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Documents Relating to New Zealand's Participation in the Second World War 1939–45: Volume I

The Prime Minister of New Zealand to the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth of Australia

The Prime Minister of New Zealand to the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth of Australia

Prime Minister's Office, Wellington
23 September 1938

Dear Sir

I have to inform you that the New Zealand Council of Defence at a recent meeting discussed the question of co-operation in Defence matters between Australia and New Zealand. It appeared to the Council that while our liaison with the United Kingdom is completely satisfactory, the liaison with Australia, except on certain matters dealt with by individual services, is not as good as is desirable.

2. As an instance of the state of affairs, I would refer you to two papers of the Committee of Imperial Defence, numbered 440C, Defence of Australian Ports, and 473C, Defence of New Zealand Ports. In the case of the first paper, the document originating the paper was drawn up in Australia, was referred to the Committee of Imperial Defence, and subsequently reached New Zealand as a British paper. In the second case, the paper was originated in New Zealand and by this time has presumably reached Australia as a British paper.

3. Other similar instances could be quoted. While we will both agree that consultation with the United Kingdom is essential, I would suggest that consultation with each other direct is of some value also. Our problems both in peace and war resemble each other even more than they resemble those of the United Kingdom.

4. I suggest for your consideration that we establish the principle of complete mutual interchange of information between Governments as opposed to between individual services. Presumably the details could be worked out in further correspondence, but in the meantime I suggest the following as some possible methods to adopt:


Exchange of brief summaries of decisions on defence policy.


Furnishing each other with copies of any communications to the United Kingdom which might be of interest to the other side (e.g., the recent Pacific Islands scheme sent to you under cover of my memorandum of 19 May 1938).


Exchange of copies of what I believe you know as ‘War Book Papers’ but which we know as papers of the Organisation for National Security, the local equivalent of the Committee of Imperial Defence.

page 339

Exchange of copies of Government War Books or of particulars regarding compilation.


An understanding that in time of war the fullest possible information, both of enemy and own activities, should be mutually exchanged, e.g., copies of our replies to the telegrams set out in CID paper 664M (Notification of Precautionary and War Measures) might well be exchanged between us.

I should be glad if in due course you could let me have your remarks.

Yours faithfully,

(sgd) M. J. Savage