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352 Commonwealth Government to Cranborne

Cablegram 310 CANBERRA, 18 November 1944


Your telegram 325 [1] makes no reference to our conversations with New Zealand except on the one point of Mr. Fraser's statement on colonial mandates. Policy of Australia on this point has been consistent but this fact receives little recognition in the telegram. The United Kingdom High Commissioner at Wellington was consulted by Mr. Fraser before latter released statement to press [2] and statement was modified by Mr. Fraser subsequently.

2. Mr. Fraser's statement was an expression of a joint objective which both Governments have frequently urged both publicly and privately. In that expression the two Governments exercised a well-established right relating to the conduct of the foreign policy of the Dominion.

3. Turning to cable No. 325 we point out that, in the first place, the basic principle of all the resolutions adopted at Wellington on colonial policy had already been expressed in the Australia - New Zealand Agreement [3] (vide Clause 28). That agreement has been on public record since the beginning of this year. It has never been varied by the Australian and New Zealand Governments and could be varied only with consent of both Governments.

Moreover, that agreement was cordially received by the British press and by Dominions Secretary in House of Lords. [4]

4. Secondly, after the proposal for a declaration on colonial policy was first put forward in the latter part of 1942, we fully advised you by Governmental telegram of our views, in particular respecting the principle of trusteeship. [5] In subsequent exchanges [6] we gave every evidence of our anxiety to reach a common policy with you in this question. The suggestion for a joint declaration was apparently abandoned (in circumstances never explained to us), but some months later a unilateral announcement was made on 13th July, 1943, in the House of Commons. [7] We were not informed of the reasons for this procedure, nor were we given notice that a statement was to be made. Had we been consulted, as should be clear from our previous telegrams (particularly our telegram No. 2 of 2nd January, 1943) we would certainly have commented on the omission from the statement of 13th July, 1943, of any reference to the principle of trusteeship.

5. Your reference to Prime Ministers' Conference is noted.

However, it was most clearly and specifically stated by you and understood that the meeting of Prime Ministers last May was merely a personal exchange of views without commitment of Governments to any decisions on foreign policy. In any case, the record quoted by you does not bear out the contention that Mr. Curtin took the view that international supervision would be contrary to the interests of dependent peoples and parent nations. Mr. Curtin, as shown in the record, simply dissented from one particular suggestion relating to the furnishing of reports. [8] There was not the slightest disclaimer of the broad principles of trusteeship outlined both in the Australia - New Zealand Agreement, which Mr.

Curtin signed as Prime Minister, and also in our confidential communications to you. Moreover, as will appear from page four of the Minutes of the 10th Meeting [9] Colonel Stanley himself favoured imposing an obligation on colonial powers to make reports. He added that the question of supervision could best be left on a regional basis, but it is necessary to make clear that we have never rejected the idea of regional colonial organisation nor have we regarded such regional bodies as conflicting in any way with principle of colonial trusteeship, although we think it would be a mistake to give them powers of supervision.

6. Incidentally, your telegram suggests that you attribute to us a proposal for international 'control' of colonies. Such a term does not describe our view, in the expression of which we have been careful to use the term 'supervision', as indicating a very limited and special function, interfering in no way with the sovereignty and control by the parent States.

7. We do not agree that limited obligations in relation to an authority set up within the framework of the proposed General International Organisation would be contrary to the interests of dependent peoples and parent nations. Australia has not been prejudiced by the annual review of New Guinea by the Permanent Mandates Commission. On the contrary, this was found to be advantageous to Australia as well as to the native peoples. In the exchanges on colonial policy in December and January 1942-43, it seemed clear that the Canadian view on this question of supervision accorded with ours. [10]

8. We believe that trusteeship has several aspects. While the trust is primarily for the welfare of native peoples, it is also calculated to serve the interests both of the International community generally and of the parent State itself. We feel that the best guarantee that colonial powers will fulfil their trust is a system comparable to the Mandate System whereby the practical work of promoting welfare and advancement of native peoples will be regularly examined by an expert body which can make positive suggestions for promoting such welfare. We believe that the British Commonwealth has everything to gain and nothing to lose by the publicity which must flow from such a system.

9. As regards some non-British colonial powers, we feel there is positive necessity for some form of international review. Mr.

Churchill is recorded as stating (page five of Minutes of 10th Meeting), that the proposed general International Organisation might be given power to take over colonial territories from powers which fail to maintain reasonable standards of administration and defence. This objective could hardly be realised without adequate provision for some form of reviewing authority or commission.

10. We refer also to the British Labour Parry's policy on this question as announced in March, 1943. [11] It is quite natural that the Labour Governments both in Australia and New Zealand should take a similar view.

11. We are reluctant to leave the matter at this point and are willing to receive any suggestion from you for resumption of the consultation on this question which through no act of ours was interrupted in 1943. The International Conference on Aviation has demonstrated that the British Nations may adopt differing views on foreign policy without any real prejudice to their very intimate and special association. However, your suggestion of a separate declaration of United Kingdom policy at this stage might well be misinterpreted particularly as there has been warm approval in Australia of the general policy expressed both in the Australia - New Zealand Agreement and in Mr. Fraser's press statement after the Wellington talks.

12. Meanwhile, we will be glad to receive from you when completed, the proposals referred to in your telegram of which we had received no previous advice from you. Had such advice been available, it would clearly have been a factor to be taken account of It is possible that a suitable opportunity for further discussion will come with consideration of the plans for world organisation. There were, of course, other more urgent matters discussed at Wellington between the Governments and no doubt we shall hear your comments on these in due course.

1 Document 347.

2 See Document 344, note 1.

3 Document 26.

4 On 26 January Cranborne had briefly referred to the Australian - New Zealand Conference as 'a valuable innovation in inter-Imperial machinery and inter-Imperial relations'. See House of Lords, Parliamentary Debates, fifth series, vol. 130, cols 555-6.

5 See Documents on Australian Foreign Policy 1937-49, vol. VI, Documents 90 and 94.

6 ibid., Documents 97 and 115.

7 Repeated in cablegram D425, dispatched 13 July, on file AA:A989, 43/735/1021. It stated that the U.K. Govt was considering the possibility of establishing regional commissions.

8 See Document 344, note 2.

9 See AA:A6712, 1944, Top Secret, PMM(44) 10th Meeting.

10 See Bruce's cablegram 3[A], dispatched 7 January 1943, on the file cited in note 7.

11 As reported in the Times, 3 April 1943, the policy emphasised the purpose of colonial administration as a trust 'for the well- being of their native inhabitants and for the attainment of self- government at the earliest possible date'.

[AA:A5954, BOX 294]
Last Updated: 11 September 2013

Category: International relations

Topic: History