The Minister in Australia (Johnson) to the Secretary of State

No. 942

Subject: Australia–New Zealand Conference in Wellington, November 1–6, 1944.

Sir: I have the honor to refer to Wellington’s confidential despatches no. 189 of November 8, 1944, and no. 194 of November 9, 1944,36 and telegram no. 441 of November 8, 1944, all in regard to the above subject.

Dr. Evatt, Commonwealth Minister for External Affairs, came, on his own initiative, to see me in my office on Saturday, November 11. He said that he had two things that he wanted to talk to me about.

The first was the health of the Prime Minister. He stated that the Prime Minister, John Curtin, had been ordered into hospital by his physicians as he was suffering from exhaustion, which had slightly affected his heart, and that Mr. Curtin would have to be away from active duty at least until the beginning of the new year.

The other matter that he wanted to tell me about was the conference which he had just had in New Zealand with the New Zealand authorities. He said that this conference had been called under the Anzac Agreement of last January; that it was merely for the purpose of exchanging views under that Agreement. He outlined to me the work of the conference pretty much as it had been covered by public statements which have been completely covered by Wellington’s despatch no. 194 of November 9, 1944. The important thing that he told me was that it was their intention to make no documents public, and that it was his intention to furnish the United States Government with the minutes37 of the conference at an early date.

It was obvious that Dr. Evatt is very anxious to dissipate any feeling on the part of the United States Government that either Australia or New Zealand desired to act behind the back of the United States. Dr. Evatt referred several times in the course of his conversation to the feeling that existed in the mind, not only of his own Government but also in that of the New Zealand Government, that [Page 199] in this time of their dire distress they had, to use Dr. Evatt’s own phrase, “been constantly brushed off”, both in the United States and in the United Kingdom, whenever they had attempted to set forth their considered views in regard to the Pacific, its future, or to their current necessities.

I pointed out to Dr. Evatt that in this present world emergency the United States was cooperating with the British Empire, and, naturally, dealt directly with London in regard to matters of global strategy and policy in connection with that cooperation; I reminded him that very early in the war I had told him that he would find Washington rather inclined to lean over backwards in its relations with the responsible members of the British Commonwealth of Nations, lest any action which we might take lend color to a belief, either within the Empire or in London, or a belief which might be used to advantage by our enemies, that we were encouraging any separatist tendencies on the part of members of the Commonwealth.

Dr. Evatt said that he realized that this was so, and that of course the Commonwealth Government did not want to do anything that would lend color to the belief that it was trying to part company with the Empire. He said that Australia was always on the horns of a dilemma: they were bound to the Empire by ties of blood, and by economic ties, but that more and more they were coming to the realization that their political future as a people was cast in the Pacific; they found little sympathy for their point of view in London, which was mostly concerned with India, or in Canada, which was preoccupied with its relations with the United States, or in South Africa. Australia felt very much alone, and they realized that they had a part to play in the Pacific; Dr. Evatt hoped that the United States Government would recognize Australia’s position, and he is very anxious that this recognition be given some concrete and public evidence; and to this end he looks to the United States and hopes that there can be something in the nature of the conference proposed under the Anzac Pact which would help them to feel that their position in the Pacific was recognized and accepted, and give them some confidence in regard to the future.

Except for a general statement which ran very much along the lines of the public statements included in Wellington’s despatch no. 194 of November 9, 1944, Dr. Evatt gave me no clue as to conclusions reached in their discussions with the New Zealand Government. He gave me to understand that he would shortly communicate the documents agreed upon which he termed “minutes”, for the confidential information of Washington; whether through me or through the Australian Legation in Washington he did not say.

Respectfully yours,

Nelson Trusler Johnson
  1. Neither printed.
  2. A copy of the minutes of the Conference (not printed), was received by the Department as an enclosure to despatch No. 943, November 17, not printed.