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290 Commonwealth Government to Cranborne

Cablegram 243 [1] CANBERRA, 20 September 1944


Your telegram No. 247 [2], Civil Aviation.

The urgency of holding an International Conference is recognised, but we must emphasise our previously expressed view [3] that the objectives of the proposed conference as outlined by the United States [4] are altogether too narrow to permit of any worthwhile discussions on international air transport. There seems to be an attempt to confine discussions to the pattern which the United States alone has advocated and to ignore the proposals that have been put forward by other nations for the establishment of an International Air Transport Authority clothed with executive as well as regulatory powers over international routes and services.

It seems more necessary than ever that the proposed Commonwealth meeting on an expert level [5] be held before Commonwealth countries attend the International Conference in the United States of America. Such a meeting, in addition to discussing plans for the development of intra-Commonwealth air services, should also be required to formulate a common policy and define objectives for the provision of services with non-Empire countries. The aim should be to evolve a formula which would extend the pattern for intra-Commonwealth services to all foreign countries willing to participate. The arrangements entered into would be with Commonwealth countries as a whole and not with individual Empire countries.

Such a step, if taken by Commonwealth Nations, may do more than anything else to discourage the attempts being made by the United States of America to deal with Empire countries individually and even with other countries and might encourage the seeking of a formula by the United Nations as a whole for the co-operative operation of international services under the aegis of an International Air Transport Authority. It seems evident from recent trends that unless the British Commonwealth has some well- defined plan for the operation of its own Commonwealth service and of external services with other nations on a non-exclusive basis, there will be little hope of co-operation in international air transport except in its technical aspects.

Our considered view is that 1st November is too early a date for the International Conference. The meeting of Commonwealth experts will require at least four weeks to formulate their proposals and time must also be allowed for consideration of their recommendations by the Commonwealth Governments. In those circumstances, it does not seem possible that the Commonwealth Governments can reach agreement before the beginning of December at the earliest. The International Conference should accordingly not be held until after that time.

These circumstances have been forced upon Commonwealth countries by the actions of the United States and it seems essential to make it clear that we are not going to be stampeded into holding an International Conference on lines with which we are in fundamental disagreement.

As to the venue of the proposed Commonwealth meeting of civil aviation experts, we find difficulty in arranging for suitable Australian representatives to proceed overseas during October and the Commonwealth Government would accordingly be glad if consideration could be given to holding the meeting in Canberra.

All representatives could be assembled in Australia by air travel in less than ten days from the date of notification of the meeting. The provisional scheme for Commonwealth air services [6] to be submitted to the meeting is an Australian proposal and Canberra may be a less distracting and more suitable venue for the meeting from many points of view.

1 Repeated to the N.Z. Prime Minister as no. 208.

2 Dispatched 15 September. On file AA:A989, 43/735/832/1, ii.

3 See cablegram 235 to the Dominions Office, dispatched 14 September, on the file cited in note 2.

4 The formal U.S. invitation, dated 13 September, was conveyed by Johnson to Evatt (on file AA:A989, 44/735/832/13). It listed as possible objectives: establishment of provisional world route arrangements, including landing and transit rights, to form the basis for prompt establishment of international air transport services; establishment of an interim council to act as a clearing house and advisory agency and to make recommendations for consideration at any subsequent international conference leading to establishment of a permanent international body; establishment of working committee on routes and services, on technical matters and for drafting a proposal for the constitution of a permanent international body. It proposed 1 November as the commencement date for the conference.

5 See Documents 240 and 259.

6 See Document 177, note 7.

[AA:A989, 44/735/832/12]
Last Updated: 11 September 2013

Category: International relations

Topic: History