Eggleston to Dunk

Letter WASHINGTON, 5 September 1945


I have already congratulated you on your appointment [1] and I look forward to a very pleasant association with you because I think that you have the qualities which will bring about an efficient organisation and get the best work out of your staff in Canberra and the Legations which are working under the Department.

I have now been a Minister for four years and during that time I have from time to time pointed out what I consider to be the deficiencies in the administration of the Department. So far I have received absolutely no response in action and generally speaking, I have received no answer to any of my letters.

There are several reasons for this, some of them are personal, but the main reason, I think, is one of understaffing both in Canberra and in some of the Legations, particularly in London and Washington. I told Evatt in a private and confidential letter the other day that owing to lack of staff at both ends, the voluminous telegrams which he sent to London and here on the arrangements for the peace with Japan failed in their effect. The telegrams were hurriedly coded, causing difficulty in decoding, and in some cases, owing to telegrams being wrongly marked, they were much delayed. Here we got about eight foolscap pages of telegram in three days. From that we had to prepare a long memorandum to the Secretary of State and we could only see him the day before the surrender was announced, too late to have any effect. [2] The suggestions were very valuable and I feel sure that if the telegrams had come a week before or even three days before, and the mistakes due to haste had not occurred, they would have been productive. The following matters need your consideration.

Staff: The question of staff here has been a subject of many cables and a long report which I made early in January of this year. [3] I am enclosing a copy. I have in fact written a private and confidential letter to the Prime Minister about this and other things. He may discuss the matter with you. I will not go further into the matter of staff with you as my telegrams put the matter shortly and adequately.

Coordination of activities in U.S.A.: I draw your attention to Departmental Circular Despatch No. 16 and the opening sentence of the enclosed agreement. [4] I would only say that it is impossible to carry out the responsibilities involved in these instructions with the present staff. As I am unable to cope with routine of this department, I cannot be responsible for other departments.

Information: I have from the first pointed out that we never get sufficient information. We get better information than we did, but I fancy that Dr. Evatt’s idea is that nothing is given out on policy issues except what he gives from time to time. This makes efficient work impossible. To be faced with an instruction on a policy matter without any preparatory information is embarrassing.

I never knew, for instance, what the Government’s attitude was to the Dumbarton Oaks draft until the delegation to San Francisco arrived in America, and then it was too late to influence the line of policy which had already been decided upon. There should be some officer of the Department with some administrative knowledge to take charge of looking after the Legations, seeing they get a lot of newspapers, a regular report and a news cable at least once a week. Have a look at the confidential telegrams circulated by the Dominions Office and you will see how the British Foreign Office treat these matters. There should also be a confidential letter to me or my Counsellor, informing us of pending issues, somewhat like my letter to the Minister, copy of which I will usually send to you.

Negotiations and Communications: There is no system here. In the spate of telegrams that came when the surrender of Japan was being negotiated, some referred to telegrams and documents which had passed between the British Government and Australia, of which we had no copies, and yet we were asked to act on them. Again, although Australia has criticised the British Government for not pressing the Australian case with the United States, the major number of the telegrams for representation to U.S. go to the Secretary of Dominions, London, and we do not know what action is taken on them. I get a copy of them, but do not feel at liberty to act unless an opportunity presents itself.

There is no set channel of communication. Representations are sometimes made to foreign diplomats stationed in Canberra and we hear of them only by accident or afterwards. Sometimes we do not hear at all. It is the universal practice where a Minister or head of department has an interview with the foreign diplomat in one’s own country, that a telegram be sent to that country’s representative in the other country. This is essential and every diplomatic interview of this kind should be reported. Otherwise, the most embarrassing situations may arise.

Protocol: I would like to impress on you the importance of protocol, and the difficulty of the subject. Foreign diplomats of all kinds take very great offence if questions of seniority and precedence as prescribed are not rigidly followed. Unfortunately, most of the officials of the Department who know about protocol, particularly Waller and Stuart, are away from Canberra, but it is a matter which needs attention.

Consulate-General: I am afraid that the announcement of an appointment of a Consulate-General in New York on the 3rd of September was somewhat premature. The proper procedure for the appointment of a Consul-General was not followed. No Consular post should be set up in a foreign country without the concurrence of that country, and before he can take up his position a document called an Exequatur should be issued to him and to all the members of his staff of Consular status. It is considered discourteous to announce the appointment until these phases have been gone through. It is possible, of course, that the Department has initiated this through the American Legation in Australia, but as Mr. Kellway [5] is in New York and the State Department is here where we have a Legation, I can hardly think that that would have been done. When my appointment was prematurely announced, Minter affected to be very much offended. However, if he acts in this way on the present occasion, you may answer him that the United States always make the announcement before the name is submitted because it has to go to the United States Senate. Other matters of equal importance in connection with the Consulate-General in New York have been raised in the report of mine of the 2nd of January.

These questions of integration of Australian activities in North America are highly important and cannot be overlooked. These also require the concurrence of other departments such as Commerce.

U.S. Representation in Australia: The Americans show no disposition so far as I have been able to ascertain to filling the vacancy caused by the retirement of Nelson Johnson. I have not even heard a name mentioned, although I brought the matter under the attention of Grew before his retirement. At one time, Mr.

Joseph Kennedy [6] was mentioned and I think that Donald Nelson [7], when he was in Australia, broached the matter to somebody, but Curtin cabled to us suggesting that we should say that he would not be acceptable. [8] This, however, on Dr. Evatt’s instructions, was not communicated.

Press Attache: At times I have been threatened with the appointment of a Press Attache. I need one very badly because I do not make sufficient contacts here as we are all too busy, and Press contacts are needed especially. At the same time, I have always been afraid of an unsuitable journalist being appointed and I have asked that the name of a proposed Press Attache should be submitted to me before his appointment.

Finally, the most important matter of all is the question of staff. Unless you can relieve the deficiencies of staff here, you cannot expect the work to be efficiently done and you may have breakdowns. There should be members of the staff, who were in war service, coming back, and I suggest that you take up the position.

There are few more important departments than External Affairs and the work is constantly expanding.

I hope you will excuse me for speaking frankly on these matters, but there is no use going on as it is.



1 Dunk’s appointment as Secretary of the External Affairs Dept was announced on 29 August, and took effect from 10 September.

2 See also Document 187.

3 Dated 2 January. Not located.

4 Circular Despatch 16 of 26 June enclosed the text of an agreement between the External Affairs and Commerce Depts concerning relations between officers of these departments overseas. See Hood’s cablegram 1042 to Kellway, dispatched 27 July. On file AA : A1067, IC46/99/5/1.

5 Prior to his appointment as Consul-General, C.V. Kellway was Deputy Director-General of War Supplies Procurement in the United States.

6 U.S. Ambassador to the United Kingdom, 1937-40.

7 Former personal representative of Roosevelt and, since May, president of the Society of Independent Motion Picture Producers.

8 Not located.


[AA : A1066, A45/2/6/7]