165 File Note by Price

Canberra, 30 March 1981

ANZCER: Government Purchasing Mission

Having told us for the greater part of last week that officials had prepared a text for Mr Fraser to telex to Premiers to clear the way for the New Zealand Government Purchasing Mission, we were informed late Friday afternoon that the telex had still not been sent1 and that officials seemed reluctant to encourage Mr Fraser to focus on the issue.

  1. The reasons for this are not at all clear. O'Sullivan told me on Friday that the general attitude at senior levels of the Department (that is, Yeend and Codd) seemed to be: 'What is all the rush about?' I explained that, from the New Zealand point of view, there were some constraints on the availability of personnel for the mission arising from the Prime Minister's commitment to visit Japan and Korea in the middle of next month. However, it was certainly not our impression that we were going about this mission in a precipitate way: we were simply following through with advice that the Federal Government had already offered us following Cabinet's discussion of this issue before the Permanent Heads Meeting. 0'Sullivan confirmed that was certainly his understanding as well and that, in his view, there was nothing that New Zealand had done in setting up this mission which did not accord with Australia's expectations. On the Australian side, however, the problem was that the Prime Minister had had some communications from Premiers on CER and it was possible that he felt that he needed to be in a position to respond to these at the same time. However, this was mere 'speculation' on his part. (He had obviously been unsuccessful in persuading Yeend and Codd that we were hastening slowl.
  2. Earlier in the day, 0'Sullivan and Anderson had both elaborated on senior officials' reluctance to get Mr Fraser to focus on the Government Purchasing telex to the Premiers. O'Sullivan had said that it was his impression that the Prime Minister may wish to get Cabinet to reconsider the CER package (in the light of the Wellington Permanent Heads Meeting) before transmitting the message to the Premiers. This would enable him to comment in a more authoritative way on other issues that Premiers had raised. However, it would be mid-April before it would be possible to do this. Anderson confirmed that there certainly had been a number of messages from the Premiers on CER. The Tasmanian Premier, Mr Lowe, had been particularly active and had asked specific questions of the Prime Minister, eg 'What is going to be done on the dairy industry and horticulture?' It was true that the Prime Minister had asked for a further report to Cabinet before Mr Anthony went to Wellington: This had arisen from an internal briefing paper2 which PM and C had put to Mr Fraser following the Wellington meeting. (As Mr Anthony had left on an overseas visit by the time Permanent Heads returned from Wellington, it had not been possible to obtain a reaction from him on the basis of officials' briefing.) Mr Fraser's instructions to officials to prepare a further report to Cabinet before Mr Anthony's visit to Wellington, cut across somewhat Cabinet's earlier instruction to Mr Anthony to take charge of the negotiations (and, Anderson implied, had taken officials somewhat by surprise), but nevertheless officials had to take account of it.
  3. Anderson also offered the view that it was possible that the Prime Minister may not wish to further confuse his relations with the State Premiers by undertaking an initiative which amounts in a sense to him asking a favour of them. Anderson then referred to the 'in-fighting' among the States and with the Federal Government in preparation for the Extraordinary Premiers conference, mid-April.
  4. I explained both to Anderson and O'Sullivan that it was important that they do not create the impression that Mr Fraser is 'stalling' on this issue for reasons that relate to other current issues in the bilateral relationship. Both Anderson and O'Sullivan readily took the point on this and emphasised that none ofthe reasons for the delay should be seen as being in any way related to other aspects of bilateral relations. Clearly it was unfortunate that it now seemed most unlikely that the way would be cleared for the New Zealand delegation to begin its deliberations in Canberra early this week but, with luck, the 'road-blocks' should be cleared before too long.
  5. Following these conversations I called Hensley in Wellington to explain the situation as it had developed here. Hensley said he had already taken the precaution of briefing the Prime Minister that day (Friday) stressing that it remained an 'open question' whether the visit would be able to be fitted in before Japan/Korea. If it was not possible to undertake it then, it would be necessary to go round all the States in May before Mr Anthony's visit. He confirmed that a letter from Mr Fraser to the Premiers was the proper way to proceed and that at this stage there seemed no alternative to our waiting patiently until Mr Fraser had sent the message and reactions obtained from the Premiers.

[ABHS 950/Boxes1221-1226, 40/411 Part 35 Archives New Zealand/Te Whare Tohu Tuhituhinga 0 Aotearoa, Head Office, Wellington]