The origins of Australian diplomatic intelligence in Asia, 1933-1941

Author/s (editor/s):

Wayne Gobert

Publication year:


Publication type:

Policy paper

Canberra Papers on Strategy and Defence No. 96

This monograph challenges the traditional view that during the 1930s Australia, secure in its 'protection' within the British Empire, refused to establish diplomatic contacts in Asia and implicitly trusted increasingly incorrect British intelligence of Japanese intentions. Australia's conservative governments of the 1930s were well aware of the growing threat from Japan, and took action accordingly to seek intelligence in Asia. However, domestic isolationism, post-depression frugality, and pressure towards 'imperial solidarity' dictated that Australia's intelligence network would be discreetly established. A chain of Australian diplomatic intelligence officers was established in Japan, China, Portuguese Timor, the Netherlands East Indies and Singapore. These Officers were outside the British system and were officials of the departments of Commerce and Civil Aviation. By 1940, the United Kingdom was seeking diplomatic intelligence from Australia.

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