Mr J.A. Lyons, Prime Minister, to Sir Thomas Inskip, U.K. Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs

Cablegram 34 30 March 1939,


You will recall that during 1936 the question of the appointment of Australian Counsellors at British Embassies was discussed with the United Kingdom Government, and as a consequence an experiment was made with the appointment of a Counsellor at Washington.

The system of liaison has worked well in practice and has proved beneficial to the Commonwealth Government but it is felt that our constantly increasing international contacts make it imperative we should have more direct representation in those countries which are of considerable importance to Australia, especially in the region of the Pacific Ocean.

You will remember at the last Imperial Conference I raised the question of a Pacific Pact on the broad principle that regional agreements by separate members of the British Commonwealth in the promotion of friendly collaboration and mutual understanding with neighbouring countries would not only be of assistance to Great Britain but would materially help in the general cause of peace.

We regard the above considerations of paramount importance in the present state of international affairs, and are of opinion that the time has arrived when the Commonwealth of Australia should establish separate Missions commencing with Legations at Washington and Tokyo.

The promotion of goodwill and a spirit of cooperation with the United States and the British Commonwealth are considered vital. In addition we have considerable trade interests, and the increasing direct contacts in the social, cultural and scientific spheres make Washington obviously the first selection.

The establishment of a Mission at Washington would in our opinion render necessary a similar and simultaneous Mission in Tokyo. In view of present tendencies, the establishment of a Mission at Washington and not at Tokyo would probably be regarded as a deliberate slight and as a desire to promote friendly relations with America at the expense of Japan. Moreover, it is in Australian national interests to maintain and extend friendly contacts with Japan, and an independent Mission we feel sure will be productive of much good. In this respect the last two Consuls General have on several occasions intimated that Japan would warmly welcome the establishment of a Legation by Australia.

Recently we have received strong representations from the Consul General [1] about alleged anti-Japanese sentiments in Australia, and an Australian Minister would be in a position to counteract any such false impressions in Japan, and prevent possible deterioration in our relations.

You will recall the fact that over a long period of years the policy of successive Australian Governments has been against the establishment of direct diplomatic representation abroad. Australia has steadfastly stood for the maintenance of the common British diplomatic front. We are still of this opinion and by the proposals contained in this telegram we do not in any way mean to imply that this common diplomatic front will be in any way endangered. We are moved to the present proposals solely by reason of the necessity to improve and cement Australian-American relations which we believe might be valuable to the cause of improved Anglo-American relations.

We should be glad if you would give consideration to these proposals and furnish your views at an early date, including, in anticipation of your favourable reaction, the best method of raising the question with the two Governments and whether it should be intimated that we would welcome a reciprocal Mission to be established simultaneously in Australia. [2]


1 Torao Wakamatsu. See Documents 27 and 39.

2 On 3 April 1939 A.T. Stirling, External Affairs Officer in London, on instruction from Canberra, called at the Dominions Office to intimate that the Commonwealth authorities would be glad to have a full and frank expression of opinion on these proposals without reservations, including any views that the United Kingdom Government may wish to express on the possibility that an impression might be created in foreign countries of disunity and the weakening of Imperial ties’ (See PRO: FO 372/3319, Liesching to Cadogan, 5 April 1939).


[AA: A981, EA DEPT 152]