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120 Department of External Affairs to Posts

Memorandum 62 CANBERRA, 17 September 1946


Overseas missions will be aware of the importance of providing, in relation to the countries where they are established, a constant flow of despatches on political, economic and general subjects.

Over the last several months the position in this regard has greatly improved, but taking all posts into account, there is still not the coverage that there might be. The volume of administrative and other matters confronting most missions is recognised, but it is hoped nevertheless that they will continue to find time for the essential work of reporting fully about their respective areas.

The subjects on which reports in despatch form are desired will normally be of a politico-economic character, with due regard to social trends as these affect or are likely to affect the policy or economy of the particular country being dealt with. The following suggestions are by no means exhaustive but will give some broad indication of the type of subjects with which it is desired that despatches should deal:

The various communities and/or classes The aims, composition and state of political parties Bases of economy; economic position; economic potentialities Theory and practice of Government and administration Social and cultural trends; their relation to public opinion and general policy Attitude and policy towards Australia, the United Kingdom, the other countries of the British Commonwealth and other countries (public and private, group or party and individual) Policy towards the United Nations and its organs; policy towards questions before the Security Council and other organs of the United Nations; policy towards peace treaties and post-war settlement; policy towards other international activities whether world wide or regional; foreign policy generally Significant personalities-native and foreign, official and otherwise Colonial policy; dependencies; area problems Policy of other Powers towards the country in question.

It is important for posts to place these and other subjects before the Minister for External Affairs and the Department in such a setting that their significance for Australia is fully evident.

Where despatches deal with events or situations whose immediate implications for Australia are not evident, they should provide material from which the general course of events occurring in any given country may be judged. The broad aim should be to build up for Australia a mass of first-hand basic material on which accurate judgments may be made and on which policy may be based.

In compiling despatches the emphasis should be on compression and on factual basis of judgments. Wherever possible the sources of any opinions expressed should be clearly stated. Where use is made of reports, any information bearing on their reliability as well as on the reliability of the informers or reporters should be given.

As regards form, despatches should be dated and numbered in a single series of consecutive numbers beginning on the 1st January and continuing successively until 31st December in each year. A fresh series of numbers for despatches should be begun on the 1st January of each year; in this connection, under the number of the first despatch for each year there should be placed the number of the last despatch for the previous year; thus-

No. 1/47 (Last No. 129/46)

Each despatch should be confined to one subject. Enclosures should be listed at the foot of despatches. The contents of enclosures should be briefly stated in the body of the despatch and attention directed to such points contained in them as may appear to be particularly deserving of notice.

Three carbon copies should accompany the original of every despatch. Wherever possible copies of any enclosures attached to the original should be sent with each of the three carbon copies.

Despatches should be typewritten on foolscap paper and should be formally addressed to the Minister of State for External Affairs.

As regards transmission, the original along with carbon copies should be sent to the Department by air mail.

Despatches should be marked according to their Security classification, viz., Most Secret, Secret or Confidential.

A. S. WATT Acting Secretary


Last Updated: 11 September 2013

Category: International relations

Topic: History