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5 D'Alton to Evatt

Dispatch 44/1/1 (extracts) WELLINGTON, 5 January 1944


1. Since my arrival in Wellington [1] I have endeavoured to gain

some idea of the lines on which New Zealand Ministers and

officials were thinking with regard to the problems which are due

to come up for discussion between Australia and New Zealand this

month. I have had lengthy and friendly discussions with most

members of the Government and heads of departments and I have

touched on as many as possible of the subjects listed on the draft

agenda. [2]

2. From these preliminary discussions, what has impressed me

generally has been the scarcity of thought which has as yet been

given here to many of the major topics on which it is hoped to

reach agreement. I have consequently emphasised that the

Commonwealth Government is preparing carefully for the conference

and that the New Zealand delegation should be in a position to

express their views fully on all questions likely to be raised.

3. For example, international civil aviation is a subject which

has apparently not been deeply thought out here. The Minister of

Defence, Mr. Jones, is also Minister of Air, but he does not

regard post-war civil aviation as coming within his sphere. The

Director General of Civil Aviation [3] is at present stationed in

Melbourne as a liaison officer and it is doubtful whether the

Secretary, Department of Air [4], whose views I reported in my

despatch No. 5 of 23rd December, 1943 [5], may be regarded as

fully reflecting the ideas of the Government. Previous decisions

regarding Pacific air routes and landing rights were handled

personally by Mr. Nash, and in his absence the whole subject is

held to be a question of policy devolving on the Prime Minister

alone. How far the views attributed to Mr. Nash in Australia

regarding the establishment of an international aviation concern

in the Pacific are shared by Mr. Fraser I cannot say, but I should

judge that the whole problem has not yet received very full

consideration here.

4. There is no New Zealand Minister responsible for post-war

reconstruction in the sense in which the term is used in

Australia. Major Skinner is Minister of Rehabilitation but his

duties extend only to the repatriation of returned soldiers and

the scope of duties of the newly appointed Director of

Rehabilitation, Colonel Baker, does not compare with that of the

Australian Department of Post-War Reconstruction. A number of

'Local Rehabilitation Committees' have been established in towns

and cities throughout New Zealand and there are some inter-

Ministerial committees on various aspects of reconstruction, but

from what I have gathered their work has not reached the standard

of that done by our Australian committees. As emerged from a

conversation with Mr. Skinner, it appears that where there is a

divergence of opinion between different Ministers, the Prime

Minister is expected to intervene and define the Government's


5. Migration is a topic to which very little thought has been

given by the New Zealand Government. Although there is a Minister

of Migration, there is no Department, committee or official whose

task it has been to advise on migration policy although I assume

that this question has been raised by the United Kingdom

Government with New Zealand as with Australia. The only opinions

which I have heard expressed here are firstly, that New Zealand,

until there are houses enough for the present population, cannot

receive further inhabitants and secondly, that New Zealand, being

essentially an agricultural community, will never have a large

population. There seems to be little recognition of the

possibility that the pressure of a world opinion upon countries

which may be regarded as under-populated may force migration to be

considered at the forthcoming peace settlements. The only

documentation on this topic likely to be presented at the

conference will probably be prepared in the Department of External

Affairs, and policy is likely to be decided by the Prime Minister

when the question arises.

6. On the question of the future organisation of the Pacific it is

difficult to give a very clear indication of New Zealand's views.

Mr. Nash has already spoken on this matter in Australia, when he

amplified the remarks which, as reported in despatch No. 1 of 13th

December, 1943 [6], he made to me on the day of my arrival in

Wellington. As you have probably seen from press reports, Mr.

Fraser immediately issued a statement making it clear that Mr.

Nash's views were expressed person ally and had not been approved

by the New Zealand Government. From the full copy of Mr. Fraser's

statement, which I attach, you will note the Prime Minister's

opinion that 'federation in the sense of union or transfer of

sovereignty on the part of the Pacific Powers was not in the mind

of the New Zealand Government'. Mr. Fraser endorsed however the

principle of trusteeship which he said had formed the basis of New

Zealand's policy in relation to the Pacific peoples under their

control for many years.

7. On broad questions of policy such as international security,

regional advisory commissions for certain areas, disarmament and

the establishment of world order, I should judge from contacts

with officials that the New Zealand Government may be expected to

continue to hold views very similar to those expressed at the

League of Nations in 1936 and after when the New Zealand

representative was an advocate of collective security, and the

strengthening of the League structure. Mr. Fraser has expressed to

me his concurrence with the views contained in Mr. Curtin's recent

address to the Triennial Conference of the Australian Labor Party.


8. Should economic questions be discussed such as the application

of Article VII of the Mutual Aid Agreement, it must be remembered

that the major factor in New Zealand's policy is the dependence of

this country's economy on the British market for dairy products,

meat and wool. This is a theme to which New Zealanders tend to

revert whether in speaking of the possible expansion of industry

in New Zealand, the growth of trade with Australia, post-war

reconstruction or international commercial policy generally. They

regard Australia's economy as being more varied and resilient and

are, I feel, inclined to underestimate the degree of dependence of

Australia also on markets for a few primary products. Although

commercial policy is not listed on the draft agenda for the

conference, I think that Mr. Fraser would be willing to discuss it

and, as I have said before, it is a topic which in the minds of

New Zealanders, is fundamentally important to their future


9. It is possible that the question of supply and especially of

food production will be discussed and I think it desirable that it

should. Since my arrival here I have spoken continually of the

efforts Australia has made in this field, of our vastly increased

production, of our strict rationing, and of the goods which are

not rationed but which are unobtainable in our country. Privately

I have drawn the contrast with New Zealand which is still a land

of plenty and where, to the civilian, the war is a long way away

and tending to recede further daily. Even the official attitude

here is somewhat complacent and, whereas in Australia every effort

is made to shoulder extra commitments, here the marketing

authorities tend to adopt the attitude that plans which have been

made for a year ahead cannot be altered.

10. From what I can gather it is to be assumed that no general

increase in food production is expected this season. The season

has not been good and the farmers have faced similar difficulties

to Australia in obtaining fertilisers and machinery. On the other

hand there is a fairly widespread feeling that in the spheres both

of tighter rationing and increased production New Zealand could do

more, as the attached press cuttings show. What is needed is a

strong lead, and I believe that if the Government gave it the

people would respond as they have done in Australia. Every effort

should be made to bring home to the New Zealand delegation the

extent of Australia's contribution to the Allied food requirements

and every encouragement given them to take firmer steps here to

increase the amount available from this country. The complacency

of New Zealanders in this field, due as it is to their isolation,

could be shaken by bringing forcibly to their notice the efforts

of their sister Dominion.

[matter omitted]

14. In the discussions, the predominant position of the New

Zealand Prime Minister should be kept in mind. Mr. Fraser and Mr.

Nash are the outstanding leaders of the New Zealand Government,

but while Mr. Nash is more productive of ideas, Mr. Fraser is the

man to make decisions. For that reason I think that although as

mentioned earlier in this despatch, the New Zealand delegation may

come to the talks with no very detailed statements of policy,

concrete results may be expected.

Of all major questions of policy in New Zealand today Mr. Fraser

appears to be the main arbiter. The two Ministers [8] accompanying

him to the talks may be expected to play parts of very minor


The decisions will be made by Mr. Fraser, and once made he will be

in a strong position to gain their acceptance by his Government

and party.


1 T. G. D'Alton had taken up duty as Australia's first High

Commissioner in Wellington on 15 December 1943.

2 See Document 18, note 1.

3 Group Captain T. L. M. Wilkes.

4 T. A. Barrow.

5 In AA:A4231, Wellington, 1943-44.

6 Not located.

7 Curtin delivered this speech on 14 December 1943.

8 F. Jones and P. C. Webb.

[AA:A4231, WELLINGTON, 1943-44]

Last Updated: 2 February 2011

Category: International relations

Topic: History