Evatt to Bruce

Cablegram EL18 SAN FRANCISCO, 5 July 1945, 10.16 p.m.


No. SFL92. [1]

The full report of the proceedings at San Francisco is being prepared and will be despatched for your information. [2] My object in cabling you most confidentially is mainly to give you some pieces of background information. The United Kingdom Delegates here departed quite frequently from the basis which was agreed upon or which appeared to be obviously common ground during the London talks. These matters covered for instances the powers of the Assembly, the question of the veto on peaceful settlement, the veto on constitutional amendment, the pledge in connection with higher standards of living and full employment and other matters to be dealt with in London. In connection with the veto of peaceful settlement the United Kingdom view even departed from that expressed by them both in London and in the Technical Committee here by Cadogan. In the end they yielded to the Soviet although I am certain that if a firm front had been shown the Soviet would have come practically all the way towards the Australian and New Zealand proposal which the large majority of the Conference desired, that is to limit the veto to Military and economic sanctions under Chapter 8B of the Dumbarton Oaks Draft.

That I was right on this was subsequently shown when Russia yielded on the question of giving the Assembly the absolute right to discuss anything and everything comprehended within the broad scope of the Charter. On this point of the Assembly’s powers, our proposals were originally adopted by a very large majority but then in Sub-Committee Dingle Foot [3] tried to whittle down the Committee’s decision. Accordingly the matter had to be referred to the Committee again and decisions on principles had to be reaffirmed. This kind of thing went on repeatedly in other Committees. The attitude of some of the United Kingdom Delegation down the line was hopelessly reactionary. Webster [4] and Mabane [5] were notorious instances. Fraser clashed bitterly with Webster.

The long and the short of it bears out what you have repeatedly said that despite generalities uttered at the top level, the Foreign Office in practice, does not desire to accord to Dominions any room for freedom of policy in International affairs, and most curiously Australia, New Zealand, Canada and India were continuously putting forward views to which the United Kingdom and South Africa had committed themselves in London but subsequently repudiated at San Francisco. As you now know on some of the most important of these issues, our views prevailed whereas on others compromises were effected.

I also wish to refer to the question of trusteeship. There the whole situation was inadequately handled. On this question Stanley’s views expressed in December last [6] were reasonably liberal. Then came the secret Yalta Protocol on Trusteeship with the Dominions Office not only failing to inform us on the point, but saying by implication that the question would still be kept open during the London talks. Then came the London talks themselves with strong United Kingdom opposition both to any declaration of trusteeship for non self-governed colonies and the Australian and New Zealand plan of compulsory reporting of compulsory statistics. At San Francisco, however, after very many meetings which were an enormous strain upon Fraser and myself, declarations were agreed to and no less than seven of our proposals were embodied in the final Trusteeship Charter. To our amazement, both Cranborne and Halifax, in their public statements, suggested that the principle of the Declaration had resulted from the initiative of the United Kingdom, and no mention was made by them in their press statements of Australia’s leading part. Three British newspapermen immediately asked to see me to find out the facts. I told them the facts broadly, but by common consent they were treated as off the record because an open wrangle with the United Kingdom was to be avoided. Cranborne took strong objection to my seeing them at all in a letter to me marked ‘Personal and Confidential’. I replied in a letter similarly marked, pointing how unfairly we had been treated, how the public had been misled and how he himself had seen certain Australian newspapermen giving them leads on our attitude on trusteeship at an early stage of the Conference causing embarrassment which, had crystallised in public criticisms from Menzies in Australia and an actual censure motion.

[7] I also took occasion to point out that in many respects the London decisions had been departed from and that we had been placed on many difficulties as a result.

Presumably the matter would have ended there but for the fact that someone leaked part of the story to an Australian newspaperman employed by Murdoch [8] who alone sent something short but quite distorted to Australia.

The incident is not so important in itself as it is an indication of the fact that Imperial talks of the kind we laboured at so hard in London are of little value if no real effort is made by the United Kingdom to act in accordance with them, and we are approaching another Big Three Conference with no adequate pre- knowledge of what is to be discussed.

The matter will become more difficult still as Churchill is now the leader of a Party Government [9] and his speeches in the Campaign have of course inevitably produced an atmosphere of far keener criticism in Labor circles in Australia.

On this and associated questions careful and constructive thought is required. In spite of the difficulties I have mentioned, Australia and New Zealand with the steady assistance of India and Canada have succeeded in introducing many liberal features into the Charter and it may well be that because of this the United Kingdom Authorities will be more inclined to seek prior consultation in the future and to stick to what is agreed upon at such consultations. I would like your thoughts particularly about whether it would not be wiser to have direct communication with the Foreign Office rather than the Dominions Office as the Trusteeship affair seemed to indicate that on occasions there is a good deal of interceptive comment introduced by the Dominions Office into the bare narration of facts from the Foreign Office.


_1 Repeated to Makin in Canberra as no. E62 (SFC91).

2 Report by the Australian Delegates to the UN Conference on International Organization, San Francisco, 25 April - 26 June 1945, Commonwealth Parliamentary Papers, 1945-46, vol. III.

3 Parliamentary Secretary, U.K. Ministry of Economic Warfare Until 25 May.

4 Stevenson Professor of International History, London School of Economics and Political Science.

5 Parliamentary Secretary, U.K. Ministry of Food, until 25 May, then Minister of State at the Foreign Office.

6 See Document 17, note 1.

7 See Document 86, note 1. On 31 May Menzies moved a motion of censure against the government on several grounds, including its refusal to permit discussion in Parliament of matters under consideration at San Francisco. He referred in particular to trusteeship, the veto, and the proposal for an international agreement on full employment. Commonwealth Parliamentary Debates, 1945, vol. 182, P. 2318.

8 Chairman of Directors, Herald and Weekly Times Limited.

9 The wartime Coalition Government was succeeded on 23 May by a Conservative ‘caretaker Government’ pending a general election to be held on 5 July.

10 Bruce replied that he preferred to keep Foreign Office contacts on an informal basis. See cablegram 21, dispatched 11 July, on file AA : M100, July 1945.


[AA : A1066, H45/771/1]