions would appoint
3. THE IMPORTANCE OF POST-WAR CO-OPERATION IN EMPIRE DEFENCE
The preservation of peace is vital to re-building of the post-war
world which is held out to mankind as the recompense for the
sacrifices it is being called upon to make.
We hope to be able to maintain peace by the system of world
security which it is our aim to build. Our own experience within
the British Commonwealth has shown that the growth of co-operation
has been slow, notwithstanding that we have so much in common. It
remains to be seen how quickly and effectively we can develop and
maintain a system of world security but we dare not fail our own
people in providing the security for which they so greatly yearn.
In doing so by co-operation amongst ourselves we also contribute
to world security at large. The one is complementary to the other.
I would refer to three points which I mentioned at an earlier
session of the Conference.  I said that security of any part of
the British Empire in future will rest on three safeguards each
wider in its scope than the other:-
(i) Firstly, there is national defence, [the]  policy for which
is purely responsibility of the Government concerned. The extent
and nature of Government's defence policy will be influenced by
the degree of reliance that can be placed on second and third
(ii) The second safeguard is the degree of Empire co-operation
which can be established. This is a matter of bilateral or
multilateral planning and arrangement according to the strategical
position of the particular part of the Empire concerned, the views
of its Government and those of the other Governments that may be
(iii) Third safeguard is the system of collective security which
can be organised on world and regional basis.
These safeguards are also complementary to each other and none is
exclusive of the others.
The need for the co-ordination of defence policies for the
exchange of information and for the preparation of plans to ensure
the effectiveness of the first two of these safeguards-national
defence and Empire co-operation-was fully demonstrated by the
experience of Australia in this War.
In December, 1941, an important decision was taken on global
strategy which provided for the defeat of Germany first.
Information of this was not learnt by the Australian Government
until May, 1942 , notwithstanding that Singapore had fallen in
the previous February, that the Malay - Netherlands East Indies
barrier had crumbled and that the Japanese had advanced to our
very doorstep in New Guinea and the Solomon Islands.
On the assumption of the validity of a scheme of Empire defence on
which Australia's defence policy had been based the Government of
the day had concentrated on the maximum contribution it could make
to the fighting fronts overseas. Three Divisions, with a strength
of 101,000 men and over 10,000 air personnel were overseas on the
outbreak of the War with Japan. It, therefore, became a matter of
critical importance to marshal the maximum strength of which we
were capable in order to meet an entirely transformed position in
the Pacific Ocean. Part of the A.I.F. returned just in the nick of
time. [These) troops were almost immediately sent to New Guinea
without being retrained in jungle warfare and the threat of
invasion was removed by the first New Guinea campaign.
The defence of the south west Pacific must be made stronger than
in the past. I stated the summarised problem of the regional
defence of the south west Pacific as follows at the Australian -
New Zealand Conference in January last and my views were fully
endorsed by the Prime Minister of New Zealand. (Then follows a
repetition of part of my speech made on that occasion.)
While Australia is quite ready to play its part in a world
organization along the lines mentioned, it is nevertheless a fact
of current experience that when the peace of the Pacific is broken
Australia's war effort must be concentrated in that area. In the
opinion of the Australian Government it is essential that the
plans should exist between the parts of the Empire concerned and
also between the other nations concerned for their co-operation
for mutual defence in the strategical area which I have outlined.
The Australian people have recently faced the stark realism of a
perilous situation. They are determined that everything possible
shall be done to prevent a recurrence of a similar danger.