Thursday, 24th May 1928

24th May, 1928


My dear Prime Minister,

When I returned from Geneva, I was delighted to receive your most interesting letter of the 14th April. [1] There was one section in it of a personal character [2], to which I am replying in a separate note. [3]

I have written two letters to you from Geneva which I hope will adequately cover my impressions of the work of the Consultative Economic Committee. [4] The only thing that I can add are these two fundamental impressions: firstly that one comes away from an International Conference of this description with a feeling that, if the British Empire did not exist, it would immediately be necessary that it should be created and, secondly, that under proper supervision the Economic Section of the League of Nations can be of very considerable use and value to the World, to the British Empire and to Australia.

I was most interested to read your comments on Major Glyn’s [5] letter in reference to Cinematograph Films. I have, I think, told you that I am now a member of the Film Committee of the Empire Marketing Board. When the policy of the Board is sufficiently defined to make it worth while, I will send you an account of the sort of policy which the Board is hoping to follow.

I was pleased to read your comments on the position in regard to the wine bounty. [6] I have also received two longish letters from Mr. Paterson [7] on the subject.

In regard to your reference to Sir Charles Nathan [8], I shall, of course, be delighted to do anything I can to assist him. I understand that he arrived yesterday and I presume that he will look me up before long. I will certainly see that he makes contacts with the right people at an early date. I presume that you have told him of the great experience that Sir James Cooper’ obtained on the financial side of Exhibitions through his work for the British Government at Wembley. Anyhow I shall, of course, see that Sir Charles Nathan meets Cooper.

It was with the utmost pleasure that I read your warm comments on my friend Dr. Orr. [10] I also had a long letter from Rivett [1] in which he re-echoed your sentiments. I have been greatly impressed with Orr’s practicability and have been extremely keen to get him out to Australia. He combines, to a quite unusual extent, the scientific and the economic points of view and I am sure that he is a man of the greatest value to the Empire.

I hope that you will have found it possible to have had a private talk before he returns but after he has been in Australia long enough to get some clear impression.

In connection with the Rivett dinner at which you met Orr, I can quite understand that you felt considerable satisfaction when you looked round the table and saw the type of men who had been got together to further the application of science to Australian agriculture and industry. If nothing else had been done during the period in which you have been Prime Minister, this alone would have been a great achievement.

Your letter then just touched on the subject of the research into the Tariff and I have noted that you are going to send me, for my strictly private information, a copy of the short preliminary report that your Private Committee has submitted. I shall look forward to receiving this with very great pleasure.

In regard to the idea of establishing an Economic Research Branch of the Council for Scientific & Industrial Research, this seems a very good way of tackling what is, as you say, an extremely difficult economic and political problem. Your difficulty, I should imagine, would be to get a man of sufficient ability and courage to undertake the task. My first reaction on reading your letter was that, after you have selected a man in your mind to take charge of such a branch, he might be sent to London for a couple of months before he actually commences duty. I am quite sure that if the work of economic research into Australian problems, and especially into the Australian fiscal policy, is to be properly carried out, it would be necessary for the man in charge to visit England at an early date and I think there might be considerable advantages if he got the British atmosphere before he actually started on his official work. If the idea is maturing, perhaps you would give this suggestion your consideration.

I was interested to note that in your speech at the Sydney Agricultural Show, you took as your subject matter the Agricultural Section of the Report of the World Conference at Geneva. [12] The fact that you did this makes me hope that you will have approved of the line which I took at Geneva in associating myself, to a considerable degree, with the agricultural side of the Consultative Committee’s activities.

Yours sincerely, F. L. MCDOUGALL

_1 On file AA:M111, 1928.

2 Probably the advice quoted in note 3 to Letter 152.

3 Not found.

4 Letters 164 and 165.

5 R. G. C. Glyn, Conservative M.P. See note 23 to Letter 151.

6 See note 4 to Letter 153.

7 Thomas Paterson, Minister for Markets in the Bruce-Page Government.

8 West Australian businessman; formerly Vice-Chairman of the Development and Migration Commission. Nathan was in London to undertake the preliminary organisation of an Imperial Exhibition, planned for Sydney in 1931 (the idea was abandoned in June 1928).

Bruce asked McDougall to assist with this project and with a development scheme for Western Australia which Nathan was negotiating with the British Government.

9 Company director; Chairman of the London Agencies of the Dried Fruits, Canned Fruits and Dairy Produce Control Boards; Financial Controller of the British Empire Exhibition. Wembley, 1924-25.

10 J. B. Orr, Director of the Rowett Institute for Research in Animal Nutrition, Aberdeen, was then visiting Australia at the invitation of the Commonwealth Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. The visit was partly sponsored by the Empire Marketing Board. Bruce found Orr ‘a most admirable fellow [whose]…practical commonsense…is going to bring one or two of the people here down to earth and put them on more practical lines’.

11 David Rivett, Deputy Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the Commonwealth Council for Scientific and Industrial Research.

12 The International Economic Conference 1927. The report, cited in note 11 to Letter 165, advocated better technical and scientific organisation, an international campaign against pests and diseases, organised marketing, and credit institutions. Bruce argued in his speech that Australia was already successfully applying these remedies: Sydney Morning Herald, 5 April.