Dispatch 44/1/1 (extracts) WELLINGTON, 5 January 1944
1. Since my arrival in Wellington  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
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  is at present stationed in
Melbourne as a liaison officer and it is doubtful whether the
Secretary, Department of Air , whose views I reported in my
despatch No. 5 of 23rd December, 1943 , 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
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 , 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.
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  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
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]