Thursday, 19th July 1928

19th July, 1928


My dear Prime Minister,

You may have received by last mail a document from the Associated British Chambers of Commerce. This document, I believe, has been officially forwarded by the Associated Chambers of the United Kingdom to the Associated Chambers in Australia. A copy has been confidentially sent to me but I want to inform you of the position.

Apparently at a meeting of the Council of the Associated Chambers of Commerce at the end of May, representatives from Leicester and the West Riding of Yorkshire strongly insisted that the Association should make a vigorous protest to the Commonwealth Government on the subject of the Australian Tariff. It was decided that the matter should be very carefully considered and a special Committee was selected to draw up a draft report.

I am told that, after the meeting, Sir Arthur Balfour [1] went to the President of the Associated Chamber [2] and urged strongly upon him that I should be consulted before any action on the lines suggested was taken.

The Secretary of the Associated Chambers [3], therefore, called on me and urged that I should meet the President and himself to discuss the question. I agreed to do this and strongly advised them that as the Business Mission was going to Australia, the Associated Chamber should not, at the present juncture, forward any communication of the sort they had in mind to the Commonwealth Government. They told me that they felt that the feeling was so high in certain quarters that they would have to agree to taking some action. After again urging them to consider whether they could not leave the whole matter in abeyance until after the return of the Business Mission, I said that, if they found that they must take some action, the proper course would be to address a very carefully considered memorandum not to the Commonwealth Government but to the Associated Chambers of Commerce in Australia, their own opposite numbers.

The President told me that a draft report had already been prepared and that he would like to send me a copy and to have an opportunity of discussing the draft with me. I told him that I could only agree to discuss the draft on the very definite understanding that my doing so was kept strictly private and that he understood that my advice was that the whole matter should be left in abeyance for the time being.

A couple of days later I received a copy of the draft, which I am now enclosing. I then met the President and Secretary again and pointed out how very unsound the original draft was and I made a series of suggestions which seemed to meet with their approval. I find that, in its final form, the document has been substantially changed and I do not think it is likely to cause any embarrassment in Australia. I also enclose a copy marked No. 2, which was sent to me after my second conversation with the President and Secretary of the Associated Chambers. If you have time, it may interest you to compare the two documents, because the first will show you how seriously even a well-intentioned body, such as the Associated Chambers of Commerce undoubtedly are, can mis-state the position. [4]

Yours sincerely, F. L. MCDOUGALL

_1 Industrialist; Chairman of the Committee on Industry and Trade.

2 G. A. Mitchell.

3 R. B. Dunwoody.

4 In his letter dated 27 August (file AA:M111, 1928), Bruce informed McDougall that he had been given a copy of the revised document but had persuaded the British Chambers to withhold publication of the memorandum on the ground that Australians seemed to be growing more aware of a need to review economic policy and ‘it would be most unfortunate if anything were done which might raise so much feeling and controversy as to prevent me taking advantage of the atmosphere which I have been working for the last five years to build up’. A cable to R. G. Casey, the Commonwealth Government’s Liaison Officer in London, instructing him to see Mitchell and put this case to him, is on file AA:A1420, 6. Bruce also noted with interest that McDougall had sufficiently established himself for the Associated Chambers of Commerce in Britain to have consulted him on the matter.