Thursday, 24th April 1924

24th April, 1924


Dear Mr. Bruce,

Since my last letter of April 17th, the question of the duration of my stay here has undergone a very definite change. When I wrote to you last, I did not understand the position because Senator Wilson [1] had not made it clear that you wanted me in Melbourne.

On April 19th the Senator received a cable from you to the effect that unless, in his opinion, my services were very urgently required in London after May 14th, you wished me to join the ‘Mooltan’ and come out with the Senator.

So far as I can tell at the present moment, the preference discussions will last throughout the greater part of May but I daresay that once the issue is actually joined on the floor of the House of Commons, it will not be possible to do very much more

effective work. I should, of course, personally have liked to have seen the preference debates out to the bitter end and watched the effect of our educational work upon the House, but probably that desire is chiefly dictated by my intensely keen interest in the subject.

I had, this morning, a long conversation with Senator Wilson at which we both arrived at the conclusion that you wanted me to come out on the 14th of May unless the situation here was so urgently critical that it was obviously necessary for me to remain a little longer. I am, therefore, going to make all arrangements to leave with Senator Wilson and catch the ‘Mooltan’ at Marseilles. If the preference situation is critical at the last moment, Senator Wilson will cable you to that effect and I will adjust my movements at the last moment to your final decision.

I am presuming that any work that you may want me to do in Melbourne will be in connection with the organisation of primary producers on the lines of your speech at the Royal Agricultural Show at Sydney. [2] If this should prove to be the case, would it be possible for you to send me the full text of your speech to the ‘Mooltan’ at Colombo?

Since my last letter the House of Commons has been in recess and I have, therefore, no further political news.

I enclose a cutting from the Morning Post which may be of interest to you.

Yours sincerely, F. L. MCDOUGALL

McDougall returned to Melbourne for discussions which led to the establishment, late in 1924, of the Commonwealth Dried Fruits Control Board. While in Australia, he was offered the post of Manager of the Australian Dried Fruits Association. He, however, was anxious to return to London, where, in June, Baldwin’s proposals from the Opposition benches for Imperial tariff preference were narrowly lost in a free vote. McDougall therefore persuaded Bruce to send him back to London to continue his work for Imperial preference and Empire development, for which he would be paid 500 per annum by the Commonwealth Government. He was to be paid a further 750 by the Dried Fruits Control Board as part-time Secretary of its London Agency. By the time he returned to London, a Conservative government, led by Baldwin, was again in power.

_1 R. V. Wilson, Honorary Minister and Australian delegate to the 1923 Imperial Economic Conference; Australian Commissioner, British Empire Exhibition, 1924.

2 See note 2 to Letter 7.