225 Telegram from Ministry of Foreign Affairs to New Zealand High Commission in Canberra

Wellington, 29 July 1981

No 2646. CONFIDENTIAL

CER: Government Purchasing

Ministerial Meeting

  1. Thank you for keeping us informed about developments stemming from the Minister's wish to attend the August meeting.1 Our 2599 conveyed Minister's understanding of situation, and his willingness not to press for attendance at the meeting. However some weeks ago the Minister spoke to MANFED in some detail about his mission, and told them he was expecting to attend the meeting. Now that Australia has evidently decided not to confirm the invitation, some New Zealand manufacturers will inevitably, in the circumstances, interpret this negatively.
  2. We were somewhat surprised at the tum of events, given that Hawkesworth (please protect) had told us that he understood four of the six states to have already endorsed MTI's attendance. Hawkesworth also thought there was still some possibility that Federal-State relations would still be so tense, that the meeting might not even be held at all. Your comments on that would be appreciated.
  3. Your 2205, paras 5 and 6. Now that the Minister is unlikely to attend the August meeting, the question of tactics is not of such immediate concern. However, it may be useful to rehearse our overall objectives. We have been forced to deal with the states individually because the Commonwealth cannot impose on them the solution we need. That said, we remain convinced that if we can negotiate agreements with the states that are consistent with one another, so much the better. It is not our purpose, at this stage, to seek bilateral agreements with individual states, without regard to the collective views of all of the states, or of the Federal Government. We should continue to keep the Commonwealth Government informed, in general terms, of our dealing with the individual states. For the time being we would wish to see first of all what comes of the Minister's visits and letters to the states, and then the Federal/States meeting.
  4. For the moment MTI has only received the one reply (from Tonkin). We will send you a copy of this by bag. In essence it agrees to New Zealand's request, but says South Australia would prefer 'to consider entering a bilateral agreement with New Zealand, after the situation regarding preference schemes in Government purchases within Australia has been resolved'.

Short Term Action

  1. We agree that it would now be appropriate for New Zealand to sound out the states on their response or likely response to the Minister's mission, and his subsequent letters to each Premier. We are happy that this be done through the Posts as you suggest, subject to your coordination as appropriate. In arranging this you should make it clear to posts that the follow-up at this stage is to get reaction of states, rather than an opportunity to review the issues involved. (Obviously South Australia can be excluded from this at this stage.)
  2. At the Federal level, we are considering the possibility of a follow-up letter from MTI to Sir Philip [Lynch], which would give an opportunity to reiterate the views he expounded during the tour. Your comments on this would be appreciated.

[ABHS 950/Boxes1221-1226, 40/4/1 Part 37 Archives New Zealand/Te Whare Tohu Tuhituhinga 0 Aotearoa, Head Office, Wellington]