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71 Commonwealth Government to Cranborne

Cablegram 59 [1] CANBERRA, 10 March 1944


Your D.245 [2]-Post-war Civil Aviation.

Australian Government notes with surprise that State Department should, without any prior intimation, have issued invitation to discussions in Washington on a tripartite basis including Canada as the only Dominion. This action is the more surprising in that it is only four weeks ago that the United States Government was acquainted by the Australian and New Zealand Governments with the first public declaration of broad policy on this subject to be issued by any of the Governments principally concerned, namely, that contained in paragraphs 17 to 21 of the Australian-New Zealand Agreement. [3] In view of this and of the very close concern with which the Australian Government regards the question of post-war civil aviation, His Majesty's Australian Minister in Washington is being instructed [4] to make it clear to the State Department that the Australian Government strongly protests against its proposed exclusion from the discussions. Meanwhile, we notice the prompt intervention with the State Department reported in your D.247. [5]

2. Before receiving your D.245 we were about to send you some observations in reply to paragraph 8 of your telegram 45 of 12th February [6] regarding the Australian-New Zealand Agreement. While being aware of your intention after the British Commonwealth conversations in London in October last to make the next step an informal approach on your part to the United States, we had felt increasingly that in view of the nature of the conclusions reached at the Commonwealth Conference and especially of the clear definition of broad principles arrived at in January between the Australian and New Zealand Governments, it would be preferable to seek a further elaboration of general principles between the members of the British Commonwealth before any further approach to the United States authorities was made. We feel greatly reinforced in this view because of the development reported in your D.245.

The discussions proposed by the United States, especially if they include Soviet Union and China as well as all the Dominions, obviously go very much beyond the informal and exploratory contact previously contemplated. In such circumstances the Governments of the British Commonwealth might find themselves at a serious disadvantage without a clearer understanding of principles between themselves than the October conversations were able to achieve.

3. Such a course is the more necessary because of your comment in telegram 45 on the Section regarding civil aviation in the Australian New Zealand Agreement. We think it essential that before the matter goes further you should indicate support or otherwise of the considered views of the Australian and New Zealand Governments contained in paragraphs 17-21 of the Agreement. We could not in any case have regarded it as satisfactory that you should proceed to direct talks with United States authorities without having given such expression of your opinion.

4. Assuming that the discussions in Washington are to be on a broad basis, including all the Dominions, the Australian Government would therefore be glad if you could see your way to support their postponement to allow time for a further exchange of views between the Governments of the British Commonwealth. In particular we would be glad to learn at as early a date as possible, not only the detailed views held by the United Kingdom authorities under the various heads of the Draft Agenda set out in your D.246 [7] but also the major principles of policy which you would be prepared to advocate at the discussions.

5. Meanwhile we are considerably embarrassed at leakage evidenced by appearance in press on 7th March of report that plans for exploratory discussions between the United Kingdom, United States, U.S.S.R., China and Canada from which Australia is 'likely to be excluded' are to be held in Washington in late March.

1 Repeated to the Canadian, South African and N.Z. Prime Ministers as nos 4, 19 and 44 respectively.

2 Document 52.

3 Document 26.

4 Document 70.

5 Dispatched 19 February. On file AA:A989, 44/735/832/8.

6 Document 48.

7 Dispatched 19 February. On the file cited in note 5.

[AA:A989, 44/735/832/8]
Last Updated: 11 September 2013

Category: International relations

Topic: History