The Canberra Pact was a treaty of mutual co-operation between the governments of Australia and New Zealand, signed on 21 January 1944. The Pact was not a military alliance, but aimed to support Australian and New Zealand interests in the postwar world, particularly in the South Pacific. It was the "first clear and unmistakable statement of the two Dominion's postwar interests", and Alister McIntosh described it as having "said the right things in somewhat the wrong way".
H. V. Evatt the Australian Minister of External Affairs had criticized the 1943 Cairo Declaration for disposing of Japanese territories in the northern Pacific without consultation or warning to Australia and New Zealand. Evatt wanted to establish Australia as the dominant power in the South Pacific; taking over British colonies in the western Pacific and assuming undefined security responsibilities for Portuguese Timor and the Netherlands East Indies Given Britain's weakness the alternative was the United States.
In particular New Zealand and Australia agreed to:
- consult on matters of common interest
- oppose the placement of military installations in the region
- support the principle of trusteeship for the remaining Pacific island colonies, and
- set up a Regional Commission with the purpose of advancing the economic, political and social development of the region.
The Canberra Pact was the first treaty signed independently by New Zealand.
The United States opposed the Canberra Pact as it was made without their consultation, and the pact clearly outlined strategic boundaries in the Pacific, which the United States regarded as imposing on their sphere of interest. The prime ministers of New Zealand (Peter Fraser) and Australia (John Curtin) were subjected to a very demeaning dressing-down by Secretary of State Hull as a sign of American displeasure. In addition, New Zealand's armed forces in the Pacific theatre of operations were effectively sidelined as a result.
Secretariats were established in each Department of External Affairs, with in New Zealand Alister McIntosh telling his staff that exchanges could go through Carl Berendsen the New Zealand High Commissioner in Australia or direct to the Australian Government but "definitely not through D'Alton" the Australian High Commissioner in New Zealand (who was a political appointment). Initially the two governments "were in closer touch than they had ever been before, or possibly have been since"
- Hensley, Gerald (2009). Beyond the Battlefield: New Zealand and its Allies 1939-45. Auckland: Penguin/Viking. ISBN 9780670074044.
- "Canberra Conference PACT OF MUTUAL CO-OPERATION". Queensland Times (Ipswich) (Qld. : 1909 - 1954). Ipswich (Qld).: National Library of Australia. 19 January 1944. p. 3 Edition: DAILY. Retrieved 28 December 2014.
- Hensley 2009, p. 281.
- Hensley 2009, pp. 281,282.
- "WELCOME TO U.S." Daily Advertiser (Wagga Wagga, NSW : 1911 - 1954). Wagga Wagga, NSW: National Library of Australia. 17 April 1944. p. 4. Retrieved 28 December 2014.
- Today in History: 21 January, nzhistory.net.nz, New Zealand Ministry for Culture and Heritage.
- Hensley 2009, p. 286.
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