Thursday, 20th December 1928

20th December, 1928


My dear Prime Minister,


I very much regret that, owing to pressure of work, the notes on the Agenda of the economic side of the next Imperial Conference, which I sent you last week, were most unsatisfactorily put together. I had written the notes at odd moments and did not have time to go through them, with the result that I feel really ashamed to have sent you so poor a document. I very much hope that you will have put it in your bag and not have read it before this letter reaches you, because I am enclosing a revised edition from which at least the grosser defects have been eliminated. If it so happens that you have not read the copy sent last week, I should be very glad if you would have it destroyed and substitute the one enclosed herewith in its place. [1]

You will notice that I am proposing to forward further notes on quite a number of points. These will be sent to you as they are prepared.

I thought perhaps that it would be desirable to send you a cablegram informing you about the action which the Associated British Chamber of Commerce have actually already taken, with a view to preparation for the next Imperial Conference and the fact that the Federation of British Industries, the Shipping people and the Banks have been requested-and I understand are likely to agree-to do the same.


This subject is again attracting a considerable amount of public attention. There seems a deep seated belief-held not only by the Labour people but by a good number of Conservatives and some business men-that a better political relation with Russia would lead to a substantial development of British trade. I am enclosing two press cuttings illustrating this.

I was talking to Brumwell [2], who is at the present moment acting as Editor of the ‘Times’ in the absence of Geoffrey Dawson, and telling him how little foundation I thought there was to any such position. He was very interested and asked me whether I would put something together for the ‘Times’. I have done this and now enclose a copy of the article which the ‘Times’ may publish. I think you will agree that it disposes very effectively of the idea that Great Britain can hope for no [sic) large or permanent increase of trade from the direction of Russia.


About a week ago I had a long talk with Sir William Mitchell, the Vice-President of Adelaide University, in order to discuss the appointment of a Professor in Economics, upon which the Adelaide University has now decided.

Mitchell said that there were about 5 applications in Australia and that he was interviewing 3 or 4 persons here. Mitchell seemed very anxious that the man selected should be a person who would be able usefully to contribute towards the creation of a sound body of economic thought in Australia.

I told him that, in my opinion, it would be extremely useful if Adelaide could appoint a man who was neither the hide bound free trader nor an extreme protectionist but one who was capable of taking a realist point of view. I found Mitchell very strongly in agreement with the view that in order effectively to criticise extreme protection in Australia, it was necessary for the criticism to come from someone who was quite sympathetic to Australian ideals and who was prepared warmly to uphold the necessity for a reasonable protection of Australian secondary industries.

Among the men who are applying is a rather bright young man from the London School of Economics-Skene-Smith, about whom I think I have written to you before. [3] He has completed his Ph.D. Thesis, a survey of economic experiments in Australia, and has spent a year there collecting information and, on the whole, his thesis is distinctly useful. Whether Skene-Smith has the qualities of leadership, which are so necessary if a Professorial Chair is to be really effective, I do not know. I told Sir William Mitchell that if Adelaide appointed a man from this side of the world, I would suggest that the University should agree to allow the appointee 3 months over here, during which time I would make arrangements for him to meet all the people that matter in connection with agricultural economics and, if the University desired it, would make the necessary arrangements for him to get a bird’s eye view of the economic activities of the League of Nations and of the International Institute of Agriculture at Rome.

It would be very useful to Australia to have, at Adelaide, a man prepared to take an active and intelligent interest in agricultural economics. The very fact of such a man being a colleague of Richardson’s [4] would be an advantage.


After a lot of discussion and some heartburning, a compromise has been effected between the Empire Marketing Board and the Treasury in the matter of the report of the Select Committee of the House of Commons on Estimates. The net result is that the E.M.B. has refused to have a Finance Committee but has accepted the idea that, in addition to the Financial Secretary to the Treasury being a member of the Main Board, a Representative of the Treasury should be appointed to the Research Grants Committee and the Publicity Committee.

The Treasury has appointed a Senior man, who is quite a good fellow, and he has been lunching with me today and I find he is going to be quite easy to cooperate with.

We have further agreed to present Estimates of our probable expenditure for each financial year, and for the financial year commencing on 31st March 1929, our estimated expenditure is 900,000, a sum which, I think, will prove quite sufficient for that year’s needs.

The Select Committee on Estimates rather challenged the value of our expenditure on Posters and it was therefore decided to prepare a statement on the subject. The statement contains so much that is of interest that I am enclosing a copy herewith, with the suggestion that you should glance through it and especially notice some of the letters which have been received from schools.

Yours sincerely, F. L. MCDOUGALL

_1 See Letter 199. A copy of a paper, ‘No. 2, Notes on Certain Items Suggested for the Imperial Economic Conference Agenda’, 13 December 1928, is on file CSIRO:9, M14/29/1.

2 G. M. Brumwell.

3 Letter 181.

4 A. E. V. Richardson, Professor of Agriculture and Director of the Waite Agricultural Research Institute, University of Adelaide;

member of the Executive of the Commonwealth Council for Scientific and Industrial Research.