246 Cabinet Economic Committee Minute

Wellington, 1 June 1982

E (82) M 21 PART IV. CONFIDENTIAL

ANZCER: Release of Exposure Draft

The Chairman1 recapitulated on the proposals put forward in the memorandum E (82) 96,2 pointing out the programme of visits to major sectional groups by teams of officials. Ministers were asked to volunteer their help in the task. It was suggested that if the 'second fifteen' of officials were defeated in their initial endeavours the 'first fifteen' of Ministers and others would secure the necessary understanding and cooperation. Officials said that some major organisations would receive the exposure draft and a letter on Thursday before the Friday, 4 June, news media seminar.

On the matter of preparing and tabling a Parliamentary White Paper, the Committee had differing views. The Chairman advanced the view that a White Paper should be circulated to the members of the Parliamentary Select Committee on Foreign Affairs as soon as possible. It was commented that the Parliamentary Opposition had been briefed on CER three times already and that one more such session with the Select Committee would be desirable. It was highly likely that Opposition members would request this action once the exposure draft was released anyway.

With regard to a suggestion that the Select Committee only consider the White Paper, it was observed that it had special proceedings making it very suitable for the approach of conducting a briefing rather than a hearing. Both sides of the House had been supportive to date and this approach it was hoped would not be a charade because of the document's finality.

Other members of the Committee questioned firstly whether a White Paper was needed at all and secondly whether it should not be tabled after the initialling of the draft Heads of Agreement by the two Prime Ministers. On the first point some members thought it a waste of time for Parliament to be given the opportunity to attempt changing a document that as a contract could not be altered without renegotiation with the Australian Government. In support of the second point it was observed that both NAFTA and the 1979 GATT document (at the conclusion of the Tokyo Round) were tabled after the Heads of Agreement had been signed in the first case and after the formal initialling in the second.

The response to these two contentions by other members was that some document was definitely needed because of the historic importance of the proposed CER arrangements. Parliament was entitled to receive such a document and the press would most probably ask about it at the media seminar on 4 June. It was in any case a White Paper designed to record an intended agreement and was not meant as a 'green' discussion paper.

One suggestion that the White Paper be reserved as an option only to be implemented 'in due course' was considered but not accepted by the Committee. The Opposition and the Press would ask for something more specific it was thought.

There was some discussion on dates of the two months for the exposure period. The end date of 30 July was dictated by the timing of the Australian Cabinet's consideration of the matter on 27 July and the initialling of the document by the two Prime Ministers at the Pacific Forum between 8-10 August. The main difficulty from New Zealand's point of view with this two month period according to officials was the expected criticism from a number of major sectional groups about the superficiality of the treatment their submissions on the exposure draft would receive from the Government because of the one week between the closing date and the initialling of the document. Originally, these groups had been told that the period would be two or three months and not just two months. A matter of major importance noted by the Committee was that New Zealand needed to consider what the Australian Cabinet might decide on timing that day (1 June) and liaise with them on how they intended to handle the timing. Nevertheless, the Committee did express a preference for the timing as recommended by officials in the memorandum.

In concluding, the Committee:

  1. noted the need to liaise with Australia on their arrangements for dissemination of the exposure draft;
  2. approved the arrangements proposed in the memorandum E (82) 96 for the public release of the Exposure Draft and for the subsequent period of public consultation between 4 June and 30 July 1982;
  3. agreed that a Parliamentary White Paper should be prepared.

[AALR 873, W4446/Boxes 312-313, 61/Aus/2/211 Part 3 Archives New Zealandffe Whare Tohu Tuhituhinga 0 Aotearoa, Head Office, Wellington]