Evatt to Curtin

Cablegram E1 LONDON, 9 April 1945, 3.32 p.m.


1. Talks of the United Kingdom and Dominion representatives have continued. What has been done is gradually to elucidate issues arising from suggestions made by the various Governments from time to time or by their delegates in London. To show how complex and difficult these issues are, I am sending to you in my immediately following telegram [1] a complete list of the questions which will probably be posed when the meetings are re-assumed to-morrow. No less than sixty questions are involved. None of them is unimportant and some are of great importance.

2. Our own directive has been the general principles laid down by Australian and New Zealand delegates at the two conferences with New Zealand and in each case adopted by the Full Cabinet. The Wellington resolutions on world organisation were approved by Cabinet on 10th November. [2]

3. You will appreciate that, although these numerous questions may be arrayed separately, many of them are closely inter-related. For instance, in the Dumbarton Oaks proposals it will be possible for any one of the five great Powers not only to forbid the application of sanctions in cases to which it is itself a party but to forbid the application of any sanctions or even the employment of conciliatory measures designed to settle disputes to which it is not itself a party.

4. Fraser is becoming more and more anxious about the reactions in New Zealand to this absolute power of veto which means, in his view, that the world organisation will intervene as such only in cases where the aggression or threat to peace proceeds from small states. In cases where any of the great Powers are affected, they will, of course, veto proposals for sanctions to be applied against themselves.

5. While Fraser is emphasising this aspect we have to recognise that unless we get started with the world organisation now, enthusiasm and interest in the plan will rapidly vanish in the United States and Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.

6. Accordingly, it would seem desirable not to press for the complete removal of the veto power, but- (a) To consider means of limiting its exercise except in cases of emergency.

(b) To permit arrangements for security, regional or otherwise, by which the majority of the great Powers might take enforcement action against aggression even although one or more of the great Powers had exercised its veto to prevent such action being taken through the Security Council; and, (c) To provide for a more flexible method of amending the Charter of the organisation which, at present, can be amended only with the consent of each of the five great Powers, none of which would agree to an amendment depriving it possibly of special privileges.

7. Any one of the three courses mentioned would require some amendment of the Dumbarton Oaks proposals. It may not be possible to secure them all, but I think that amendments will be possible in some of the directions mentioned. These points are in substantial agreement with the principles of the Australian and New Zealand resolutions at Wellington. Further progress will be reported. [3]

8. You will be very glad to know that at a Cabinet meeting on Friday, I was able to obtain a firm undertaking from the United Kingdom Government through Churchill and Eden that they will do their utmost to support the Australian and New Zealand claim to participate as principals in the armistice arrangements with Japan. Churchill said that he wholly agreed with our case and assured us that he would support our claims with all the influence he could and the President would not tolerate our exclusion. It will be recalled that at the Wellington conference it was acknowledged by all delegates that the matter was so important that I should be asked to visit the United Kingdom on behalf of Australia and New Zealand to obtain this assurance. Unfortunately, no similar assurance could be obtained in the case of the European armistices when the three great Powers declared themselves as acting ‘on behalf of’ other United Nations, in some cases without prior reference to them.

9. At the Downing Street meeting the question of participation in the peace conferences was also raised. Mr. Churchill said that the nations participating in the war would be represented. I asked whether that meant that only the nations really participating in hostilities would participate in the conference and that United Nations who were only nominally at war would not participate. Mr.

Churchill said that was so. In reply to a further question by me he said that the Dominions would participate in the peace conference as principals.


1 Cablegram E2, dispatched 9 April. On file AA : A1066, H45/772.

2 See Documents on Australian Foreign Policy 1937-49, vol. VII, Document 337.

3 Curtin replied that he had read the cablegram with interest but declined to offer comment as Evatt and Forde were fully informed of the Govt’s views and were authorised to act at their own discretion. Cablegram 23, dispatched 11 April, on file AA : A3196, 1945, Folder, Outwards to Australian Delegation San Francisco (and London), 0.9308.


[AA : A1066, H45/772]