Thursday, 18th April 1929

18th April, 1929


My dear Prime Minister,

It has occurred to me that under certain circumstances you might think it desirable to appoint me as one of the delegation for Australia to the Assembly of the League of Nations this September.

I feel fairly sure that you will agree that one of the subjects which the Imperial Conference ought to discuss is certain International aspects of economics and the work and influence of the League of Nations on economic subjects. I believe that you generally agree with the view that I have expressed about the Economic Organization of the League. Sir Arthur Salter [1] has two or three times told me how useful he thinks it would be if I could attend as a delegate to the Assembly. Perhaps you would be good enough to give the question some consideration. I should like you to understand that I have no personal desire to go to Geneva in September.

What I am beginning to feel very definitely is that the time has come when it would really be extremely useful if I could spend two or three months in Australia in order to re-establish personal touch. Had it not been for the general upset that must occur as a consequence of the General Election, I should have felt inclined to have made a suggestion to you that I might possibly have left London at the end of July and go to Australia for two months. As things stand, unless the Conservatives are returned with a substantial majority and unless, having been returned, they do not make any substantial changes in their Cabinet, I do not think it would be advisable for me to be absent from London for any long period. In the event of a change of Government, or an important change in the personnel of Ministers at the Dominions Office, the Colonial Office and the Board of Trade, it would seem to me very essential to have in London someone who is able vigorously to present the Australian point of view on Empire economic affairs and in particular to see that the work of the Empire Marketing Board is kept on right lines.

I am increasingly convinced that the next Imperial Conference must be regarded as quite vital and the preparatory work which will have to be done in London is extremely important. I therefore cannot see much probability of my being able to make the suggestion to you that I should like to about a visit. [2]

There is one matter which I forgot to include in my longer letter.

The Members of the Economic Mission met on Monday and decided to try and arrange to set up a small Committee designed to keep them in touch with important Australian economic matters and, in addition, with Empire economic questions which were likely to arise at the Imperial Conference. Their decision was that the Committee, if possible, should consist of Arthur Duckham [3], myself and Henderson [4], of the Board of Trade who, as you will remember, was one of their Secretaries, and that, in addition, they should ask that a whole time junior should be made available as a Secretary.

This question came up at a meeting of the Empire Marketing Board yesterday afternoon and it was decided, firstly, to try if possible to arrange for a dinner at which the Board would meet the Members of the Mission, it being understood that the dinner should be of a strictly business character and, secondly, that the Board would agree to find the cost of a whole time Secretary to keep the Mission in touch with Empire economic affairs.

Yours sincerely, F. L. MCDOUGALL

_1 Director of the Economic and Financial Section of the League of Nations.

2 In a letter dated 28 June (file AA:M111, 1929), by which time the Baldwin Government had fallen, Bruce instructed McDougall to stay in London to stimulate the new MacDonald Government’s interest in the Conference and to help in preparation for it.

3 Sir Arthur Duckham, chemical engineer prominent in the coal industry; leader of the British Economic Mission to Australia 1928.

4 J. G. Henderson, Private Secretary to the President of the Board of Trade, Sir Philip CunliffeLister.