DOCUMENTS. FIRST STEPS: Policy Under Menzies

VIEW THE DOCUMENTS (1.1 Mbyte pdf file)

List of Documents and Brief Background Information

During the first four decades of the 20th century, there was a consistent attempt by Australian governments to pursue their objectives within the framework of the British Empire. The lack of an independent foreign policy even into the late 1930s is vividly illustrated by the following documents on Australian decision-making.

• Telegram from Prime Minister Menzies to High Commission in London, 13 November 1939.

As late as 1939 Australia had made no attempt to establish its own diplomatic representatives overseas and still relied to a large extent on British diplomatic resources and unified Commonwealth policies. Negotiations finally began for Australian representation in Washington and Tokyo in 1939, but were not concluded for another 12 months.

• Telegram from the British Government to the Australian High Commission, 29 April 1939.
• Telegram from Menzies to High Commissioner Bruce in London, 13 August 1941.

These documents provide some background information regarding the establishment of Australia’s first legation overseas, the post of Ambassador to the US. The post was eventually awarded to Richard Casey by Prime Minister Menzies.

• Letter from Keith Officer, Australian Counsellor to the British staff in Washington, to Richard Casey, who would become Australia’s first Ambassador to the US, outlining the case for the establishment of a Washington Legation, 25 January 1939.
• Cable dated 30 March 1939 from Prime Minister J A Lyons to Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs, London, regarding the increasingly pressing need to establish Australian Legations overseas in Washington and Tokyo. This situation was inherited by Robert Menzies when he became prime minister only a couple of weeks later.
• Cable from High Commissioner Bruce to Prime Minister Menzies, 19 September 1939.
• Cable from Prime Minister Menzies to Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs disclosing the pressure he was under to conclude the negotiations to establish the Washington Legation.
• Letter from Richard Casey, Ambassador for US, to the Minister for External Affairs, 17 January 1942, accompanying the transcript of a interview with Casey broadcast widely on American radio.

This document, prepared by the Curtin Government within a week of taking power, overviews Australian diplomatic representation abroad at the end of 1941.

• Department of External Affairs Report on Australian Representation Abroad, 14 October 1941.

VIEW THE DOCUMENTS (1.1 Mbyte pdf file)