Date range
Open the calendar popup.
Open the calendar popup.

321 Defence Committee Report

[18 October 1944] [1]



1. The Defence Committee reviewed its Appreciation of the Future of the Southwest Pacific Region (Defence Committee Minute No.

2/1944) [4] and expressed the conclusions set out in the following paragraphs 2 to 8.

The location of bases 2. The conclusions set out in paragraphs 17 to 23 regarding the location and manning of strategic bases were re-affirmed.

The strength of the Forces required for the defence of the Island Screen 3. The Strength of Forces which it will be necessary for Australia and New Zealand to provide for the defence of the Island screen depends upon- (i) the form of collective security projected in the Indian and Pacific Oceans, including regional arrangements under the World Organization;

(ii) the post-war Empire Defence Policy and the extent of the United Kingdom contribution thereto for the security of this region;

(iii) the extent of the contribution by friendly powers such as Netherlands East Indies, Portugal and France with interests in the area;

(iv) the extent to which it is possible, in practice, to implement the clauses of 35(a) of the Australian - New Zealand Agreement.

4. It is desired to stress that garrisons allocated to the defence of forward bases in the Island screen are detachments from the main land forces and the principles underlying the use of detachments referred to in the following paragraphs should therefore apply.

5. The capacity to hold securely any forward base on the Island screen, and therefore the obligations that Australia could accept in this regard is directly dependent on the strength, composition and state of readiness for war of the total balanced armed forces to be maintained by Australia after the war and especially her ability to ensure the continued control of sea communications.

6. The forces available for the initial defence of Australia, of which the defence of the Island screen is an integral and essential part, must in all respects be ready for war and therefore on a permanent footing, adequately trained and equipped, with the necessary logistic services immediately available.

7. Such forces must be adequate to control the situation until the immediate resources of the United Kingdom and of our potential Allies may be concentrated in the appropriate area and until the nation can be fully mobilized for war and it cannot be too strongly emphasized that garrisons in the forward bases will once more prove hostages to fortune unless a strategical plan for the defence of the Nation provides for their adequate support during the initial stages of the conflict.

The policy of achieving security by a synthesis of national defence, empire co-operation and international security 8. It was agreed that this policy as outlined in the earlier Appreciation does not require amplification and that subsequent developments have in no way impaired the soundness of the following basic principles therein stated- (i) total reliance should not be placed on any system of collective security;

(ii) no country should accept the risk of relying primarily for its defence upon the assistance of a foreign power.


9. The relevant terms of Australian - New Zealand Agreement and the Dumbarton Oaks Draft are as follows- (i) Clause 13 of the Australian - New Zealand Agreement- 'The two Governments agree that, within the framework of a general system of world security, a regional zone of defence comprising the Southwest and South Pacific Areas shall be established and that this zone should be based on Australia and New Zealand, stretching through the arc of islands North and North East of Australia to Western Samoa and the Cook Islands.' (ii) Clause VIII C of the Dumbarton Oaks Draft- 'Regional Arrangements Nothing in the Charter should preclude the existence of regional arrangements or agencies for dealing with such matters relating to the maintenance of peace and security as are appropriate for regional action, provided such arrangements or agencies and their activities are consistent with the purposes and principles of the organization. The Council should encourage settlement of local disputes through such regional agencies either on the initiative of states concerned or by reference from the Council.

The Council should where appropriate utilize such arrangements or agencies for enforcement action under its authority, but no enforcement action should be taken under regional arrangements or by regional agencies without authorization of the Council.

The Council should at all times be kept fully informed of the activities undertaken or in contemplation under regional arrangements, or by regional agencies, for the maintenance of peace and security.' 10. It was considered that the proposal in the Australian - New Zealand Agreement for establishing a regional zone of defence is in no way incompatible with the proposal for regional arrangements in the Dumbarton Oaks Draft. The two proposals appear to be aimed at different objectives and to have no direct relationship to each other. The regional zone of defence in the Australian - New Zealand Agreement defines a specific region in which the Australian and New Zealand Governments have declared their mutual defence interests. In this zone or region, it is considered desirable that arrangements should be made for close co-operation in defence (particularly in relation to maintenance and control of strategic bases) between Australia and New Zealand and other portions of the British Commonwealth as well as certain friendly powers who are united in a common interest to defend this zone.

The objective in the Australian - New Zealand Agreement is to ensure the defence of this zone against a potential external aggressor. On the other hand, the regional arrangements or agencies contemplated in the Dumbarton Oaks Draft have as their object the maintenance of conditions of peace and security within regional areas through regional action and the settlement locally, if possible, of disputes arising between States within the regional area. An appropriate Pacific region for this latter purpose will undoubtedly extend beyond that selected as a zone of defence in the Australian - New Zealand Agreement and include powers other than those directly interested in such zone of defence.

11. The Defence Committee considered that the establishment of a World Organization does not preclude the collaboration of individual countries with a view to ensuring peace in a particular region or safeguarding some special mutual interest.


Arrangements in accordance with Clause 35(a) of the Australian - New Zealand Agreement 12. Clause 35(a) of the Australian - New Zealand Agreement is as follows- 'The two Governments agree that their co-operation for defence should be developed by- (i) continuous consultation in all defence matters of mutual interest (ii) the organization, equipment, training and exercising of the armed forces under a common doctrine (iii) joint planning (iv) interchange of staff-, and (v) the co-ordination of policy for the production of munitions, aircraft and supply items and for shipping to ensure the greatest possible degree of mutual aid consistent with the maintenance of the policy of self-sufficiency in local production.' 13. It was considered that staff discussions upon the organization, equipment, training and exercising of the armed forces under a common doctrine should be initiated as soon as possible between the respective Services.

14. With regard to joint planning and co-ordination of policy for the production of war materials, it was considered that before consultation can usefully be undertaken with New Zealand, it is necessary that the question of the strength of the post-war Australian defence forces and the bases to be maintained by such forces should receive further study, both by the Services and the Government in the light of the co-operation that might be expected from other powers and the arrangements made for the setting up of a World Organization to maintain peace. When the position of other countries interested has been clarified and policy decisions reached, joint planning with New Zealand should be undertaken through joint planning machinery comprising members of each of the Services of both countries and the coordination of policy in respect of the matters referred to in Clause 35(a)(v) should be effected by representatives of the Departments concerned, in collaboration with the Chiefs of Staff or their representatives.

The desirability of Machinery for early joint staff discussions on matters raised in connection with the military aspects of World Organization 15. It was considered that joint staff conversations on the military aspects of a World Organization for the maintenance of peace should be held when policy decisions have been reached with regard to the post-war defence forces.


16. It was noted that the Department of External Affairs has proposed. [6] that the scope of the talks at Wellington should include inter alia- (a) Joint Australian - New Zealand policies in regard to measures to ensure Australian - New Zealand participation in armistices and post-hostilities arrangements in the Pacific.

(b) Exchange of views on the general lines of political and economic treatment of Germany, the position arising from the Dumbarton Oaks Conference and what further steps should be taken in relation to inter-Governmental discussions on World Organization. It might also be useful if time permitted to exchange general views on the best means of implementing those clauses of the Agreement dealing with the regional zone of defence and the South Seas Commission.

17. The Defence Committee recommended that machinery for Post- Hostilities Planning should be established in each country as early as possible. It was envisaged that not only would such machinery provide a means of integrating Australian and New Zealand planning, but through the exchange of information with similar bodies in the United Kingdom and Canada it would assist in the development of plans covering the whole range of Empire Defence.

1 The report itself is undated. It was attached to Defence Committee minute 335/1944, of 18 October.

2 Document 26.

3 The review had been requested by the External Affairs Dept. See Document 293.

4 Dated 5 January. In AA:A2031, vol. 12.

5 Document 311. The version quoted here, however, appears to be that given in Dominions Office cablegram D1338, dispatched 12 September (on file AA:A989, 44/630/5/1/11/5).

6 In a teleprinter message dispatched 3 October. On file AA:A5954, box 294.

[AA:A2031, VOL. 14]
Last Updated: 11 September 2013

Category: International relations

Topic: History