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165 Evatt to Curtin (in London)

Cablegram 72 [1] CANBERRA, 26 May 1944 [2]


For Mr. Curtin from Dr. Evatt.

Reference telegrams 75 and 76 to London from Washington. [3] Civil Aviation.

1. The procedure now being followed by United States in isolating various countries for two-party talks preparatory to a general conference appears to leave initiative entirely in American hands and Berle's memorandum puts forward a policy which, if accepted, would leave the way wide open for American domination of the air.

2. It seems impossible to accept Berle's memorandum as a basis for two-party discussions. In the first place we were not in any way committed by the recent Anglo-American talks in London. Second, on comparing Berle's memorandum with D.537 [4], we are not sure that it fully and fairly records the results of those talks. Third, we do not agree that any of the other proposals made for post-war international collaboration in civil aviation has yet been ruled out of discussion. The Anzac Declaration [5], the Canadian draft convention [6] and the draft outline of an international air convention prepared by a committee at the British Commonwealth talks on transport last October [7] are still within the field of discussion. Further Berle's memorandum does not link the international control of air transport in any way with international measures for security-a point which we insisted at the Empire talks last October was fundamental.

3. So far as we are concerned, we stand by the Anzac Declaration for internationalisation and commend it strongly to other nations of the world, and if unable to bring it into effect, would prefer either the Canadian or the British proposal of last October to the policy summarised in the Berle memorandum. The present United States policy seems to be to limit the objectives in the international discussion on civil aviation to the minimum. Our consistent view has been that we should aim for the maximum and that unless a determined effort is made now to obtain a large measure of international collaboration in this vital subject the prospects of success in other phases of collaboration will be endangered. The difficulty of trying at a later date to improve upon an established system of air transport will be enormous.

4. The development of an air transport industry in Australia and of aircraft manufacture is vital both for our own defence and to enable us to make a due contribution to the security of the Pacific. We can never again depend solely on imported aircraft for meeting a sudden emergency, nor can we allow our supply lines across the Pacific to rest solely in the hands of a single power, however friendly. Therefore, if we cannot get internationalisation we must ensure full Australian participation in flying national services to and from Australia. The acceptance of a system of free competition as envisaged by Berle, however, would virtually mean the exclusion of Australia and New Zealand from operation of overseas routes. The United States is now in a position to open civil trans-Pacific services immediately and doubtless United Kingdom could also resume flying on the Australia - England service, but we have neither aircraft nor organisation to participate immediately. If the United States sustains its point that an international authority should not control frequencies in the initial stages but later could prevent new services from causing unnecessary and uneconomic competition, we would face the prospect that when we were eventually in a position to fly Anzac services it might be ruled that the route was already well served.

5. Great danger is presented to the place of British Commonwealth in aviation by the American approach and the higher objectives of international collaboration are being abandoned. We have no information here regarding attitude of Soviet Union to post-war civil aviation but consider that they too may contest American attitude.

6. This message is being repeated to Dixon but I propose to withhold instructions to him regarding a reply to the American approach until I hear from you.

1 Sent through the Commonwealth Govt Accredited Representative in London. Repeated to the Legation in Washington as no. 789 and to the N.Z. Acting Prime Minister as no. 102.

2 The date on this cablegram is unclear and can be read as either 26 or 28 May. It was dispatched on 27 May. See AA:A3643, vol. 14, 0.14399.

3 These cablegrams were dispatched on 10 May from the Legation in Washington to Canberra as nos 423 and 424 respectively and repeated to Curtin in London. On file AA:A989,43/735/832/1, ii.

Cablegram 75 reported Berle's account of a round of two-party talks on civil aviation, and the U.S. Govt's view that full control by an international body was impracticable. Cablegram 76 gave the text of a memorandum handed to Dixon by Berle, setting out the effect of U.K.-U.S. discussions.

4 The U.K. Govt's summary of the talks, dispatched 10 April. On the file cited in note 2.

5 Document 26.

6 Intended to establish an international air transport authority to oversee security, efficiency and equitable division of routes between states; presented to the Canadian House of Commons on 17 March. A copy, dated 8 January, is on file AA:A989, 43/735/834.

This draft had in fact been declared unacceptable to the U.S. Govt (see the cablegram cited in note 2).

7 See Document 2, note 2. The text of the draft convention, known widely as the 'Balfour Plan', was forwarded to Curtin by Bruce on 14 October 1943 as cablegram 188[A]. On file AA:A989, 43/735/832/5.

[AA:A3196, 1944, O.14399/400/1/2/3/4]
Last Updated: 11 September 2013

Category: International relations

Topic: History