Thursday, 23rd February 1928

23rd February, 1928


My dear Prime Minister,


The failure to secure the team about whom Lord Lovat [1] asked me to cable to you is extremely disappointing. So far as I know today there are now two members of a provisional team-Sir Harry McGowan [2] and Sir Hugo Hirst. [3] Sir Ernest Clark [4] has also been approached but I know little about him save that he is an expert accountant. Todhunter [5] the Director of Imperial Chemical Industries, who looks after the combined Australian and South African interests, had a very long talk with me on Monday evening.

He told me that he had been urging upon Lovat the need for men capable of taking a dynamic rather than a static view of Australia. I fear that the difficulties to be encountered in getting four men, who are really worth while, to leave England for six months are going to prove extremely formidable.


The Imperial Economic Committee under its new procedure has now got to close grips with two subjects into which it is enquiring during this session, namely Tobacco and Timber. From the evidence already received and the immense volume of papers circulated, it is quite clear that, on both subjects, we shall be able to formulate really interesting and, I hope, useful reports. It may interest you to know that, on the subject of Tobacco, up to the present 63 memoranda have been circulated to the Committee and as these memoranda average about four foolscap pages of typing, one’s weekends are fairly well employed in reading them.

Under the new procedure, the Full Committee hears a few selected important witnesses, then has a general discussion on the scope of the report and thereafter hands the work of preparation over to a Sub-Committee which is expected to hear the remainder of the necessary witnesses and to present a first draft report to the Main Committee.

The Committee has decided to appoint Mr. Wardlaw-Milne [6] M.P., one of the British Delegates, to be the Chairman of the Tobacco Sub-Committee and I have been appointed the Chairman of the Timber Sub-Committee.

In view of the Empire Forestry Conference [7] in Australia this year, we shall try to make our Timber Report available before this Conference.

I am glad to say that India has appointed Sir Peter Clutterbuck [8], a most useful forestry expert, to be an adviser to the Indian Delegation and I shall have the benefit of Clutterbuck as a member of my Sub-Committee.

It has proved somewhat difficult to define the scope of the preliminary surveys of industries and after the Full Committee had spent one rather futile meeting in discussing the agricultural machinery enquiry, I proposed a very small ad hoc Sub-Committee to review the method in which these preliminary reports should be handled. The Sub-Committee is to consist of the Chairman [9], F.

N. Blundell [10] M.P. and myself.

While on the subject of the Imperial Economic Committee I should like to report to you once again that there can be no doubt that the greatest weakness both of the I.E.C. and indeed of the Empire Marketing Board, is the rather poor calibre of the representation of some of the Dominions. India has been consistently well represented but Canada, South Africa and New Zealand have not pulled their weight. As a matter of fairness, I think I should also report that Mackinder has been doing a little bit more work just recently in consequence of Chadwick’s [11] absence. I have given you so many perfectly justified adverse comments of Mackinder that I certainly ought to give you this somewhat more favorable report.


In my letter of the 16th February I referred at some length to the attitude of the City and other well informed opinion to the present state of Australian economic conditions. The last week has seen the complete break up of the drought in Western Queensland, New South Wales, South Australia and in fact, so far as one can judge from the reports here, in the whole of Australia east of Spencers Gulf.

The comments in the newspapers have, however, been almost confined to reports on the damage done by the floods and to the loss of life in towns in the northern rivers in New South Wales. At the present time one feels that the newspapers will not be very interested in a further official statement by the High Commissioner. [12] There have been a good number of official statements made recently, some of them without any topical significance and just at present I think one ought to regard the mind of the well informed public as being inclined to discount obviously official propaganda. What appears to me to be needed is a cultivation of the press on the personal side in order to induce the publication in the Editorial columns of comments giving proper weight to the immense scope of Australian possibilities.

With reference to the change in the position caused by the great rains, I have prepared a short paragraph which will be inserted in the ‘Times Trade Supplement’ tomorrow in the editorial columns as if from the Editor. If more of this sort of thing could be done in a number of newspapers, I am sure it would be more effective than official statements.


I am enclosing a very interesting letter to the ‘Times’, dated 21.2.28, on the position in the Argentine. Acccording to the writer, foot and mouth disease has become a serious and probably permanent factor on the Argentine cattle estancias.

The British Government is extremely anxious to control foot and mouth disease, which has cost the Government and cattle breeders and fatteners millions during the last few years. They, therefore, sent Lord Bledisloe [13] on a semi-official mission to the Argentine to consult with the Argentine Authorities as to the steps that should be taken to try to eliminate meat from cattle suffering from foot and mouth disease from the export trade of Great Britain. I understand that Bledisloe has arranged with the Argentine Government for the appointment of some 70 Veterinary Inspectors by that Government and it is reported that Bledisloe has satisfied himself that all possible steps will be taken to eliminate the probability of infected carcasses being despatched to the British market.

Bledisloe has not yet returned to England as he has broken his journey at Madeira for a holiday. When he gets back, I shall make a point of seeing him to find out his personal views about the situation.

From an Australian point of view, these conditions in the Argentine are distinctly important. At the very least the new measures which will have to be taken in the Argentine should, to a certain extent, increase the cost of production there. In addition the disease itself-while it is not likely to kill many cattle-will have a certain debilitating effect on herds and may delay the rate of maturing, which is one of the strongest advantages that the Argentine at present possesses.

You may desire to draw the attention of your special Pastoral Committee [14] to this situation.

Yours sincerely, F. L. MCDOUGALL

_1 Parliamentary Under-Secretary at the Dominions Office. See Letter 139.

2 Company director; President and Deputy Chairman of Imperial Chemical Industries Ltd.

3 Chairman and Managing Director of General Electric Company Ltd.

4 Company director; Permanent Secretary of the Treasury of Northern Ireland 1922-25 5 Benjamin Todhunter.

6 J. S. Wardlaw-Milne, Conservative M.P.

7 The Third Empire Forestry Conference opened in Canberra on 26 September.

8 Inspector-General of Forests to the Government of India 1921-26;

Chairman of the Empire Forestry Association 1927; Timber Adviser to the High Commissioner for India 1927-29.

9 Sir Halford Mackinder.

10 Conservative M.P.; President of the Central and Associated Chambers of Agriculture 1926.

11 Sir David Chadwick, Secretary to the Imperial Economic Committee. See Letter 144.

12 Sir Granville Ryrie.

13 Chairman of the Imperial Grassland Association. Bledisloe had resigned from the post of Parliamentary Secretary at the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries on 28 January.

14 See note 14 to Letter 122 and note 8 to Letter 134