264 Telegram from Francis to Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Canberra, 28 February 1983

No 586. SECRET IMMEDIATE

Signing of CER Treaty

Further to my telephone conversations with the Hon Hugh Templeton, here follows scenario and précis of conversations.

Firstly, at approximately l0am on Saturday last, Mr Jim Scully of Trade telephoned to state that the Australian Government had decided that the CER Treaty should not be signed until after the election.1 He confirms that Mr Anthony was of this opinion. The reason given was that apparently a senior Labour Member had indicated that the Australian Government was being too hasty in signing the agreement with an election imminent. Mr Scully expressed his deep disappointment that the decision had been taken.

On Friday afternoon previously, having agreed upon a text for the interchange of letters for signing the CER Treaty, I had been informed, certainly unofficially, that the signing could take place on Tuesday evening 1st March.

The Saturday morning information and Friday information was conveyed to Mr Templeton immediately.

I then attempted to contact Doug Anthony and Messrs Hawke and Keating. Late Saturday afternoon I contacted Mr Anthony at the Picton Show and was able to give Mr Templeton a Sydney telephone number to enable him to ring him on Saturday afternoon.

Yesterday, Sunday, I had great difficulty in contacting Messrs Hawke and Keating. Mr Hawke was in Melbourne early in the morning but later went to Brisbane. Mr Keating was in transit from Brisbane to Sydney. At approximately 7:30pm on Sunday 27th, I had a reassuring telephone conversation with Mr Hawke. My preamble to both Mr Hawke and Keating was simply that the New Zealand Government was concerned that apparently a prominent Labor member had indicated to the Australian Government his opinion that signing the treaty before the election was unduly hasty, and informed both Hawke and Hayden that the New Zealand Government was under attack by the Leader of the New Zealand Labour Party for failing to have the CER Treaty signed. Mr Hawke's response was forthright and friendly. He said that he was replying to me in a confidential, personal capacity knowing, of course, that I would be relaying the conversation to Minister Templeton and the Prime Minister. He indicated that he did not wish any election matter to arise out of his conversation with me and his responses were made on that basis. He indicated quite firmly that the ALP accepted in principle the CER Agreement and was quite happy to adopt it. At the same time he would ensure that if he became the Government the ALP would go through the agreement and would not just accept blindly what the present government had agreed to. He did not specify any item of disagreement but he indicated that if his party became the government he would give the CER Treaty signing the utmost urgency. Quite clearly, after talking to Hawke, I sensed no antipathy whatsoever. Neither Hawke nor Keating indicated who the senior Labor person was who had given notice of 'undue haste.'

Paul Keating telephoned me from Sydney at the New Zealand Residence about 9:30pm last night. His reply was even more forthright and he did not ask for any protection.2 He indicated that he thought the agreement had been signed. I pointed out that, in fact it had3 and that all that remained was for the agreement to be put in treaty form for signature. He indicated firmly that he fully supported the CER proposals and that when the matter had been raised in the House two Labor speakers had spoken in support and he saw no reason for himself to speak. He indicated that in the course of the current election campaign he had been asked by the Metal Trades officials whether in view of the promised protection policy of the ALP, that the 'freeing up' proposals for CER would still continue.

He gave an unequivocal assurance that as far as the Metal Trades enquiry was concerned, the proposals of CER would be kept in place and unaltered. I would add that Paul Keating has on at least two occasions since his trip to New Zealand as a VIP guest, assured me that he would always be able to sell CER to the ALP.4

There has been no press comment here on this matter.

[AALR 873, W4446/Boxes 312-313, 61/Aus/2/2/1 Part 5 Archives New Zealand/Te Whare Tohu Tuhituhinga 0 Aotearoa, Head Office, Wellington]