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175 Memorandum by Dixon

WASHINGTON, 30 May 1944


At the suggestion of Mr. Beasley I submit in this paper my views upon the manner in which the representation of Australia on the North American continent should be organised.

The guiding principle upon which in my opinion any reorganization should proceed is that the Minister at Washington should be the authority to whom all Australian civilian missions and officers in the United States should be answerable and through whom they should communicate to any Australian authority and that in the same way the High Commissioner in Canada should be the authority to whom all Australian missions and officers in Canada should be answerable and through whom they should communicate.

Adherence to this principle appears to me to be indispensable to securing and maintaining a consistent and coordinated administration of Australian affairs in this country, a uniform pursuit of common policy and a harmonious and co-operative organization.

The direct responsibility of missions or officers to separate Departments of Government in Australia produces an independence of action and policy from which many difficulties result. Different and often inconsistent lines are adopted by two or more Australian agencies. The Legation is often unaware of what is happening. The United States Authorities are sometimes confused, sometimes they take advantage of the inconsistency, and sometimes, being themselves prone to an analogous failure in co-ordination, pursue one course with one Australian agency and another course with another such agency.

Moreover, room is left for rivalry and opposition between Australian agencies and officers and that in turn, through the use of a system of separate and independent communication, may then tend to promote misunderstanding and even discord in Australia. So in the reverse way difficulties in Australia may be reflected in this country and indeed there may be a constant action and reaction between them.

It is not enough to give the Minister a latent or supervisory authority over missions to be used at his discretion. There should be real centralization of responsibility and of direction in administration.

This should not and in practice would not mean that work done here in the interests of any Department in Australia would be less effectively influenced or directed by that Department or that agencies or officers doing the work would be less in touch with that Department. It means that all Departments look to the Minister as the political and administrative authority in U.S.A.

responsible for the execution of the work entrusted to the various agencies and that under him there would exist one central communications office. The missions and agencies at present established in U.S.A. are the following;

(1) The Military Mission.

(2) The R.A.A.F. Mission.

In time of peace it might be considered desirable that these two service missions (if they be continued) should be governed by the same principle. But the Combined Chiefs of Staff and particularly the U.S.A. Chiefs of Staff in the present war are opposed to the interposition of civilian authority.

(3) The Scientific Liaison. This agency, the head [1] of which has the diplomatic rank of Attache, is posted here by the C.S.I.R. It is responsible to the Minister and communicates through Legation channels precisely in the manner recommended for all agencies. The system has I believe proved completely satisfactory.

(4) The, Australian News and Information Bureau. This agency operates from New York independently of the Legation. It should be responsible to the Minister as the central authority and should have an officer in Washington.

(5) The Trade Commissioner. [2] The office of the Commissioner is in New York where he acts as the Australian representative for most purposes, purposes many of which are unconnected with trade.

The variety of the work he is called upon to do sufficiently shows the need of an Australian office of some sort in New York, but I do not think that it should continue to be that of Trade Commissioner. The work of watching and promoting the commercial and trading interests of Australia in America should be done by an officer who forms part of the staff of the Legation. He should rank as a Commercial Counsellor or Attache His province should, besides, include the Supply Committee of U.N.R.R.A., the Food Commission, the Wheat Council and the Cereals Committee, though of course he himself would not sit upon all or perhaps any of these bodies. It is of course possible that upon some of them Australia might be represented by officials of higher status than the Commercial Counsellor, but even so it should be incumbent upon them to see that, as the officer of the Legation responsible to the Minister in such matters, he is kept regularly advised. The appointment of Commercial Counsellor would no doubt be made on the advice of the Department of Commerce.

I would recommend the abolition of the office of Trade Commissioner in U.S.A. and the substitution of consular representation in New York.

(6) There is a Treasury Representative. [3] His work is done from New York where he forms part of the organization of Australian War Supplies Procurement. This has always appeared to me anomalous and unsatisfactory. The Treasury Representative should be responsible directly to the Minister and otherwise be independent in the performance of his duties, which should extend to the finances of all agencies in U.S.A., not excepting War Supplies Procurement.

(7) There is an Australian Shipping Representative [4] in Washington. In practice he has treated himself as answerable to the Minister. Through him he is responsible to the Department of Supply and Shipping. For some time to come it appears that it will be necessary to have in Washington someone who understands shipping and can command the confidence of the B.S.M. [5], B.M.W.T. [6] and W.S.A. [7], though it may be that the importance of his duties is diminishing and will continue to diminish.

The Assistant Secretary. of the Commerce Department who has been in Washington for 2 1/2 years has undertaken these duties in the past and has combined with them a great variety of other functions, many of which have been performed at the request of the Minister and on behalf of or for the assistance of the Legation, there being no Commercial Counsellor.

(8) Incomparably the largest agency is Australian War Supplies Procurement. This organization was established as entirely independent of the Minister. it is responsible to the Department of Trade and Customs.

In my opinion experience has shown that these arrangements should be reconsidered. It is no part of the purpose of this paper to deal with the difficulties which have arisen or their cause or with the reasons which in the past may have actuated or justified the adoption of the present form of organization in respect of procurement. But, at the present stage and having regard to the tendencies in relation to supplies from this continent at present manifesting themselves, I have no doubt of the wisdom of an uncompromising application to the procurement and supply organization of the principle stated at the opening of this paper.

(9) There remains the Legation itself. In my opinion the Legation is inadequately staffed. It needs at least two additional diplomatic officers of experience, training and standing and a chief clerk upon whom the duties of staff and office management would rest, and another clerk.

In some measure the latter positions have been met, temporarily at least, by officers from the. cypher room. With the appointment of a Commercial Counsellor, the retention of the Financial Counsellor whose importance will not diminish for some years, and the appointment of the foregoing, the Legation should I think be staffed sufficiently, provided that additional clerical help is obtainable, should the increased responsibilities of the Minister be found to make it necessary.

So far I have dealt with existing agencies. As to new agencies I think that a Consulate should be created in New York. It should perform all the usual duties of a Consulate and be responsible to the Minister in Washington. A Commercial Officer should be attached to the Consulate. In San Francisco I do not think that there is at present any need of a Consulate. it happens that the British Consul General (Mr. Fisher) has taken a most active, energetic and personal interest in the care of the large volume of Australian travellers coming through San Francisco since the opening of the war against Japan and that he has upon his staff officers who follow his lead and show unusual efficiency in dealing with passport, priorities, transport and other arrangements. It would I think serve no useful purpose to establish a Consulate to take over these functions at present.

Subject however to considerations of expense which perhaps should not be left altogether out of account a Consulate at San Francisco may some time prove to be desirable. I do not think one at Honolulu is necessary.

In respect of procurement or indeed any other matter, except possibly shipping, I do not think that functions performed in Canada should be carried out by an Australian agency formed or having its headquarters in U.S.A. They are two different countries, the problems are different and the controls should be separated. There is no difficulty in maintaining co-ordination through the Minister at Washington and the High Commissioner at Ottawa and indeed through subordinate channels.

1 Dr G. H. Munro.

2 J. H. Garside.

3 C. V. Kellway.

4 E. McCarthy, Assistant Secretary (Marketing), Commerce and Agriculture Dept and, until September, Commonwealth Govt Shipping Representative in Washington.

5 British Supply Mission.

6 British Ministry of War Transport.

7 War Shipping Administration.

[AA:A5954, BOX 655]
Last Updated: 11 September 2013

Category: International relations

Topic: History