Sir Geoffrey Whiskard, U.K. High Commissioner to Australia, to Mr J.E. Stephenson, Assistant Secretary, U.K. Dominions Office

Letter (copy) CANBERRA, 23 June 1939


[On 6 June 1939, Stephenson wrote to Whiskard on the question of Menzies’s view that if a Minister were accredited to Japan one should also be accredited to China (Document 77). He said that the Foreign Office ‘do not feel at all happy at the possibility of separate Dominion representation in China in the peculiarly difficult conditions which exist there’, and explained the Chinese attitude to extraterritorial rights and their likely refusal to extend such rights to Australia. Stephenson asked Whiskard to use his discretion in raising this question with the Commonwealth Government, especially if there seemed to be any danger of a precipitate decision or a premature announcement that a post would be established in China. (See PRO: F0372/3319.)]

In conversation with the Prime Minister [1] today, I reminded him that he had told me that he thought that if and when a Commonwealth Minister is appointed to Tokio, one ought also to be appointed to China, and asked him whether that was still his view.

He said that in any case he did not think a simultaneous appointment would be possible nor was he at all sure that a Minister would be necessary; quite possibly it would be found more convenient to arrange for some Australian Liaison Officer to be attached to the British Embassy.

I said that, speaking offhand, the latter suggestion seemed to me to avoid the difficulties which would be created by the proposal to appoint a Minister. I then sketched very briefly the points raised in your letter of the 6th June. So far as I understood, these difficulties were not necessarily insuperable; but in any case, if any question of appointing a separate Minister arose, they would need very careful consideration beforehand.

The Prime Minister fully concurred and said that, if and when the question arose again, he would certainly let me know.

I took the opportunity of expressing the hope that there would be no premature disclosure of the names of the men to be appointed to Washington and Tokio. The Prime Minister replied that he was fully aware of the extreme importance of obtaining the agrement of the Heads of State concerned before any such announcement was made.

The difficulty was that he was finding it extremely difficult to keep anything at all secret once it had reached the stage of discussion in Cabinet! The Prime Minister intended, however, to impress this point firmly on the minds of his colleagues.

I may add that the two names he now has in mind are Casey [2] for Washington and Sir George Pearce [3] for Tokio. He himself thinks the latter appointment would be admirable, but the difficulty is that, for some reason or other, Sir George Pearce has never been a particularly popular figure in Australia.



1 R.G. Menzies.

2 R.G. Casey, Minister for Supply and Development.

3 Minister for External Affairs 1934-37.


[PRO: FO 372/3319]