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84 Evatt to Chifley

Cablegram P186 PARIS, 24 August 1946, 4.05 p.m.


We are leaving to-morrow afternoon and hope to arrive in Sydney on Thursday afternoon next.

The Conference has been difficult in certain respects, particularly in connection with the procedure of voting. The final point was whether a simple majority was sufficient to permit a recommendation to be made by the Conference to the Council of Foreign Ministers or whether, as Russia insisted, no recommendation could even be looked at by the Council of Foreign Ministers unless a 2/3rds majority were obtained.

In order to maintain the right of freedom by the Conference as a basis for reasonable review by the Council of Foreign Ministers we fought strenuously for the more democratic view. This led to fierce opposition from the Soviet in which they picked me out for special attention although, as you know, I have always tried to understand their point of view and never unnecessarily condemned them or joined in the pastime of 'red-baiting'. In the end they got as good as they gave and in substance we won our point.

The last week has been spent for the most part by the larger powers and the Russian Satellites in giving historical accounts of the share of the various Balkan Countries in connection with the war. You would think from the speeches that our enemies in the Balkans were really our friends all the time and although they were helping Hitler they were really by some mysterious means also helping the Allies.

The third stage of the Conference is now commencing when the treaty is being considered in detail and our proposals will be discussed in the various Commissions and sub-commissions.

On the whole except for some skin wounds inflicted by our Russian friends I think we have easily maintained Australia's status and prestige-certainly we have had solid support from the British Press and the relationships between Attlee, Bevin, McNeil and Alexander on the one hand and myself and Beasley on the other ha[ve] been those of close and sincere friendship and co- operation. Of course this does not necessarily mean that there will not be points of difference but, as you know, the same remark applies to the other Dominions and the great thing is to be united on the essentials.

For this reason, I was specially disgusted to read a sentence or two in Menzies' reported policy speech making two points. His point that we must always have one British Empire Foreign Policy is of course a view which is completely inapplicable to modern conditions and has been outmoded since the Balfour Declaration of 1926. He makes the point I suppose in order to try and catch a few votes on the theory that there is some opposition between us and the British Government. This is untrue and indeed fantastic. Our relationship has never been better and I have done everything possible to conduct affairs in the spirit in which you yourself showed in London. The same remark applies to the work I did in New York, both on the Security Council and on the Atomic Commission.

For Menzies to say that we seek the leadership of other Nations for advocating democratic procedures is also untrue. It is natural enough, however, that, if we favour democratic procedures, this would often be to the benefit of the less powerful nations and accordingly Australia will get some credit or reputation for leadership in this matter. The truth is that if we did not take the lead in some of these matters everything would go by default.

At San Francisco the same thing happened. We took a consistent line throughout and support came to us although we never sought it. I think you yourself hit the nail on the head when you suggested in the House that the real trouble with Menzies and others in this matter was frustration and jealousy of Australia's success in foreign policy, not concern at our failure. At the present moment we hold an honoured and responsible position on the Security Council elected thereto by the votes of all the nations.

The same applies to the work on the Atomic Commission and on that cables sent to Australia have indicated the nature of the work that we have done. In the Far East, despite setbacks and disappointments, we are at any rate well in the lead.

I feel that in your policy speech you will be able to handle Menzies faithfully along these lines. After all we went into the war of 1939 very ill equipped, and had the Curtin Government not been most active in insisting upon Australia's rights as a nation we would have found the greatest difficulty in getting supplies following from my earlier mission in 1942 and 1943 to the United States and England. I remind myself of the War Council meeting and War Cabinet meeting when you, Curtin, Beasley and I had to decide upon the return of the A.I.F. to Australia. In face of the opposition of Bruce and Page in London, and Menzies, McEwen, Fadden, Spender and Hughes in Australia. By adhering to our views the troops were safely returned after tremendous anxieties, and the result of the battle of New Guinea was of great significance.

In many of these great matters I think there is a real difference between the Menzies point of view and the view of the Curtin and Chifley Governments. I think we adopt the policy of a more self reliant Australia, sometimes taking the initiative in International matters, always conscious of its kinship with Britain but insisting upon our rights especially in connection with Pacific affairs. In contrast to this Menzies proves himself as a supporter of the old doctrine of subordination which is completely out of date. It led to unpreparedness for war and no positive policy save appeasement of Hitler. As you know it is utterly impossible to get agreement on every point between all the Dominions. Canada slants its view towards the United States, South Africa has a far more conservative view than we have and it is only since our agreement with New Zealand that our joint point of view has become of importance and significance.

It distresses me after five years of hard slogging work on all these matters covering missions abroad for aircraft, the initiation of projects designed to help our future security and welfare, of the tremendously hard strain of executing these projects at Conferences to find these things a matter of Party Politics in Australia. Somewhat similar is Menzies' cry for a joint committee on foreign policy. It does not exist in England where the system of responsible Government is the same as our own.

It exists in America only because there the Government of the day is not represented at all in Congress and it must deal with Congress as a body. Further, in relation to foreign affairs, the United States Senate has the right of vetoing treaties and international conferences unless there is a 2/3rds majority in favour of their adoption. This makes the situation very different from Australia. I have never had any absolute objection to the establishment of any committee but I am disgusted at the personal bitternesses and jealousies displayed and I cannot forget that when we had an Advisory Council in our Country throughout the war Menzies deliberately abandoned it, thus showing the emphasis on Party Politics for war which you and Curtin repudiated.

Watt and Dalziel in the Department and Hewitt [1] in Sydney have a great deal of material with comments upon my work in foreign affairs and I can assure you that your own generous references to myself in recent months have been extremely encouraging. As you might imagine we are extremely fatigued and the air trip may be more strenuous still. When I return the keynote of my speeches will be that you have splendidly continued the splendid work of the Curtin Government, that we have carried the country through its period of greatest crisis in the war and it is well on the way towards satisfactory reconstruction for peace.

It would help me if you would arrange with Bill Dickson [2] to give me as much broadcasting time to synchronise with public meetings as is impossible [3] because in such cases the audience is enormously enlarged and the strain is lessened.

Mary Alice joins with me in sending you and Mrs. Chifley our most affectionate greetings and best wishes for a completely successful return.

1 J. M. Hewitt, Administrative Assistant to Evatt as Attorney General.

2 W. E. Dickson, an Assistant Minister in the N.S.W. State Govt and campaign director for the Australian Labor Party.

3 The word 'impossible' presumably should read 'possible'.

[AA:A3195, 1946, 1.21110]
Last Updated: 11 September 2013

Category: International relations

Topic: History