Political and External Affairs
CHAPTER 22 — Foundations of the Future
Foundations of the Future
FOR New Zealand the waging of war was not, according to the famous phrase, the continuation of policy by other means, but rather a demonstration of the necessity of having a policy at all. She could, in fact, no longer afford the luxury of being unconcerned with external affairs: unconcerned, whether because the course of world events was unimportant to her, or because she was content to follow uncritically the lead of the mother country, or because she was associated with external friends so powerful that she must willy-nilly fall in with their wishes. Wartime events showed only too clearly that overseas politics were of profound importance for New Zealand and that mistakes were dangerous even for her. They proved that her judgment differed in important ways from that of Britain, and they catapulted her into a turbulent Pacific environment where the old rules did not apply and where, if she did not defend her own viewpoint with competence as well as with courage, neither the British nor the Americans nor even the Australians were likely to do it for her. The evidence was indeed plain. It was underlined by consciousness of national peril and it was presented to a group of political leaders who had long fought against the comfortable colonialism of New Zealand's traditional outlook. The war convinced cabinet, if not the general public, that the Dominion must have an intelligently planned and sustained external policy. The viewpoint, however, remained characteristically practical. For example, while systematic steps were taken to make possible a genuinely independent external policy, the Statute of Westminster was not ratified until 1947 despite solid arguments that such a step was timely.1
1 Cf. ed. Beaglehole, Statute of Westminster. In similar vein New Zealand showed little interest in wartime suggestions for mechanical improvements in Commonwealth consultation, finding in them little prospect of practical advantage over existing conventions.— Mansergh, Documents and Speeches on British Commonwealth Affairs, 1931–1952 Vol. I, p.593.
Further steps followed which were of first-class, long-term importance. In the first place, diplomatic posts were established in four countries bordering on the Pacific: in the United States at the end of 1941 and Canada in April 1942; in Australia in February 1943 and in Russia a year later.1 This last step, incidentally, represented New Zealand's widest divergence from her customary caution in diplomatic matters, but it was taken with a surprisingly wide degree of public support. These new posts were solidly manned. They were established with some publicity, and helped to demonstrate both to New Zealanders and to their allies that the Dominion had some stature and independence. They also served not only as mouthpieces overseas but as sources of information by which independent policy-making could be influenced. The New Zealand Government was from the first well served, for it received British diplomatic information and voluminous material through the High Commissioner's Office in London and the British High Commissioner in Wellington. From the end of 1939 onwards, General Freyberg's reports were an able and valued supplement. Nevertheless, the development of a rudimentary set of diplomatic posts in overseas capitals did something, from New Zealand's point of view, to improve the balance, as well as to increase the volume, of information on world affairs.
Up to this time external relations were administered by a handful of men in the Prime Minister's Department, while the so-called Department of External Affairs was concerned only with island territories. The decision was now made that these last should be administered by a new department, now to be correctly titled, and that relations with other members of the Commonwealth and with foreign countries should be handled by a new, properly organised Department of External Affairs. The old rather casual and personal arrangement could no longer deal with the sheer volume of material flowing in, nor with the continual necessity to make quick decisions on complex issues which were matters of life and death. Information, it was plain, must be properly digested for the guidance of those making policy decisions, and this could only be done by a team of experts making a continuous survey of problems likely to arise, as well as those already pressing for attention.
Such considerations underlay the External Affairs Act of June 1943. In the first instance the new department remained virtually indistinguishable in personnel from the Prime Minister's Department from which it had sprung. The change, however, was made the occasion for steady recruitment of men taken directly into the department because of individual competence and not recruited in the usual way by graduation from the Public Service in general. Furthermore, it made possible an extensive differentiation in function. Accordingly, New Zealand in 1943 set about the building up, on lines that had been successfully followed in sister countries, of a Department of External Affairs equipped in personnel and knowledge and status to support the new active and independent role that New Zealand was coming to take in international affairs.
The creation of a systematically organised Department of External Affairs left intact a salient feature of the New Zealand political pattern: the concentration of policy decisions in the hands of a few key men and their presumed omnicompetence in the face of problems ranging from the intricacies of East European politics and the principles of the United Nations Organisation, to the tactics of domestic politics and the administration of legislation in individual cases. In particular, all depended on the Prime Minister, his deputy, and two or three trusted official advisers. Time and again, New Zealand's policies depended on the personal decisions of Savage, Fraser, and Nash. The course of things was necessarily influenced by the temporary absence overseas of Fraser or Nash or, on occasion, of both of them and, especially towards the end of the war, by the illnesses which from time to time smote them both.
It was in line with New Zealand tradition that a Prime Minister page 306 and one or two others should run a cabinet and be called upon to decide all policy matters, great and small. The tendency was necessarily accentuated by wartime conditions, and it had much to commend it. On most issues the views of Fraser and Nash, who were in any case the most effective members of the team, tended to coincide. Moreover, they tended genuinely to represent a broad consensus of unformulated opinion in the Labour Party and indeed in the community in general. Again, Fraser in particular showed in wartime a notable capacity to disentangle the essentials in a complex situation and to carve out quickly a line of policy related to solid principles. In committee work in London, Washington and San Francisco, as well as in Wellington, he handsomely held his own in distinguished company. At his best, he both saw clearly and spoke firmly. Certain of his diplomatic communications have a quite unwonted sting and candour. ‘All I have to add,’ he said at the conclusion of discussion on a British policy decision which he feared might weaken the morale of wage-earners, ‘is that I have never known of the use of weaker arguments to bolster up a foolish action’. On occasion—the Polish problem at the end of the war was a case in point—his personal understanding proved remarkable; and he was capable at times both of reaching a quick decision and fighting for it with dexterous pertinacity against heavy odds. This happened, for example, in the critical manpower discussions of May 1943.
This instance, however, illustrates also an aspect of the problem which became increasingly serious. In May 1943 Fraser did not finally make up his mind on the right principle of action until the very last possible moment. As the war went on, problems at times took on an appearance of insolubility, while daily business, including the necessity to manage domestic policies, clamoured for attention. Indecision and the postponement of consideration of some awkward matters were a natural defence for men who were growing tired and ill and whose training and attitude inclined them towards personal, unbusinesslike methods of administration. According to report the files bearing on unresolved problems sometimes rose like protective bulwarks round a Minister or were thickly dispersed over desk and floor like a generous snowfall. Harassed officials sometimes had to fight hard to extract their instructions. Yet the point should not be exaggerated. The machine worked, and when crises arose they were ultimately resolved in ways not discreditable to New Zealand's political judgment and her loyalty to the common cause. Moreover, if Fraser was at times tired, evasive, tortuous, worried about detail and generally resistant to those who pressed him to make up his mind, he showed again and again that when he was finally cornered a courageous decision would be made (and its consequences fought through to a conclusion) on principles which were broadly consistent page 307 with New Zealand's basic attitudes. The strength of the position after 1943 was that the machinery of a professional Department of External Affairs was available to inform the minds and sustain the judgments of politicians when at last a matter was taken in hand.
New Zealand, it is manifest, learned the necessity for a well organised Department of External Affairs the hard way, by being confronted with problems which even wise men could handle only when well informed and when supported by specialists. These problems arose even in the relatively familiar fields of Europe and Africa and the Middle East, so soon as it was established that the use of New Zealand forces, and even her economic war effort, was a matter for responsible and independent judgment, not merely for the discovering of British wishes and then carrying them out. The problem of intervention in Greece, the attitude of Turkey and Persia, the probable reactions of Frenchmen to Allied landings in Africa, the strength of Italian morale and of Russian military forces; these matters necessarily entered into calculations where New Zealand had repeatedly claimed the right to be heard. Far more complex from her point of view were problems arising in the Pacific. In Europe decisions turned on relationships between New Zealand and a single mighty friend, whose policy was dominated by the congenial and persuasive personality of Churchill. In the Pacific, the balance, in some sense, had to be held between Britain and the United States; and the American attitude towards small allies, though eminently friendly, was brusque and mindful of their relative unimportance. Moreover, in Pacific affairs, New Zealand was, and felt herself to be, a principal; a small power, no doubt, but one with direct and urgent interests, and charged, together with Australia, to represent the British Commonwealth in troubled waters. The field was new, and in this kind of work New Zealand was inexperienced, apart from the long-sustained personal interest of some individuals. To be active here, however, was the logical working out of attitudes long since adopted, attitudes given vigorous expression in the far-off days of Coates's premiership in 1925–28 and nurtured by the leaders of the Labour Party both in opposition and in power. Community feeling naturally lagged behind the action of far-sighted men, but during the Second World War the basic principle which meant, in essence, that New Zealand must act as a nation and not as a colony, had become virtually an agreed policy among public men. In a vigorous parliamentary debate in March 1943 about New Zealand's participation in the Pacific war, it was forcefully said by a leading minister that ‘the facts as presented to us were so compelling that I do not think any group of four or five men in the house would have arrived at any decisions other than those that have been made1.’
1 D. G. Sullivan on 17 Mar 1943, NZPD, Vol. 262, p. 440.
New Zealand was, then, pitchforked into diplomatic activity, particularly in respect of the Pacific area; an activity in which strategic and political matters were inextricably intertwined.1 Moreover, political considerations were by no means confined to current problems. As the struggle ceased, for the Commonwealth, to be one of mere survival, hopes and fears for the post-war world increasingly influenced the current policies of all the partners. In the Pacific area in particular, this meant for New Zealand breaking new ground and getting along with her American friends in a way which would make the best of wartime co-operation, and at the same time would tend to build up the kind of world favoured in New Zealand's long-term thinking.
After the catastrophes of mid-1940, the idealistic note in New Zealand's foreign policy—the aspiration toward a better world where wars would not occur—was necessarily submerged by the extreme harshness of contemporary reality. With attention focused on ways of avoiding defeat, there was little encouragement to speculate on what to do with an obviously distant victory. When the tide turned, towards the end of 1942, the passions aroused in a bitter struggle had produced their result, even in New Zealand. After the Casablanca Conference in January 1943 Churchill endorsed Roosevelt's statement that the Allies would require unconditional surrender from Germany and Japan, and there was no protest, public or diplomatic, from New Zealand. Yet there could have been no clearer repudiation of the proposition formulated by her cabinet three years earlier: ‘Experience has abundantly shown that good does not come out of a peace imposed by a victor on the vanquished. We should therefore not wait until the exhaustion and bitterness of war has rendered impossible a peace on equal and rational terms2.’ She could, of course, have had little hope in January 1943 of persuading Roosevelt and Churchill to alter their momentous, if somewhat casual, decision. Yet she never hesitated to set down her views, if only for the sake of the record, on those occasions when she seriously disagreed with British policy. A peace ‘on equal and rational terms’ had manifestly not been attainable even in 1939. By 1943 even New Zealand, tacitly though probably unconsciously, recognised that ‘the exhaustion and bitterness of war’ had rendered such a peace impossible for an indefinite number of years ahead.
1 Cf. McNeill, p. 29.
2 Savage to Fraser, 5 Nov 1939.
1 Wilmot, pp. 633–6; see also draft reproduced by Churchill, Vol. III, p. 395.
American idealism, then, opened up a wide field. It challenged Churchill's principle that the British Empire should be kept intact and it drew some sympathy from Australia, if not from New Zealand. At the same time, American realism raised issues which were more material and which bore more closely on the Pacific area. Many Americans, it became clear, had no intention of lessening the grip over the Pacific area which had been acquired with such effort and cost. Certain congressmen, with some encouragement from Frank Knox, Secretary of the Navy, argued that the United States, having lost the lives of its servicemen in fighting for the islands in the Pacific, and having spent its money in building bases on them, should continue to hold those bases after the end of the war. Secretary Hull at one time suggested that Allied countries who benefited from lend-lease should grant bases to the Americans. On another occasion the Chairman of the House Naval Affairs Committee said that the United States would ‘just take’ Japanese mandated and other islands.1 Such remarks inevitably roused fears in the southern Dominions that in respect of the Pacific islands Britain might have to yield to American pressure, whether exercised in the name of strategy or of idealistic trusteeship. The contradiction between these two principles did not make their combination under American auspices any less awkward to the British Commonwealth.
New Zealand had long been uneasy about American claims among the Pacific islands. After the Japanese attack she had striven to establish her claim to a share in planning a peace settlement in the Pacific area, and it was much in the mind of key men that that area was a proper field for the operation of those ideals of international action and trusteeship which, for New Zealand, had been expressed in the League of Nations.2 When, therefore, the Australian Government pressed for a definition of policy in the Pacific, New Zealand was a willing associate.
1 C. F. E. Seibert, ANZAC Pact, unpublished thesis, Victoria University library, p. 48, quoting Stone, Colonial Trusteeship, p. 21, and Price, Australia Comes of Age, p. 120.
2 Nash, New Zealand, passim.
2 In the phrase of the New Zealand poet Allen Curnow.
A further stimulus to Australian initiative in this field was the manner in which the leaders of the United Nations framed Allied policy, whether for the conduct of the war or for the peace that was to follow. In particular, Australia resented the virtual exclusion of small powers from critical discussions where their interests were intimately involved. In October 1943, for example, complex negotiations culminated in the so-called Moscow Declaration1 by which the United States, the United Kingdom, Russia and China pledged themselves among other things to continue their collaboration after the war, and recognised ‘the necessity of establishing at the earliest practicable date a general international organisation, based on the principle of the sovereign equality of all peace-loving states and open to membership by all such states, large and small, for the maintenance of international peace and security’. The upshot involved the overriding of Australian views, especially on the much-debated problem of China's status.
1 McNeill, p. 331.
2 Aust. Minister of External Affairs to NZ Minister of External Affairs, 18 Sep 1943.
Neither Dominion was consulted on the terms of the Cairo Declaration of 1 December, in which the United States, Britain and China declared their intention of taking from Japan all territories seized by her since 1895. Evatt wrote after the war that both dominions were most concerned at the mode of making this decision. ‘Much the same conclusion might very well have been reached by a general assembly of the nations participating in the war against Japan,’ he declared, ‘but the fact remained that it was a pronouncement by a self-selected few and not the result of reasoned deliberation of all concerned3.’ New Zealand did not formally protest at the time on this issue. The Prime Minister, like Curtin and Evatt, objected to what had been done, but reserved action till after the impending talks between the two dominion governments.
1 NZ Minister of External Affairs to Aust. Minister of External Affairs, 21 Sep 1943.
2 Set out in Aust. Minister of External Affairs to NZ Minister of External Affairs, 25 Jan 1944.
As it turned out, the area of agreement was wide and was quickly defined. When the New Zealand delegation reached Canberra on 15 January it was presented with the papers setting out the Australian Government's views. After two days of careful work, Fraser could tell the opening session of the conference that New Zealand agreed with the Australian attitude on 75 per cent of the matters set down. On the remaining 25 per cent discussions were ‘conducted in a most friendly but nevertheless candid manner’ to such good effect that a formal agreement was prepared and duly signed within six days of the New Zealanders' arrival in Canberra. This quickly achieved and comprehensive document was an indication alike of the basic community of viewpoint between the two governments, of the thoroughness of preliminary discussion and of an unusual determination to waste no time in talking about matters on which the negotiators were already agreed.
The whole document was forward-looking and concerned primarily with the post-war world and the policy decisions that must precede the peacemaking. In Dr Evatt's phrase, Australia and New Zealand were countries ‘whose peoples are vitally concerned in the peace, welfare and good government in the Pacific and both of whom have by their resolute and long sustained war effort earned the right to play a leading role in the future of this part of the world.’ His view, also, was that these two countries were particularly well qualified by special knowledge and experience for leadership in the Pacific, and that a joint Australian and New Zealand policy might well be expected to prevail in the Allied councils. The agreement accordingly provided that the two countries would consult together as far as possible before expressing elsewhere their views on matters of common concern. To make consultation effective and continuous an Australian-New Zealand secretariat was to be set up to organise general collaboration and, where necessary, further conferences. Both governments declared that they should be represented at the highest level in armistice planning and that they should be ‘associated, not only in the membership, but also in the planning and establishment’ of the international body envisaged in the Moscow Declaration. As an interim measure, of the kind envisaged in Article 5 of the Moscow Declaration, they declared that ‘it would be proper for Australia and New Zealand to assume full responsibility for policing or sharing in policing such areas in the Southwest or South Pacific as may from time to time be agreed page 315 upon.’ With an obvious glance at the United States, they added that they accepted ‘as a recognised principle of international practice that the construction and use in time of war by any power of naval, military or air installations, in any territory under the sovereignty or control of another power does not, in itself, afford any basis for territorial claims or rights of sovereignty or control after the conclusion of hostilities.’ No changes in the control of any Pacific islands, it was claimed, should be made except with their agreement. The doctrine of trusteeship was declared to be ‘applicable in broad principle to all colonial territories in the Pacific and elsewhere.’
On the principle of trusteeship, moreover, the two governments based constructive proposals which were to have concrete results. They agreed ‘to promote the establishment at the earliest possible date of a regional organisation with advisory powers which could be called the South Seas Regional Commission.’ Its functions would be to promote the advancement and well-being of native peoples through ‘a common policy on social, economic and political development’ to be established by the powers with responsibilities in this area. Detailed suggestions followed. In more general terms the two governments agreed that there should be as soon as possible a conference among governments with Pacific interests to discuss ‘the problems of security, post-war development and native welfare’, arising in the South Pacific or the South-west Pacific areas.
The two governments' policies on certain other long-standing problems were then made plain. They expressed their preference for an International Air Transport Authority, with a system of air routes owned by British Commonwealth governments as second choice. They also undertook to support each other in maintaining the principle that every government had the right to control migration into and out of its territories. A significant new principle was registered in the agreement that ‘there should be cooperation in achieving full employment in Australia and New Zealand and the highest standards of social security both within their borders and throughout the islands of the Pacific and other territories for which they may be responsible1.’ It may be noted that the provisions in the agreement on international aviation and on native welfare seem to have been desired mainly by the New Zealand Government. The rest would seem, on the whole, to be the result of the enthusiasm of the Australians.
1 Current Notes, January 1944, contains text of agreement together with statements by Curtin, Fraser and Evatt.
The pact was, however, welcomed in Great Britain. The newspapers praised it. The British Government, too, expressed itself as favourably disposed. It welcomed ‘any steps that may lead to a strengthening of the ties between members of the British Commonwealth’, and cautiously hoped that ‘arrangements now made between Australia and New Zealand will assist to this result3.’
1 Truth, 26 Jan 1944.
3 SSDA to NZ Minister of External Affairs, 12 Feb 1944.
4 McNeill, pp. 161 and 192. In May 1944 Admiral King proposed to forestall any possible claim by Australia and New Zealand to a share in deciding the disposal of the Marshall and Caroline islands by declining to use their forces in the operations for the capture of these islands. It appears that King and other senior officers in Washington reacted sharply against the Australian—New Zealand Pact, which they regarded as an attempt to exclude America from the South Pacific. There was no failure in co-operation, however, with Nimitz and the commanders in the field.
The comment of the American Government when it at last arrived was both cautious and sensible. Cordell Hull remarked that anything in the agreement referring to territories other than those possessed by the two dominions was, of course, entirely without prejudice to the rights of other countries. He suggested that undue haste should not be shown in launching a general conference dealing with Pacific problems, since premature discussion might very well weaken rather than promote unity of attitude among the United Nations. He said, further, that it was desirable ‘to agree upon arrangements for a general international security system before attempting to deal with problems of regional security.’ If a premature attempt were made to deal with the Pacific as a special problem, this example might be followed and development of a general system of security prejudiced. On the whole, however, the State Department's view seemed to be that the pact was an advance statement of the attitude Australia and New Zealand were likely to take in negotiations on the issues involved. There was therefore no reason to take up, at that stage, the points on which the United States might not agree with the objectives of the pact.
2 Fraser to Berendsen, 8 Aug 1944.
On the issue of regionalism, then, New Zealand differed substantially from the British viewpoint in 1944, or at least from the viewpoint of Churchill, and defended her attitude with some vigour. On another current problem, that of trusteeship, New Zealand found herself at variance with Britain and more in line with the United States. Here she could take a common stand with Australia. It was an odd circumstance that after both world wars the Prime Ministers of Australia and New Zealand distinguished themselves by their strong views on the colonial question, but in 1945 they took a line precisely opposite to that of their 1919 predecessors. Hughes and Massey were opposed to any international supervision even in the administration of territories taken from the Germans; Evatt and Fraser wished to see such supervision extended to all colonial territories irrespective of the mode by which they had been acquired. The trusteeship issue as it appeared to them in 1944 was in the broadest terms defined in a paper prepared by the New Zealand delegation for the Australia-New Zealand conference of November of that year. The trusteeship principle, wrote the New Zealanders, ‘asserts that colonies are not to be used as pawns in the game of international politics, that the wellbeing and development of native peoples is the first consideration and forms a sacred trust of civilisation. The principle has been so long and so well argued as to be no longer questioned. But the application of the principle is contested, the crucial point being supervision.’
As an aspect of the problem of international security, trusteeship may appear somewhat of a side issue. Nevertheless, it bulked largely in New Zealand's thinking about the post-war settlement. The welfare of colonial peoples offered a field in which the Government could push those benevolent ideals which on the whole had been sadly baulked by the general trend of international politics. There were also practical considerations involved. Despite a certain uneasiness about the Cook Islands, New Zealand spokesmen felt that the members of the British Commonwealth had nothing to fear from an international investigation of their record as colonial powers, but that a reform of the administration of certain other Pacific territories was necessary, if only for the security of other countries in the Pacific area. It was felt at the time that such reasoning applied particularly to Tahiti and to New Caledonia, but there were other territories in the Pacific which were thought to be badly administered and where ‘social services were neglected and the native populations exploited.’ The New Zealand view was that, in principle, page 321 members of the United Nations must be restored to the status and the territories which they had enjoyed before the war, but that means must be found to safeguard the interests of the native races. The solution, in Fraser's view, was the establishment of an international body which would supervise, but not administer, colonial territories and thus not infringe the sovereignty of the present owners. New Zealand's enthusiasm for such lines of thinking was naturally increased by the belief that the principles of trusteeship were strongly supported by the United States Government. In November 1944, for example, Fraser suggested to the British Government that the United States might make its acceptance of an international security organisation dependent upon the supervision of colonies by an international body,1 and in April 1945 Berendsen for New Zealand expressed to the Commonwealth Conference the strong opinion that action must be taken to meet the suspicions, however unjustified, with which the Americans regarded British colonial policy.2 His argument ran that ‘unless some concrete step could be taken to remove the misconceptions prevalent not only among the American public at large, but particularly in the United States Senate’, the success of the efforts then being made to build up a system of collective security would be gravely prejudiced.
1 NZ Minister of External Affairs to SSDA, 19 Nov 1944.
1 SSDA to NZ Minister of External Affairs, 14 Nov 1944.
2 Minister of External Affairs to SSDA, 19 Nov 1944.
3 Wilmot, p. 632.
4 McNeill, p. 554; Hopkins Papers, Vol. II, p. 854.
1 See McNeill, particularly p. 597, note 1.
2 Colonial Office memorandum of 21 Dec 1944.
3 Hansard, Vol. 409, Col. 1394.
In the British Commonwealth discussions in April, therefore, Australia and New Zealand stood together in expressing with some vigour as against British ideas the view that trusteeship, conceived in its widest implications, and including the conception of account-ability, was an element of first-class importance in planning for the post-war world. This disagreement with Britain, at least so far as New Zealand was concerned, extended to the fundamental character of an international organisation to preserve peace. The New Zealand view in 1944 and 1945 was, as it had been in 1936, that the Covenant of the League of Nations was a fundamentally sound basis on which to build. In August 1944 Carl Berendsen, then New Zealand Ambassador to Washington, had addressed the United Kingdom delegates to the Dumbarton Oaks Conference and used terms which he might well have found appropriate six or eight years earlier. ‘If,’ he said, ‘we were to attempt to draw up a plan for a new organisation we would begin by taking a copy of the Covenant and a pencil, and we would not pencil very much.’ The causes of the failure of the League, he said, were moral, not mechanical; it was not the fault of its structure but that ‘the members of the League were not prepared to fulfil the undertakings that they had accepted.’ Though the Covenant would have to be modified to bring in the United States, which had never joined the League, and Russia, which had been expelled from it, the smaller the changes made the more likely it would be, he thought, that the new organisation would function effectively.
1 The phrase in quotation marks was used by Dr Evatt.
These remarks are the most eloquent and comprehensive of the many presentations made during 1944 and 1945 of New Zealand's views on the matter, or at least of the views of the Prime Minister, of Berendsen, and of Fraser's advisers in the External Affairs Department. In 1936 the ideals of the League of Nations had gripped the imagination not only of the Labour Party leaders, but of an important minority of New Zealanders both inside and outside the party. There is little convincing evidence for a similar wide currency of those ideals in 1944. The fact is, however, that Fraser held to them still and agreed substantially with the exposition of New Zealand policy made by Berendsen in August 1944 and on other occasions. Of the two men, Berendsen was perhaps the more doctrinaire. An important exchange of letters took place between them in June 1944 which indicated their agreement on points of substance, though with a suggestion that on points of detail Fraser would be comparatively pliant, or at least that he would be prepared for fluidity of interpretation. On a very controversial constitutional issue, for example, he reflected that ‘even if at first the Council is the major authority in the new World Organization there will probably be a repetition of the experience of the League. The Council under the Covenant was to have been the pivot but the Assembly very soon came to exercise general supervision over all the work of the League, even on matters explicitly entrusted to the Council. In short the Assembly continually gained in prestige not because it was the sovereign body in the League but because it was the universal body2.’page 326
In New Zealand's thinking, then, there was room enough for differences on points of detail. Nevertheless, the Prime Minister and his chief associates and advisers remained convinced that the new world security organisation should follow the same basic lines as they had advocated in the discussions surrounding the reform of the League of Nations in 1936. Moreover, their viewpoint on this matter aroused no serious political opposition. On this issue, then, Peter Fraser could in 1944 and 1945 genuinely speak for New Zealand as he had done in those far-off days before the war. This time, however, he had behind him a rather weary acquiescence rather than the drive of an active and influential minority.