Sir Geoffrey Whiskard, U.K. High Commissioner to Australia, to U.K. Dominions Office

Cablegram 84 (paraphrase) CANBERRA, 5 May 1939


Mr Menzies at his first meeting with Parliament as Prime Minister announced that he intended to have periodical debates on international affairs, the first of which would take place on Tuesday next. This announcement has been well received.

I subsequently sought an interview with him and I enquired what line the Government proposed to follow.

He said that an opening statement would be made by Gullett as Minister of External Affairs and that he, the Prime Minister, would close the debate. The statement to be made by Gullett was under preparation and I am to go through it with the Prime Minister tonight. I will telegraph further if any point of importance arises on it.

The Prime Minister meanwhile would be grateful if you would let me know before Tuesday morning if there are any points which the United Kingdom Government would particularly desire to be emphasized.

Prime Minister in his closing speech proposes to say inter alia that (a) information received from His Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom has been both ample and prompt, affording the maximum available time for the Commonwealth Government to make observations should they so desire. He will also refer to meetings between the Foreign Secretary and yourself and the Dominion High Commissioners in London’ [1]

(b) While he attaches the greatest possible importance to opportunities for consultation between the United Kingdom and Dominion Governments it must be recognized that the primary responsibility in European affairs must necessarily rest on His Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom, and Dominions are in the position of consultants called in by a principal.

(c) On the other hand in the Pacific the primary danger falls upon Australia and New Zealand who must be prepared accordingly to express their own informed judgment. It is for this reason that the development of closer diplomatic relations with certain other Powers bordering on the Pacific is considered desirable by the Commonwealth Government.

(d) No doubt an opportunity will arise to say something on the lines of your telegram circular Z. No. 7 of 26th April. [2]


1 J.S. Duncan, Acting High Commissioner in London, reported meetings held on 12 and 19 April and 3 May (cablegrams to Prime Minister, nos 94, 109 and 143 respectively, on FA: A2937, European Situation). His accounts indicate that at the meetings U.K. representatives outlined recent events; there is nothing to indicate that any instructions were sent from Australia to Duncan, or that he played any active role at the meetings.

2 This cablegram referred to frequent reports in the German press of discontent, apathy, and criticism of British policy in various parts of the Empire, and asked Whiskard at a suitable opportunity to suggest informally to the Prime Minister that any public expression which he might feel able to make of general appreciation of and support for U.K. policy would be of great value.


[PRO:DO 114/98]