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354 Evatt to Bruce

Cablegram 177 CANBERRA, 20 November 1944


Bruce from Evatt.

I am sure you will appreciate a frank review of position discussed in recent cables relating to the Australian - New Zealand thesis that the doctrine of trusteeship should, in principle, be applicable to colonial territories. Official replies have been forwarded to Dominions Office from both New Zealand and Australia.

[1] These state the general case shortly and in my view convincingly. All the facts show that no different view was ever accepted by the Australian Government. We are necessarily bound by the principles of the Australia - New Zealand Agreement of January last. [2] That Agreement covers the present matter.

There cannot be any unilateral departure by us from the objectives of the Agreement with New Zealand. Indeed that Agreement is one of the pivots of our external policy. At the same time we fully realise that the statement of objectives in the Australia - New Zealand Agreement does not connote an impossibilist attitude.

Therefore if suitable regional authorities could be devised within the framework of the World Security Organisation, it might be possible to achieve a substantial portion of our goal so long as the regional organisation has specific duties and functions to perform for the benefit of the native peoples. I mention this to reinforce the point made in the official telegram that even now the door should not be closed upon the possibility of some form of agreement within the British Commonwealth. I think you should pursue this line, emphasising the friendly enough replies of Australia and New Zealand. Perhaps you might be able to ascertain the originators of the cable to us. [3] It is difficult to believe that Attlee and the Labour leaders would ever approve of it.

With regard to your previous cable on the Polish question [4], it was received while Forde and I were in New Zealand. Agreeing generally with your emphasis on the failure to consult us, personal action by you is better than another telegram.

Personally, I accept your point of view that if the United Kingdom makes decisions of such a character without real consultation beforehand, great embarrassment and worse may result. Poland is only one instance. You will have seen the minutes of the Wellington discussions. [5] The feeling there was that there has been a good deal of side-tracking in relation to the consultation to which we should be entitled. No one has stuck more consistently to France than Australia. Yet if France attains representation on the European Commission there is a strong case surely for Dominion representation. Nevertheless, as you will observe from the Wellington conversations, the more important area for us is the Pacific not Europe. At all costs we must avoid a repetition of the Cairo Conference when vital political decisions affecting the Pacific were announced to the world before we even knew of them.

Perhaps you and I do not see eye to eye on all these points but your general attitude shows that you will do your utmost to ensure that Australia and New Zealand are accorded full right of consultation after a careful consideration of their views. It is inevitable that these views will at times conflict with the pre- conceived views of the British Conservative Party which, no doubt, are fully reflected at the Colonial Office. Sooner or later, no doubt, there will be a British Commonwealth Conference at which binding decisions can be made. Until then, a maximum degree of prior consultation should be obtained. But, as you know from experience, you will have to struggle to obtain this end.

You will be distressed to hear that the Prime Minister's long rest in Western Australia did not result in restoration to health and that the heart trouble which developed greatly concerns his advisers. With complete rest he may be able to resume in January.

In the meantime important events are taking place and I would always appreciate unofficial and personal messages by yourself. We want things to go smoothly but we must not be asked to surrender principles to which we are committed. Still less should we be chided for our views by the Colonial Office.

Both the U.N.R.R.A. Bill and the Food and Agriculture Bill have passed the House of Representatives and should become law very shortly.

Best wishes.


1 Document 352.

2 Document 26.

3 i.e. Document 347.

4 Presumably Document 343.

5 A record of proceedings of the Conference is on file AA:A989, 44/630/5/1/11/17.

[AA:A1066, P45/153/2, i]
Last Updated: 11 September 2013

Category: International relations

Topic: History